América Móvil extends cross-border roaming offer to Mexican prepaid customers

América Móvil extended to many of its prepaid wireless customers its cross-border plan that lets Mexican subscribers use voice, SMS and data service in the United States as if they were in Mexico. The new offer comes after a series of escalating moves by T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and Sprint (NYSE: S) to offer cross-border services without roaming costs.

Over the last month or so U.S. carriers have unveiled a flurry of offers for cross-border service, many aimed at Mexico. The service offers come as AT&T is ramping up its efforts to expand in Mexico following its $4.4 billion purchase of Mexican wireless operators Iusacell and Nextel Mexico earlier this year. AT&T in June promised to spend $3 billion during the next four years to cover 100 million people in Mexico with LTE by the end of 2018. AT&T has said it is creating the "first-ever North American Mobile Service Area covering 400 million people and businesses in Mexico and the U.S."

América Móvil, controlled by of billionaire Carlos Slim, removed roaming charges on calls to and data in the United States for 40 million Mexican prepaid customers on its "Amigo Optimo" and "Optimo Plus" plans. Calls made to the U.S. will be charged local rates as will data usage. América Móvil said its remaining prepaid customers, around 12 million at the end of the second quarter, could also request the change.

In mid-July América Móvil announced its "Sin Fronteras" Plan ("No Borders Plan"). Under the plan, its postpaid Telcel subscribers in Mexico can make calls from Mexico to the U.S. that are charged as a local call, with no long distance charges. Further, while in the U.S., postpaid Telcel customers can use the minutes, SMS and data under their plans as if they were in Mexico, with no roaming charges. All postpaid subscribers are eligible to get the plan, which is priced at $3.05 (50 Mexican pesos) per month, including taxes.

América Móvil's U.S. MVNO, TracFone Wireless, plans to challenge Tier 1 carriers with its own Mexican roaming offer, though details on the forthcoming action are cloudy. América Móvil's CEO announced TracFone's plans during his company's quarterly conference call with investors last month.

During the conference call, Raymond James analyst Ric Prentiss asked whether "TracFone will be able to offer any similar type of products on the U.S. side?"

"Yes," responded América Móvil CEO Daniel Hajj, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. "We are going to do this in Mexico and shortly we are going to announce some programs in TracFone that will allow ... people from TracFone will roam also in Mexico. So there is going to be new plans that we are going to announce in -- maybe a couple of months."

Last week Sprint unveiled its new "Open World" international roaming service that makes unlimited calling and texting to Canada, Mexico and other Latin American countries free for its U.S.-based customers. The offering also gives Sprint customers free calls and texts and 1 GB of high-speed data when they are traveling in those countries.

Sprint also said that it will offer free texting, calling for 20 cents per minute, and $30 per GB pricing to customers who travel in other countries including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Palestinian territories, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Earlier this month AT&T's Cricket Wireless prepaid brand started offering unlimited voice and SMS messaging to and from Mexico and will soon add those features for Canada.

In July T-Mobile's MetroPCS prepaid brand launched "Mexico Unlimited," which expands MetroPCS customers' coverage and calling throughout Mexico. T-Mobile said MetroPCS customers with a $40 or higher base rate plan can add the feature at MetroPCS stores or online.

While in the U.S., customers get unlimited mobile-to-mobile and landline calls to Mexico as well as unlimited texting to Mexico. While in Mexico, MetroPCS customers will get unlimited mobile to mobile and landline calls to U.S. and in Mexico, unlimited texting to the U.S., and most importantly, unlimited data that gets deducted from MetroPCS customers' LTE data plans.

Earlier in July, T-Mobile had launched its "Mobile without Borders" offer, under which T-Mobile lets customers make calls, texts and use data as they do in the U.S. when they travel to Mexico and Canada.

What sets the América Móvil and T-Mobile offers apart is the ability to use data across borders as if the customer was in their home country using data from their existing plan. T-Mobile has not revealed its roaming relationships or agreements in Mexico but said it has "partnerships with leading providers with the best networks" south of the border, and América Móvil could certainly be a partner.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Mobile World Live article

Related articles:
Confirmed: Sprint's new 'Open World' international roaming service challenges T-Mobile's 'Mobile without Borders'
Chasing AT&T and T-Mobile, América Móvil's U.S. MVNO TracFone to also offer roaming to Mexico
TracFone adds 25K subs in Q2 as parent América Móvil unveils roaming-free service for U.S.
T-Mobile's MetroPCS extends coverage and data service to Mexico
T-Mobile seeks to pre-empt AT&T's international expansion with free roaming to Mexico, Canada
AT&T to spend $3B to cover 100M Mexicans with LTE by 2018