Sprint (NYSE: S) is giving customers access to unlimited international 2G data roaming and texting in 15 countries, taking a stab at T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), which introduced similar plans in October 2013 in more than 120 countries.
The new Sprint service is targeted at both consumers and business users. Sprint said that the feature, called "International Value Roaming," will be available to both new and existing customers, who can add it to their domestic plans free of charge. Qualified Sprint customers with compatible GSM and LTE phones will get free unlimited data with up to 2G speeds and texting while visiting any country covered by the plan. It will cost 20 cents per minute to make and receive calls while in any eligible country, the same as T-Mobile's plan.
The countries covered by Sprint's plan include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the UK.
Additionally, Sprint said that customers who want higher data speeds can choose from three "Sprint International Speed Data Roaming" options offering up to 3G network speeds. Customers can pay $15 for 100 MB on a one-day pass, $25 for 200 MB on a seven-day pass and $50 for 500 MB on a 14-day pass. There are no overage charges with those plans; users' speeds will simply revert back to 2G speeds once they go over the data allotment.
Sprint customers can also use the carrier's Wi-Fi calling feature in more than 200 countries and territories to make calls back to the U.S. Sprint's Wi-Fi calling is available at no additional charge when calling a U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico phone number. Wi-Fi calling is available on the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5s, 5c and select Android devices.
"The continuous feedback from our customers indicates how important it is to travel without the fear of high roaming charges," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in a statement. "So, we launched free data roaming and Wi-Fi. Latin America, Europe and Japan are only the beginning. We will continuously add new countries to ensure our customers can use their device virtually wherever they travel."
Sprint noted that although Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) currently offer services to additional countries, customers must pay more. Sprint said Verizon charges an additional $40 per month for a plan with 100 MB and 100 voice minutes covering 147 countries, and AT&T charges an additional $30 per month when choosing a bundle that includes 120 MB of data, unlimited texting and $1 per voice minute in 167 countries.
Conspicuously left out of Sprint's press release announcing the new plans was mention of T-Mobile's "Simple Global" plans. Under the plans, T-Mobile's no-contract Simple Choice individual and business customers get unlimited data and texting in more 120 countries worldwide, and pay 20 cents per minute for voice calls when roaming in the same countries. However, the data rates are capped at EDGE speeds of around 128 Kbps, though the company will offer various levels of speed boosts to customers who want faster speeds. The company prices those speed bumps at $15 for 100 MB per day; $25 for 200 MB per week or $50 for 500 MB for two weeks.
In June 2014, T-Mobile said that it was satisfied that the 2G EDGE data speeds customers get when roaming on its Simple Global plans without roaming fees are sufficient because less than 1 percent of customers on such plans had opted to pay for higher speeds. As of May 2014, T-Mobile said more than 2 million people had roamed, texted or called in a Simple Global country.
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