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Why T-Mobile Is the Best Phone Carrier for US Travelers  January 12, 2015 – 08:16 am

t-mobile logoA long time ago in a state far, far away (Massachusetts), I used AT&T as my cellphone service provider. I had been using them since I was 19. When the iPhone first came out, I bought it because I could remove the original AT&T SIM card, insert a local SIM from the country I was in, and still have a handy-dandy smartphone to tweet from. So I unlocked my phone (hacked it so I could use it overseas) and off around the world I happily went.

Flash forward to the end of 2012, when Verizon announced taht their phones would come automatically unlocked for international travel. I needed a new iPhone at this point, AT&T had awful customer service and high fees, and since the new phone would already be unlocked, it would save me some hassle. It was the excuse I needed to leave AT&T.

Flash forward again to the end of 2013, when T-Mobile announced it was giving all their users free international data and text messaging in over 100 countries — plus all calls while in those countries were 20 cents a minute. This was a pretty enticing offer since I pay a lot of money a year in phone coverage.

Here’s a table of international fees I pulled together from each carrier’s website so you can compare:

T-Mobile AT&T Verizon
Data $0 $30-120 per month $25 per 100MB
Texting Starts at 10 cents each 50 cents to send, 5 cents to receive
Roaming 20 cents a minute $4.99 per month

That chart pretty lays the numbers out there. T-Mobile is the clear winner here.

Now, historically, T-Mobile had a reputation of being a really bad service provider. And for a number of years, they were — but thanks to money they received after the failed merger with AT&T, they heavily invested in their network and began offering 4G and LTE speeds. Now, their coverage map is almost as good as the other carriers (it still doesn’t have Verizon-level coverage but they cover 96% of the country).

With their plans starting at $50 USD per month, it was hard to make the case to stay with Verizon. I found Verizon had awful customer service and high roaming fees (one quick phone call in Canada cost me over $10!), and with my basic service plan costing $110 a month, it became a financial no-brainer.

So I made the switch. I broke my contract with Verizon, ordered a new iPhone 5S, signed-up for T-Mobile, and hoped I made the right choice. My phone plan is now $70 per month (with taxes) — that’s a savings of $40 per month right away, but the big question remained: would I have good service both at home and abroad?

Service at home in New York City has been fine. I have 4G or LTE wherever I go, and I haven’t had any dropped calls. At the recent SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, I had some spotty service, but with 20, 000 people there, that might have been the reason. After using the phone for close to three months now, I haven’t had any dropped calls and only a few instances of “no service” when I was in a few rural areas, but that usually only lasts a few seconds. However, that used to happen with Verizon too, so I’m not concerned about it. (According to a new study, T-Mobile has the fastest Internet coverage, too.)

And how does it do internationally? Well, I flew to Hong Kong in February, and the second we landed I turned on my phone and waited for service. “Searching” my phone shouted back at me. Searching… searching… no service.

I slunk in my seat, deflated. I kept turning the phone on and off in hopes of finding a connection. The plane came to the gate. Still nothing.

I hopped on the airport Wi-Fi and tweeted at T-Mobile. My plan was the right plan. It was all set to go. But nothing.

Deflated even more, I walked through the terminal when it happened — service. 3G service. On my phone.

I had overreacted.

When I touched down later that day in Bangkok, my phone buzzed alive with updates as I connected to the local phone operator, AIS with 3G service.

I was set to go. But service doesn’t mean good service.

So how did it work out?

Excellent.

I didn’t have any dropped calls, all my texts went through, and for the most part I had a 3G connection. A number of times while in the slightly rural areas, I only got the “E” network and had to deal with slightly slow Internet, but I always had it. (The only 4G network in Thailand is through True Move, and T-Mobile doesn’t partner with them.)

When I came home in early March, I found my bill wasn’t $10, 000 but still the same old $70 I was promised. There were no hidden fees! It was all as promised.

The following week I was in Berlin and London. My phone worked perfectly there. There was still no 4G/LTE service but I always had fast 3G service and was able to upload and share information quickly. No dropped calls, missed text messages, or bad service.

I am thrilled by this, and T-Mobile — with its contract-free (and cheaper) plans, free international data, and better customer service model — now has me as a customer for a long, long time. I never again have to worry about buying foreign SIM cards and coverage again. There are no more additional costs in my travels. I know what my phone bill is going to be every month, and I get to keep the same number worldwide.

Source: www.nomadicmatt.com

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