Sprint Matches T-Mobile's International Offer

Sprint is taking another page from T-Mobile's playbook by offering its customers free international data roaming at 2G speeds in 15 countries.

New and existing Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) customers can add the International Value Roaming plans to their domestic plans at no charge. Sprint says they will get "up to 2G" data speeds, unlimited text messaging and 20 cent per minute calls in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Sprint is advertising the plans as an improvement over AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s $30 international add-on plan and Verizon Wireless 's $40 offer, but they're really a direct response to T-Mobile US Inc. , which also made international roaming free for its customers in October. (See Bills Don't Lie: T-Mobile Drops International Roaming Charges and AT&T LTE Roams to 13 More Countries.)

T-Mobile's international roaming extends to 115 countries, but like Sprint, it is only offering 2G speeds for international roaming. Drew Kelton, T-Mobile's executive vice president of B2B, said last year that fewer than 1% of the 2 million people who have used a Simple Global Plan have opted to upgrade to a higher-speed option. Most are used to seeking out WiFi for heavy data use when they travel, so the speeds haven't been a deterrent, apparently. (See T-Mobile: 2G's Good Enough for Global Travel.)

For when they do need more, both carriers are offering similarly priced 3G network passes for 100MB of data for one day ($15), 200MB of data for seven days ($25) or 500MB of data for 14 days ($50), after which time travelers revert back to 2G speeds.

For more on mobile topics, peruse the dedicated mobile content page here on Light Reading.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure made a promise to respond quickly to competitors' moves in the wireless market, and he's made good on that. In this week alone, Sprint also began offering free Samsung Galaxy S6 phones for those customers who sign up for its Unlimited Plus plan, and announced it's extending WiFi calling to the iPhone, which T-Mobile has offered since the iPhone 6 was announced in September. Sprint says the WiFi calling will also work internationally. (See Sprint Extends WiFi Calling to the iPhone, Apple's New iPhones Have 20 LTE Bands, VoLTE and Sprint CEO: Price Cuts First, Best Network Next .)

Internationally roaming is a big pain point for consumers as anyone who has come home to a $1,000-plus roaming bill can tell you. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is reportedly also considering making this free to consumers if (or when?) it launches wireless service as an MVNO. (See Report: Google Planning Overseas Roaming Shake-Up and Google Confirms Scaled-Down MVNO Plans.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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mhhf1ve 4/13/2015 | 7:08:57 PM
Surprise roaming fees... I find it a bit surprising that there isn't more protection for consumers for $1000+ surprise mobile roaming bills. Occasionally, you'll see these stories where a local news station will negotiate a lower bill because a smartphone user wasn't aware that some background app was constantly pinging for a LTE signal or something while they were traveling. 

I think mobile customers would appreciate some plain ol' decent customer service if their providers can't exactly match T-Mo's uncarrier offers.... 
MordyK 4/13/2015 | 2:20:56 PM
Re: 2G speeds Unfortunatley that's just all in a days work for carrier billing practices. They saw it as an easy side revenue busienss and are reluctant togive it up despite market changes that would actually improve their revenues if they did give it up. Its really shooting themselves in the leg.

For example back in 2003 when I designed a cloud based mobile wallet and transaction platform we were concerned with the fact that customers wouldnt be able to interact with and authenticate their transactions while overseas due to the costs. One of the things we explored was wholesale zero-rating (otherwise known as toll-free) for international roaming. When we broached the concept with carriers we were universally flat out denied as it would conflict with the then hypothetical retail roaming fees for the same transaction.
milan03 4/13/2015 | 2:00:32 PM
Re: 2G speeds T-Mobile never even had a proper international roaming plan, so the amount of their subscribers actually using data roaming was non-existent.

So them intrducing Simple Global actully increased the revenue, since there is a higher chance for people actually buying those daily passes now.

The duopoly is still trying to make obscene amounts of profit on roaming charges, even though the actual price per GB they negotiate with their roaming partners is clearly low. That's called greed.
MordyK 4/13/2015 | 1:41:50 PM
Re: 2G speeds The hang-up on retiring fees for roaming and generally easing their travelling customers experiences is symptomatic of the overall carrier issue that prioritizes revenues over customer experience, which is extremely detrimental in carrier attempts to develop new revenue products.
bosco_pcs 4/13/2015 | 10:10:16 AM
Re: 2G speeds and nothing in Asia!


p.s. currently a S customer but contemplating changes...
milan03 4/12/2015 | 2:37:30 PM
Re: 2G speeds It does not. With T-Mobile you'll roam on whichever technology is available in those countries. It's mostly HSPA, if that's not available, then it'll be 2G. They even have LTE roaming agreements with Rogers in Canada, TIM in Italy, Softbank in Japan, Telcel in Mexico, EE in the UK, DT in Germany, etc...

It's the speeds that you'll see rate limited at 128kbps, but because you're not necessarily forced onto 2G technology layer the latency stays low. It's very usable.
sarahthomas1011 4/12/2015 | 2:12:04 PM
Re: 2G speeds Definitely fair to point out that Sprint falls very short on the number of countries covered compared to T-Mobile's -- "responds" would've been more apt. But T-Mo relegates its roamers to 2G too. The day passes both offered were the same for 3G coverage.
milan03 4/12/2015 | 2:01:25 PM
Re: 2G speeds No issues here on my trips to Europe. Even roamed on Rogers' LTE while Canada last month.

Speeds are @128kbps, but you're connecting to whatever technology is available. This way latency stays low. 
mhui0 4/12/2015 | 1:35:49 PM
Re: 2G speeds Last summer, I took my LG G3, purchased at a T-Mobile retail store, to western Europe. I had purchased a data pack ahead of time. The LTE never worked. I can make voice calls, but the data connection didn't work.

After spending cumulateily three hours at least on the phone with T-Mobile support back in the U.S., they admitted defeat. I had to request a refund after I come back to the U.S.

Since I had planned my trip assuming mobile data was available, I had to walk into a computer retail store in Belgium and buy a Nexus 7 tablet for use during the rest of the trip.
milan03 4/11/2015 | 4:37:49 AM
Re: 2G speeds I must've missed something... How exactly did Sprint match T-Mobile's International offer?

They're offering only 12% of T-Mobile's 120 countries in their portfolio and without the major and most popular destinations, plus Sprint's relegating their users to 2G netowrks globally instead of 3G/4G LTE, and throttling data rates to half of what T-Mobile's offering. Sorry, but 64kbps isn't going to cut it, even for basic Google Maps, emails, let alone streaming.

I guess it's an attempt to copy, but a terrible half-assed one.

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