Oh, you'll have to pay extra for roaming data outside the U.S. — the question is how much
We're headed over to Germany next week for IFA — and we're also doing a bit of talking about carriers and how they work this week as part of Talk Mobile 2013, so it seemed like a fine time to take a look at how the major U.S. carriers stack up when it comes to data overseas.
It helps to remember how all this stuff works. Back in the early days of cell phones, you'd be (more or less) confined to a restricted region. Stray outside that region, and suddenly you're "roaming." What that really means, in a nutshell, is that your carrier then has to pay another carrier for your phone to work. And that costs money.
Fast forward a few years, and those roaming charges disappear. "Free roaming." Now, we just use our phones wherever the hell we want to in the United States. And that's the way it should be. But head outside the U.S. of A., and suddenly you're roaming again. And that means it's time to pay the piper. You might get slightly lower rates in Canada or Mexico (thanks, neighbors!), or you might not.
International data isn't cheap. Your best bet is to find a local prepaid SIM card. But that's not always easy — and there's really something luxurious about stepping off a plane, firing up your phone ... and it just works.
And so we've gathered up the international data rates for the four major U.S. carriers — Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. These are all with various international "plans" that you'll add to your account (with one pay-as-you-go exception for Verizon), and so if you're not consistently heading outside the U.S. on a monthly basis, you'll need to be sure to turn off the service once you're home.
In October 2013, however, T-Mobile changed things up a bit by offering free international data, albeit at a much slower speed than that you'll get in the U.S. Still, it's free.
Here's how it all stacks up: