I had long raved about T-Mobile’s free international roaming plan, which offers unlimited texting and “data at up to 2G speeds in 210+ countries”. This is a great perk if you travel abroad and don’t feel like dealing with SIM cards. The per minute calling rate jumped to $.25 USD/min (from .20/minute) earlier this year.
Is T-Mobile Throttling Data?
When I first started out with T-Mobile, I thought the data speed was good enough and I was able to pick up better than 2G speed. In my more recent travels, the data is throttled to 2G. Rendering a simple site can take quite a bit of time, let alone wanting to use the GPS app to help with navigation.
This is where T-Mobile comes in with their “$5” international add-on pass. The on-demand pass gives you 512MB of Internet and unlimited calling in 210+ countries in a 24-hour period.
First, this is a great option if you plan to make a lot of calls. You’d come up ahead if plan to talk on the phone for more than 20 minutes in a 24-hour period. However, I generally have a greater need for data. With a data plan, you can also use GPS apps as well as VOIP calling apps like “Whatsapp”.
You don’t generally know how much data you have used up, until you get a message at the 80% usage mark. When the data is used up, you’re back to 2G speed but you still have your access to the unlimited calling for the remainder of the pass.
A Couple of Quick Tips
- Buy Pass: You can choose activate your pass immediately. You can also schedule a specific date.
- Reboot your device: After you purchase the plan, you will get a message to reboot your device. While I don’t think this is necessary step since I can usually pick up faster speed after activation, I usually just reboot just to make sure that anything I do after is under the new plan.
- Understand the limit: You can buy 2 international passes in a 24-hour period. If you use up all the data and need to buy a new one, you can buy another pass after you used up the first one.
- Ignore confusing messages: If you buy new pass, you would get an order confirmation text, followed immediately by a message that you have removed your international pass but you would be still billed for the pass (What?) This was very confusing, but it turned out to be a confirmation that you’re removing your not-yet-expired international pass with a new one.
The throttling of data to 2G speed is frustratingly slow, making the benefit virtually useless these days. The free texting is still good. I’ve also used the $5 international pass a good number of times – the cost can add up quickly if you’re traveling for some days.
Is it worth it? Yes, it is a good option when you need access data quickly. Since 512MB of data really isn’t much data allotment, I hope someday that T-Mobile would offer the $5 plan with 1GB of data.
Have you used T-Mobile’s international pass? Did you think it was worth it or did you end up using other options?