T-Mobile Bucks Another Crazy Mobile Phone Trend: Dumps International Roaming Charges

from the well,-look-at-that dept

For pretty much the entire history of the mobile phone business, your choice of service providers was mostly dependent on trying to find the least evil provider. They all played the same awful tricks designed to make you pay more -- and to hate your service provider in the process. Could it possibly be that T-Mobile has finally decided that it's going to become the brand that completely shakes that up? Last year we wrote about the company killing off the abusive practice of long term contracts combined with subsidies that actually made you pay much more for your phone while making people think they were paying less. And now they've hit back on one of the other favorite gouging places for mobile phone carriers: positively insane international roaming fees that resulted in numerous stories of people suddenly receiving bills over $10,000.

T-Mobile's response isn't to just lower the international roaming fees, it's to get rid of them completely, replacing them with free data access in most countries, and relatively cheap phone calls. The free data plan is fairly slow, but you can upgrade to pay for a faster plan at non-crazy rates (about $15/day -- which is actually less than many hotels charge for WiFi). While other mobile carriers have "international plans" it looks like, even if you're paying up for the "higher levels" of service, T-Mobile's plans will come out significantly cheaper than any competitor.

I'm not sure my brain can process the idea of a mobile phone company that doesn't suck and focus on customer disservice over customer utility.

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 1:27am

    So, a service that previous tried to rip customers off left and right, often leading to people being wary of using a paid service at all is now offering a "free" option with the chance to pay a reasonable fee for a more valuable product if they so wish?

    I wonder if the usual crowd here are going to accept that this is another example of such a model being viable or if they're just going to whine about anomolies and freeloaders again?

    Fair play to T-Mobile, though. Why piss customers off for the potential of a premium that might get fought in court or put people off using the service altogether, when you can guarantee a regular income stream and good will from regular travellers and attract new customers in the process? Here's hoping that other providers in other countries see the light and offer the same service!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2013 @ 1:43am

    could this be because of the drastic changes that have already/ are still going on over in the EU? all the equipment everywhere has been paid for many times over. the various telcos have been ripping customers off for years by forcing them to pay higher rates when out of the country of residence and phoning in, or phoning outside the country of residence. it's about time it was kicked into touch, like so many other ridiculous pricing schemes. it wont be long before phones as such are a thing of the past, with voip being ever more popular.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2013 @ 2:49am


    More likely it is because of EU regulations in the area. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:172:0010:01:EN:HTML

    Not exactly a result of "free market" solving the issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2013 @ 3:51am

    Re: Re:

    The issue was caused exactly by the failure of the free market in this regard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Mauricio (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 5:19am

    Question on profit margin

    Does anyone know how much does T-Mobile have to pay carriers in other countries for the service? I know many countries don't even offer "unlimited data" plans, so it seems weird that t-mobile can afford to do this, unless it's expecting the positive sentiment in the country to compensate for the losses from this deal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There hasn't been a free market in, like, forever in the telco realm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 5:44am

    We are talking about data. DATA. Adding an international customer to your network is no different from adding a local. It gets expensive because telcos charge insane fees for others to access their networks. Break those artificial barriers - or rather add competition in the monopolies - and you'll see these prices shooting straight down. Here there was a huge opening in the market with people porting numbers to other operators and several operators dipping into otherwise closed markets. Result? Free long distance calls for land lines, free calls for phones within your network, unlimited wireless usage (with lower speed of course), unlimited sms and so on. In the broadband market we jumped from 1-10mbit offers to 200mbit (albeit those are still absurdly expensive).

    Competition never harms the customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    RandomMinds, 11 Oct 2013 @ 5:47am

    Close but no Cigar

    It's interesting that just as this news comes out... without warning, they cancel my data plan. I have a Nexus 4 bought from Google, My account is in good standing, I have never missed a payment, and I have been with t-mobile for over a decade. This morning I wake up to a message on my phone that my data plan is no longer being honored and to choose a new one... while I didn't want to choose a new one, I'm happy with what I have, I followed their link to see what it said. That page came up and stated that I couldn't choose a new plan and to call t-mobile. I called them, they said that the department that handles this is not open yet and I'd have to wait until they were, and in the meantime, I have no data access. International plan or not... shutting off someone's service, that is in good standing, without any outstanding balance, is NOT good customer service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 5:55am

    Re: Question on profit margin

    Well, the linked article does say the following:

    "The company loses money on this: It will sacrifice the revenue it makes from international roaming while still having to pay the carriers its customers use while traveling. But this isnít a significant business for the company at the moment. International roaming costs made up 2.4 percent of T-Mobileís revenue last quarter."

    So, yes they are looking to use this as a loss leader, but the above should minimise their losses overall.

    On top of that, I'm going to guess they have some deals in place. For starters, they operate in 14 countries themselves according to Wikipedia, so they probably aren't going to overcharge themselves. There will be existing deals with other companies they don't operate in, especially in places like Europe (where there's already pressure not to overcharge, so that's a big chunk of the "about 100 countries" already.

    Finally, while lower speeds mean that people aren't going to be abusing the free service as much as they could (people aren't going to be streaming HD video, for example), anyone they convince to switch is a revenue generator for the whole year, not just while on travel. Let's say someone travels 4 times a year and they dislike the risk from the old setup or just wants peace of mind while they're abroad. Even if T-Mobile loses money during the 4 months they happen to be travelling, they stand to make up that revenue from less expensive usage in the 8 months they remain at home. Only hardcore long-term travellers stand to lose them money every month, but even then those are people who are probably going to pay the $15/day every day they're travelling...

    There's a risk, but I'd say it's a good move.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    William F. Dudley Jr., 11 Oct 2013 @ 6:10am

    Tmobile coverage

    pity they have such awful coverage. I don't live in a big city, so the Tmobile "coverage" is barely worthy of the word. Otherwise, I'd be tempted to switch just for this feature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2013 @ 6:46am

    $15 a day is $450 a month, that's still outrageous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 7:08am

    Rent too high!

    So a two-week vacation in Europe would basically end up costing $15 x 14 = $210. I can buy a lot of crap for that money. We're all better off buying a local SIM card.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2013 @ 7:14am


    Maybe so, but a 6-day business trip is only $90, as is a week-long vacation.

    If you are travelling overseas from the US for longer than a month, you would probably already be getting a second mobile line (or a DT international roaming upgrade)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 7:15am


    If you're travelling for the entire month why wouldn't you buy a local sim card or phone for less?

    If not and you object so much to the charge, why don't you use the free option or wifi instead since nobody's forcing it on you as the only option?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 7:21am

    Re: Rent too high!

    "I can buy a lot of crap for that money. We're all better off buying a local SIM card."

    Go on, do that then. I must have missed the point where T Mobile were making this mandatory rather than just an option that's still better than hotel wifi or their competitors' current rates - and they're still offering you a free data plan that didn't exist till now as well. Plus you still have free wifi in most cities if you prefer that to the free option.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Angry Puppy (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 9:00am

    Avoid Roaming Altogether

    Buy a cheap prepaid at the destination and set your smartphone to WiFi only to continue email, etcetera. An alternative is a world SIM card with a set rate and prepaid amount.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 9:43am

    Re: Rent too high!

    You go to Europe for two weeks and insist on the faster data plan for the entire time?

    I guess to each his own. If I went to Europe for two weeks, I'd want to see Europe not the Internet I can see at home. Go round, see the sites, and still be able to use the GPS without paying an extra cent? Now I want to go to Europe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    cryptozoologist (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 10:24am

    one more customer friendly thing t-mobile does

    t-mobile allows me to have a smart phone without a data plan. neither verizon nor at&t allow that. i pay $30/month and use wifi at work or home or restaurants or most anywhere except the car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Atkray (profile), 11 Oct 2013 @ 11:29am

    Re: one more customer friendly thing t-mobile does

    I'm on prepaid. Including the $150 I paid for a phone I average about $70 a year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    M Prushothma Rao, 12 Oct 2013 @ 12:39am

    PCC Mobile Broadband

    This is a bold step that will probably set a new rates-slashing trend on roaming charges. We expect to see a lot of Operators from different geographical areas form partnerships that enables their subscribers to use the local network without incurring ridiculous roaming charges. There are also solutions in store that enable the roaming subscribers to receive instantaneous alerts on the prevailing local rates as soon as they arrive at their destinations. We expect with these developments, bill shocks on travel to reduce significantly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Frank Nurock, 21 Nov 2013 @ 9:31pm

    Turning on Airplane Mode Offshore is the norm.

    Listening the dreaded stories, many users have made it a regular routine to put their phones in "airplane mode" when they leave the country, adequately turning off all voice and telecom carrier-provided data connections.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    James Karen, 9 Jan 2014 @ 7:18am

    T-mobile cell phones place a step ahead as compared to other mobile companies.In such a scenario, execution of this process of lowering the roaming rates can bring a drastic change in mobile world as this would be welcomed by customers aspiring for free roaming worldwide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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