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On the road with T-Mobile's free international roaming

Martyn Williams | March 27, 2014
For people who travel overseas a lot, it sounds almost too good to be true: unlimited international data roaming and texting at no extra cost. But that's exactly what T-Mobile USA started offering its U.S. users earlier this year as part of its price battle with AT&T.

The test wasn't without problems.

In Spain, the phone kept losing its data connection with roaming-partner Movistar, and wouldn't reliably reconnect, so I had dial tone but no data. I rebooted the phone many times and never managed to figure out the problem, then, after a couple of days, the phone started connecting to Orange, an alternate network. I'd tried to connect to Orange earlier in the week and that didn't work, but suddenly it was working and my problems disappeared.

When I contacted T-Mobile to describe my problem, the company's engineers who examined what had been going on ended up adjusting the way roaming phones connect to networks in Spain, hopefully ending the problem for others.

My connection to Orange, and a subsequent connection to T-Mobile in the U.K., brought some concerns. Rather than the welcome text message telling me my usage was covered, I got one that said "Welcome to United Kingdom. CAUTION: For specific rates and info call us..."

Was I back to paying a lot of money for my data? Should I disable roaming?

I tried to check on the T-Mobile app in the phone, but it wouldn't connect. It kept telling me there was no data connection, despite being online.

T-Mobile later told me the message I got was their error, served up by mistake, and that too should now be fixed. The app wasn't connecting because the company had programmed it not to work overseas, ironically to stop customers running up high charges.

These problems aside, the roaming service was useful, especially for vacationers. Those overseas on business might want the faster service, especially if they aren't paying the bill themselves, but even then the basic service might suffice.

I ended my trip satisfied with the service, and you can't beat the price.


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