T-Mobile unveiled the latest part of its Uncarrier initiative today: the carrier is offering unlimited international data and text services at no extra charge starting October 31st. The new international services will be available to existing Simple Choice customers for no additional cost over their current rate plans, and will work in over 100 countries across the world. In addition to the data and texting services, traveling customers will be able to place voice calls at a flat rate of 20 cents per minute while in those countries.
T-Mobile's new plans are significantly different than the industry is accustomed to — most international roaming plans are prohibitively expensive and have limited caps for data and text messaging. T-Mobile notes that 40 percent of traveling Americans turn off data services on their phones when they are abroad to avoid the exorbitant fees. The carrier says that by removing this bill shock, travelers will be more open to using their phones while overseas. CEO John Legere says that the included countries cover "pretty much everywhere people travel, about 95 percent of where people go."
The carrier didn't provide a lot of details for the new plan — it didn't really describe the level of service that customers would get while they are in foreign countries. The company is providing options for customers to pay more for faster service while abroad: there will be options for daily, weekly, and two-week packages that provide the "fastest speeds we can deliver" over the standard, included unlimited service. While the company says the included data should be good enough for emails, social network status updates, and even streaming music, it's not particularly fast: just 128 kilobytes per second on average, chief marking officer Mike Sievert told CNET.
In addition to the new, free roaming services, T-Mobile is also launching its new Stateside International Talk & Text feature, which offers discounted calling and text messaging from the United States to all of its participating Simple Choice countries. Calls to mobile phones will be 20 cents per minute, while calls to landlines are unlimited in over 70 of those countries. Texting from the US to any of those countries is unlimited. Simple Choice customers are able to add the new plan to their existing service for $10 per month.
T-Mobile also revealed today that it now has LTE coverage nationwide, covering over 200 million people in 233 metro areas in the US. The carrier has also signed a multi-year partnership with musical artist Shakira to help get its word out there. The agreement will result in "unique content, fan engagement, and exclusive access to her new music" for T-Mobile customers.
T-Mobile has been shaking up the wireless industry for the better part of the year as part of its "Uncarrier" movement. In the spring, it announced that it would be eliminating the traditional carrier contract, and in July it was the first carrier to launch a payment plan for smartphones that lets customers upgrade their devices more often (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint quickly followed suit with plans of their own). Today's announcement might be the most revolutionary — international roaming charges have been one of the biggest frustrations for traveling customers. T-Mobile's aggressive moves have helped it gain marketshare, but it is still far behind the other three carriers when it comes to user numbers. Whether or not today's announcement will turn the tide further in T-Mobile's favor remains to be seen, but it's sure to make more than a few frequent travelers happy.