Sprint to give free international data & texting in select countries

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Yesterday, Sprint announced that the company is beginning to roll out free international data & texting. T-Mobile users such as myself know just how great the cell phone provider’s free international data and roaming is to have when you’re abroad, so this is welcome news to Sprint customers.

In a press release, Sprint said:

Beginning today, Sprint (NYSE: S) is introducing International Value Roaming, giving customers the ability to travel to major areas in Latin America, Europe and Japan and roam with up to 2G speeds to read emails and surf the web at no additional charge1 . Additionally, they can send unlimited text messages for no extra charge, and they can call anywhere in the world from these countries for 20 cents per minute.

Sooner or later, more U.S. cell phone providers were going to realize just how valued international data & texting is by some and begin to compete with T-Mobile’s services, which is what Sprint is doing. Sort of…

Here’s the good news: 

  • If you’re a Sprint customer, you’re going to have some access to data & texting in some countries when you’re traveling. It’s better than being completely disconnected, especially in emergencies.
  • Sprint is also offering free Wi-Fi in almost every country around the world

And here’s the bad news:

  • Sprint’s free international roaming coverage is starting with only 15 countries. Unless you happen to be going to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain or the United Kingdom, you’re out of luck. Compare this with T-Mobile’s coverage of 120+ countries, and you realize just how weak Sprint’s launch is.
  • Sprint’s free international roaming coverage is only going to be at archaic 2G speeds. In comparison, T-Mobile’s international coverage is up to 3G, and in some cases I have found it to even be 4G. Good luck doing much of anything on a 2G network, especially if you’re trying to use an app like Google Maps. Faster speed access can be purchased, but at prices ranging from $15/day to $50/14-days for 100MB to 500MB of high-speed data, only the most desperate travelers are likely to upgrade.

Sprint posted this infographic to describe the full plan:

sprint internationalroaminginfographic 391x1000 - Sprint to give free international data & texting in select countries

win a free trip 1 - Sprint to give free international data & texting in select countries

Overall, this is better than nothing if you’re a current Sprint customer. The company does pledge to expand service. “The continuous feedback from our customers indicates how important it is to travel without the fear of high roaming charges,” said Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO. “So, we launched free data roaming and Wi-Fi. “Latin America, Europe and Japan are only the beginning. We will continuously add new countries to ensure our customers can use their device virtually wherever they travel.” Of course, the amount they expand remains to be seen.

With such limited coverage and speeds compared to T-Mobile, Sprint isn’t going to convince many international travelers to choose them over T-Mobile. Sure, this is better than what market leaders AT&T & Verizon offer, but it’s still so weak that I don’t see this being a huge win for Sprint.

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