Thinking of traveling to foreign shores (or inland) this summer? If you're an AT&T subscriber, you'll be thrilled to find out you'll get a lot more bang for your international data roaming dollar than before, starting July 17.
The monthly international data roaming plan prices are still the same, but you get a lot more data for checking email, surfing the Web and other cell and smart phone Internet access chores.
Here's a comparison of the old and new monthly plans:
$24.99: old – 20 MB; new – 50 MB
$49.99: old – 50 MB; new – 125 MB
$99.99: old – 100 MB; new – 275 MB
$199.99: old – 200 MB; new – 800 MB
And if you go over, each additional 10 MB is $10 instead of the old penalty cost of $5 for a single MB.
How good are these deals? Compare them to the plans offered by the other three major carriers (I used Spain as my imaginary destination): Verizon's Spain rates are$30/monthly for 25MB and $100/month for 70MB; T-Mobile charges $15/MB(no monthly plan); Sprint doesn't seem to have any per-MB data roaming deal, just even more confusing per KB charges.
These are around 100 times more expensive than your normal, everyday data rates here in the U.S. AT&T's plans aren't quite as gougy now, but international data roaming is still a gigantic rip-off – it's AIR for crying out loud!
How do I measure megabytes?
But I know what you're thinking – what's with the charging by megabyte? What does that mean?
It means each time you go online on your phone – check email, surf the Web, etc., you use bytes, a different number of bytes for each Internet thing you do.
To help figure out which plan you should be ripped off for…er, you should choose (slight error), AT&T has a handy international data calculator. While you're overseas, you should regularly track your usage to make sure you don't go over.
On the iPhone, go to Settings-General-Usage. Scroll down to the bottom of Usage to "Reset Statistics" when you arrive at your non-U.S. destination, and you'll get an precise running data usage odometer.
There doesn't seem to be a data usage meter on Android phones, but you can download a data usage app from the Android Market, such as PhoneUsage from Jupiter Apps.
Before you leave on your trip, call AT&T to tell them where you're going and to add one of the international data roaming plans to your account. Just remember to call them when you get back to cancel it so you only get charged for one month's usage. And, no, you can't get a one- or two-week plan.
If you're not an AT&T subscriber, let's hope this sparks an international data roaming price war. I'll let you know (natch) if Verizon, Sprint and/or T-Mobile make a responsive move.