I had long raved about T-Mobile’s free international roaming plan – which offers unlimited texting and “data at up to 2G speeds in 210+ countries”.  This is a great perk if you travel abroad and don’t feel like dealing with SIM cards. The per minute calling rate is now set at $.25 USD/min.

Is T-Mobile Throttling Data?

When free international data roaming was introduced with T-Mobile, I was often able to pick up better than 2G speed.  However, the data speed is throttled to 2G these days.  This is where T-Mobile shines with their “$5” international add-on pass.  The on-demand pass gives you 512MB of Internet and unlimited calling in 210+ countries in a 24-hour period.


a screenshot of a phone


First, this is a great option if you plan to make a lot of calls.  You’d come up ahead of the plan rate if you to talk on the phone for more than 20 minutes in a 24-hour period.   I generally have a greater need for data.  Technically, you don’t even need the voice portion of the plan once you have data.  You can make calls using VOIP apps like “WhatsApp”.

Once your data usage hits the 80% mark, you’d typically get a alert message. When the data allotment is used up, your data speed is reverted back to 2G.  You’d still get to keep the unlimited calling for the remainder of the pass.

a screenshot of a phone


A Couple of Quick Tips

  • Buying Your Pass: Login to your account on the T-Mobile app.  Under the add-on section, you can select the International Pass.  You can choose activate your pass immediately.  You can also schedule for a specific date.

a screenshot of a phone

  • Reboot your device: Although not necessary, I usually just do a reboot just to make sure that anything I do after is under the new plan.
  • Understand the limit: You can buy 2 international passes in a 24-hour period. If you use up all the data allotment and need to buy a new one, you can buy another pass after you used up the first one.
  • Ignore confusing messages:  If you buy new pass, you can sometimes get an order confirmation text, followed immediately by an equally conflicting message that you have removed your international pass, but that you would be still billed for the pass.  What does that even mean?  It turned out that the message is confirming that you’re removing your not-yet-expired international pass with a new one.

Bottom Line

The throttling of data to 2G speed makes web surfing frustratingly slow, rendering the “free data roaming” benefit mostly ineffective.  The free texting is still good benefit.  I’ve also purchased the $5 international pass more than a handful of times in various countries.  It works and it works well — just know that the cost can add up pretty quickly.


Have you used T-Mobile’s international pass?  Did you think it was worth it or did you end up using other options?