The one place where AT&T holds a competitive advantage is in its bundles. In mid-2015, AT&T merged with satellite TV provider DIRECTV, making bundling discounts available for the first time. In 2018, the DIRECTV live streaming service is paired with its unlimited phone plans, providing more than 30 live TV channels that you can stream on any platform.
Another option besides making a traditional cell phone call is using a Voice Over IP (VoIP) service such as Skype, which connects calls via an Internet connection. Skype can be used on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Skype users can talk to each other for free, and can make calls to landlines and cell phones at affordable rates. However, remember that even if you’re not making international calls over your phone’s cellular network, you’ll still need to have an international plan in place to avoid exorbitant data charges (or find a free Wi-Fi connection so you don’t have to use your data).
To use Telestial SIM cards, your device will need to be GSM-compatible (Global System for Mobile Communications). In the United States, some carriers like Verizon and Sprint use CDMA 2G/3G networks, which is a different technology to GSM networks (which is used by just about every other country in the world). CDMA networks too are moving towards GSM technology, especially utilising the high-speed LTE networks.
However, switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more. Many prepaid services are provided by smaller companies that simply resell service from one of the big carriers, so they offer similar coverage as those carriers at a lower price. But for these resellers to undersell the major carriers while using those carrier networks, the resellers make some trade-offs; similarly, the major carriers’ own prepaid plans tend to involve restrictions their postpaid plans lack. We don’t recommend switching to prepaid unless you meet most of these criteria:
The biggest benefit to simply signing up for your carrier’s international data plan is the fact that it is the easiest option available and keeps you the most connected to loved ones back home. Because your phone isn’t turned off and you are able to use your existing phone number, friends and family can still reach you the same way they would if you were down the street in the US. It is less expensive than not having an international plan at all if you plan to use it for phone calls or Internet access while away.
If you have eyes only for your budget, we’d suggest avoiding the Big Four entirely and instead choosing a cheaper MVNO provider like Cricket or Republic Wireless. MVNOs do not operate their own networks and instead offer access to one or several of the major carriers’ networks at a reduced cost. Choosing the right MVNO requires knowing which network it uses and whether that network works well where you live.
It’s also worth noting that although you’ll get unlimited data when traveling with T-Mobile One, you’re capped at an exceedingly slow 128 kbps. Most 4G connections can deliver average speeds of 3Mbps to 6Mbps. If you need to boost your speeds, you can choose T-Mobile’s 256-kbps option for an extra $25 a month as part of its T-Mobile One Plus International plan. (That plan includes other perks, such as unlimited calling to landlines and mobile numbers in select countries, unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi if you’re on a plane that uses Gogo, and HD video streaming.) In Mexico and Canada, T-Mobile used to allow unlimited 4G LTE coverage with its One plan, but you're now capped at 5GB with speeds slowed to 2G after that.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of unlocking your phone and installing a local SIM, you can simply buy or rent a cell phone that will work abroad. Cellular Abroad sells and rents unlocked GSM phones and SIM cards that will work in dozens of countries around the world. The company also rents the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, whichworks in more than 200 different countries. It’s the ideal solution for travelers visiting more than one country during the same trip. Most U.S.–based mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon also have rental programs. Give them a call to find out what options are available to you.
If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network, so you can ask it for only, say, prepaid options that resell AT&T service. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows featured (aka, sponsored) results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data/minutes/texts but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.
Sprint: Unlimited Basic includes talk, text and high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. You can add Sprint’s Global Roaming service to any Sprint plan at no additional charge. With Global Roaming, you get free texting and 2G data. Calls made abroad start at 20-cents-per-minute. You can purchase high-speed data passes to get LTE data download speeds abroad
iPad 6th Gen 32GB: $4.17/mo. after $15/mo. credit for 24 mos., applied within 2 bills. Reqs new line of service and active handset on account. If you cancel early, remaining balance due. Taxes due at sale. Unlimited: With AutoPay. Video streams up to 480p, music up to 500 Kbps, gaming up to 2 Mbps. Data deprioritization during congestion. Other mo. charges apply.**