Here's something to look forward to in 2014: National carriers offering better international roaming deals. It's going to be the sexy new wireless battleground! The latest salvo on this front is AT&T offering speedy 4G LTE roaming plans to the UK.
AT&T customers visiting from the U.S. will now be able to access UK telecom giant EE's 4G LTE network across 160 UK towns and cities. According to the EE press release, customers will have access to average network speeds of 24–30 mbps in major cities across the UK.
As a point of comparison, the promised average speeds ("promised" and "average" being the key terms) would far outpace AT&T's average LTE network speeds we found in our nationwide testing back in May.
U.S. customers traveling to the UK will not need to change SIM cards or buy any hardware to access EE's network, but they will have to sign-up for AT&T's Global Add-On package, which give them access to 120 MB for $30 per month, 300 MB for $60 per month, and 800 MB for $120 per month.
The UK expansion comes on the heels of AT&T opening international LTE roaming into 120 Canadian cities last month.
The new battleground
While international LTE access is definitely a plus, those data caps will relegate most customers to email and web surfing, while leaving the big data transactions for Wi-Fi.
However, more international data competition promises to come online soon and should spur some tastier deals. Specifically, AT&T's biggest competitor, Verizon has laid out vague plans to offer undisclosed international roaming deals sometime in the beginning of 2014.
Additionally, international roaming is something that other carriers can offer—even if its not at 4G speeds. Back in October, T-Mobile announced it would provide customers with unlimited international data and texting at no additional cost across 115 countries.
We should note that T-Mobile's unlimited data plan does not provide access to 4G network speeds. The company has been uncharacteristically shy about the exact network speeds traveling customers can anticipate (CEO John Legere said that the "experience will vary" depending on what country you are in).
In addition, T-Mobile offers international 4G-speed plans via a three-tiered "Speed Boost" available as a one-day package offering 100MB for $15; a one-week package offering 200MB for $25; and a two-week package offering 500MB for $50. When you do the math and balance the variables, the price is comparable to AT&T's Global Add-On plans.
Despite the wireless carriers' best attempts to keep customers beholden to contractual stretches of servitude, they are still forced to compete for our business. One of the things we'd like to see are more competitive deals for international data plans, which remain far more expensive than our data-dependent, app-centric lives should allow.
Lead image: Brian Clift / Flickr