Ina Fried

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T-Mobile’s Latest Move Is to Slash Sky-High Global Roaming Charges

T-Mobile is continuing its bid to try to change some of the things that customers hate most about the cellphone business.

Shakira

The No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier is announcing on Wednesday night that it will slash or eliminate the high costs associated with using a phone overseas, at least when traveling to more than 100 major countries.

The fear of high charges often prompts customers to leave their phones at home, keep them in airplane mode, or turn off cellular data when traveling overseas.

“There’s just so many pieces of data that suggest to us this is a huge issue and pain point, but also a huge opportunity,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in an interview, noting that Americans take 55 million international trips per year. However, he said, 40 percent of customers turn off their phones to avoid high charges, while many others get stuck with high bills when they return.

Under T-Mobile’s new plans, which don’t carry an extra fee, T-Mobile offers unlimited 2G data and texting in 100 countries, with voice calls in those same places costing 20 cents per minute.

The company is also introducing a plan for those calling overseas from the U.S. For $10 a month, T-Mobile guarantees that calling to many countries will cost no more than 20 cents per minute, even when calling a mobile phone. Landline calls are free in 70 countries, while unlimited texting to more than 200 countries is also included.

“I think it’s a tipping point in the ‘un-carrier’ proposition,” Legere said.

The move follows its earlier un-carrier moves, including its March decision to abandon both phone subsidies and long-term commitments, and its introduction in July of Jump, a $10-per-month program that offers customers the ability to upgrade their phones as often as twice per year.

The company has also beefed up its network, adding support for both LTE and more commonly used bands, as well as — at long last — getting an iPhone to sell. T-Mobile said on Wednesday that its LTE network now reaches 200 million people in 233 markets, up from 180 million people as of last month.

T-Mobile is formally launching the new components of its strategy in New York, where it is hosting a concert with Shakira in New York’s Bryant Park. It is also announcing a multiyear deal with Shakira, who will help promote T-Mobile, and will use the company to help tout her new music.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald