Props to AT&T. Really.

(The useful title for this post is, "How to setup a temporary international data plan with AT&T.")

It's easy to jump on the anti-AT&T bandwagon. Typical complaints  usually center around crappy voice coverage, a crummy website, outrages fees, or unlimited data plans that are actually limited.  Me?  Admittedly, I've been an AT&T defender and apologist at times -- I cut my teeth as a programmer at the fabled Bell Labs, so it has a special place in my heart.  So, I've refrained from complaining too much.

International Data Roaming Plans Are Complicated
I've always been pained by egregious fees for data services when traveling out of the United States -- about $20/MB.  And choosing the *right* plan was difficult and confusing. So, I always signed up for the (most expensive) data plan at $199.99 for 800MB.  AT&T would prorate that for the number of days you actually used the plan within a billing cycle.  So, if you traveled for 3 days, you'd get about 80MB of data (3 days * 800MB/30 days) for about $20 (3 days * $199.99/30 days).  And if you went over 80MB, you could always tack on more days at about 27MB/day at $7/day, after you returned.

Whew.  That was still a bit complicated.  And, even more so if your travels crossed a billing cycle.  But, if you carefully managed your data utilization (painfully using "airplane mode" or turning off cellular service), you could get by.  It was worth it for the cost conscience traveler.

New and Improved! Monthly Usage Prorated.  Data Usage Not.  Hooray!

On my recent trip to Mexico, things got surprisingly better.  A lot better, especially for short term travels.  I found that AT&T changed its policies so that they will still prorate your service based on the number of days you are traveling abroad.  BUT, they don't prorate the amount of data you get.  For the $199.99/month plan, you'd get a budget of the full 800MB, even though you only paid for 3 days of service.  So, for $20, I was able to get (all most) all the data I wanted without worrying too much about going over my allotment.  (Note that I wasn't able to watch unlimited Netflix movies but you get the idea.)

Sure, I'd like to have "unlimited" data wherever I go, whenever I want.  But,  turning on an international plan for the number of days I'm traveling  for up to 800MB is a pretty easy and effective solution in the mean time.

Good job AT&T, with this policy change!

Caveat:  I'll be singing a new tune and writing an update to complain if my bill this month doesn't work out this way!

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This page contains a single entry by published on February 15, 2012 9:48 PM.

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