Why T-Mobile ended roaming charges for users in Canada, Mexico

As the race to become the nation's third-largest carrier intensifies, T-Mobile has announced another perk – this time for subscribers in Canada and Mexico.

John Minchillo/AP Images for T-Mobile/File
T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced the "Carrier Freedom" plan at an Un-carrier 9.0 event in New York in March.

While Donald Trump has proposed building a wall on America’s border with Mexico, T-Mobile is hoping to rip it down.

The wireless carrier rolled out a plan Thursday that, starting as early as next week, will allow customers to use its services in Mexico without extra roaming charges, including making phone calls, texting, and using the web. It’ll also be giving users in Canada the same option.

The plan, called Mobile Without Borders, appears a significant improvement from its previous initiative, at least in terms of speed. While offering free unlimited data and text messages, customers had also been constrained with a slower 2G connection, compared to the 3G or 4G speed Americans are accustomed to, according to CNET.

Now, T-Mobile is partnering with two carriers in Mexico and six in Canada, to provide the fastest possible connection in each country. But with speed comes a tradeoff: Instead of the unlimited data previously offered, customers would be pulling from the same amount available in their usual plans.

So how many new subscribers will this plan entice, particularly among those who travel to these countries for extended time periods?

Alejandra Rubalcava, a University of Southern California student from Mexico City, visited a T-Mobile store this past weekend to review options. But even with zero roaming charges, she’s not convinced to make the switch, she says.

Why? The carrier has slow service – or so she’s heard. “T-Mobile only works well in some states in the US, and there’s so many people switching to T-Mobile that it sucks,” says Ms. Rubalcava, an AT&T subscriber. “You can’t make calls.”

Rubalcava says she’d rather buy a cheap SIM card over in Mexico. “Though their plans are really good, it’s not worth it to me if I can use my phone in Mexico, because I just go there for a few months,” she continued.

Her friend, also in college from Mexico, agrees. She had been considering making a jump from Verizon.

The end of roaming charges comes as the latest in a series of aggressive features released by T-Mobile, whose race with Sprint to become the nation’s third-largest carrier has grown progressively more competitive and placed the companies neck and neck, reported CNET.

T-Mobile also announced Thursday that it had racked up a net 2.1 million subscribers in the second quarter – making it the ninth consecutive quarter to add more than a million new customers, according to The Washington Post.

The company said at a press conference that its subscriber base now totals 58.9 million.

“While we're still waiting for Sprint to disclose its latest figures, a look at its previous reports show that the company will need to add a net 1.8 million subscribers to break even with T-Mobile,” reported The Washington Post.

The carrier credits its continued expansion to Un-carrier Amped, a campaign that kicked off in June and will continue to roll out plans this summer. Its eccentric CEO John Legere, who has been making appearances on Periscope to generate buzz, preempted Thursday’s announcement by telling the public he had “big news.” 

T-Mobile will make another announcement next week, Mr. Legere said on Periscope.

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