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T-Mobile has been a long-time favorite for data and voice services while abroad without needing to buy a new SIM card for each country you visit. Indeed, customers can get unlimited 2G data and texting in 210 international countries at no extra cost through T-Mobile’s Simple Global plan.

But, if you use significant voice or data while roaming abroad, trouble may lie ahead. Multiple customers on T-Mobile ONE and T-Mobile ONE Plus plans recently received a text message stating the following from T-Mobile:

The majority of the last two months of T-Mobile usage on line xxxxxxxxxx has been roaming internationally. If this line continues to roam extensively abroad over the next month, the use will violate our terms and conditions, and your roaming usage will be blocked on September 25 2018. See details:

Based on the information at the link provided, T-Mobile defines excessive roaming as “using more than 50% of your voice or data off-network for an extended period of time.”

To T-Mobile’s credit, a clause similar to the current clause that explicitly disallows usage of your device that “results in more than 50% of your voice and/or data usage being Off-Net (i.e., connected to another provider’s network) for any 2 billing cycles within any 12-month period” has been present in T-Mobile’s Terms and Conditions since June 28, 2008. Most cell phone providers have a similar clause in their Terms and Conditions — T-Mobile is simply choosing to enforce it.

So, if you use a T-Mobile ONE plan frequently abroad, what can you do?

  • Buy a SIM card with data and/or voice in countries where you’ll use significant data and/or voice
  • Use data and/or voice excessively while in the US to improve your on-network vs off-network ratio
  • Ditch T-Mobile and switch to another carrier (like Google Project Fi)

Google Project Fi is Brian Kelly’s one must have travel accessory. I can personally vouch for it as well, as TPG‘s JT Genter and I have used it extensively without problems for the last 13 months we’ve lived mostly abroad. Since you pay for data no matter where you use Google Project Fi, you shouldn’t receive any text messages about using too much overseas data.

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