Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) next week will begin selling international data roaming plans much the same way it sells domestic data: buckets of megabytes for a set price. But don’t expect to get a lot for your dollar. Verizon is selling 100 MB of international data for $25 a month with access to CDMA and GSM/UMTS networks in 120 countries. That works out to be $250 a gigabyte, about 16 to 25 times what it charges domestic data usage.
Those prices may be exorbitant, but they’re still a vast improvement over what it offered beforehand. Previously Verizon sold a 50 MB bucket for $30 a month, a 150 MB for $75 and 300 MB for $125, which works out to between $416 and $600 a GB. In addition, if you were to go over your allotment in one of those old plans, overage fees of $5.12 a megabyte would kick in ($2.05 in Canada) so if you were to actually consume a gigabyte of data while overseas you could wind up paying nearly $5,000 for the privilege.
With the new plans, you’ll still pay dearly to use your smartphone internationally, but at least those extremely high rates are consistent. You can sign up for the service when you leave the country and discard it when you return, and if you go over your allotment Verizon gives you the option of buying another 100 MB bucket for $25 rather than charging punitive overage fees. To access most international networks, though, you’ll need a dual-mode phone like the iPhone(s app).
If you’re actually foolish enough to use data services without signing up for an international plan, then don’t be surprised if you have to take out a second mortgage to pay your bill. Without a plan, Verizon charges $20.48 for a single megabyte. That amounts to more than $20,000 per gig. Don’t say you weren’t warned.