AT&T(s t) is trying to sweeten the pot for mobile customers who opt for its pricey international data roaming plans. AT&T has entered into an agreement with international hotspot aggregator Boingo(s wifi) to access its global wireless network for customers with international plans.
Subscribers of AT&T’s 300 MB or 800 MB international data plan will now get free access up to 1 GB of Wi-Fi data primarily in airports and public places in major European cities as well as in select cities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Japan and New Zealand. (You can find a complete list on AT&T’s site.) In February, AT&T inked a similar deal with The Cloud to give international customers access to 16,000 hotspots in the U.K. To access those networks, customers subscribing to a global data plan only need download AT&T’s international app.
That may sound like a perk, but it’s really not much of one when you consider what AT&T charges for these international plans: $60 for a 300 MB bucket of data and $120 for 800 MB. If customers know their primary mobile data use is going to be over Wi-Fi they can by a much cheaper Wi-Fi-only plan with no restrictions and access to much bigger hotspot footprint. For instance, Boingo offers its own $35-per-month plan that covers two devices and provides unlimited access to 200,000 hotspots in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Still, AT&T certainly isn’t alone in charging exorbitant rates for mobile data roaming. All of the U.S. carriers have pretty much priced global data plans beyond the reach of ordinary travelers – at least travelers who want to use their smartphones as they would ordinarily. Adding Wi-Fi access is a nice touch, but it doesn’t fix the broken global data roaming system.