These days we are used to being connected wherever we go. Until recently, though, the USA has been something of a blackspot for foreign visitors needing local 3G coverage. Roaming rates from European mobiles are prohibitively expensive and US carriers have been slow to offer good temporary deals on local numbers.
AT&T are notoriously useless in this respect. Shortly after landing in San Francisco I visited an AT&T store without much hope. Did they have a data/phone deal for visitors? I left with absolutely no hope. Mr. No-can-do at AT&T had said that they could offer me a phone SIM but could do nothing on data.
Later, I called in at a TMobile store on Powell Street, again without much hope. This time, though, I was greeted by a bright and cheery Ms. Can-do. Not only could she offer a data and phone SIM, she could do it at a great price and without attached strings. It is just about the perfect deal for the visitor in the USA expecting to stay for a couple of weeks or so.
How about unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and “unlimited”¹ data for a flat $50, including tax and with no strings attached? For an extra $10 you can add unlimited calls to international landlines, just the ticket for calling home. Even better, you do not have to give up your credit card details so there is absolutely no chance of extras. There is no possibility of making calls outside the package . If the data works, if the call works, it’s all included.
I came away with a nice warm feeling and the $60 deal including international landlines. I now have a local number and this makes it easier to keep in touch with friends. Those friends absolutely refuse to dial my UK mobile, so now they have no excuse.
A bonus is that free wifi is becoming more and more generally available in the USA. Starbucks offer free no-questions-asked wifi and you can download to your heart’s content for the cost of a cappuccino. All in all, I now feel I can visit the US without that feeling of being cut off.
¹ This is a strange one. The first 100MB of data, which is actually more than enough for my week’s visit (for an iPhone), comes at “3G and 4G” speeds. After that it is throttled back to EDGE speeds but you still remain connected. In this sense it is genuinely unlimited. But it’s unlimited with small print attached. This TMobile deal is valid for three months, after which the SIM reverts to a standard pay-as-you-go. Presumably, though, it can be resurrected on your next visit.