Which carrier for sporadic international use?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by Eauboy, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Eauboy macrumors regular

    Eauboy

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #1
    Hi all,

    I'm trying to select which carrier (AT&T or Verizon) to go with for sporadic international travel.

    Travel is often to third-world countries including Asia and South America, but isn't all that often. Maybe for two weeks at a time four times a year. During these trips WiFi can be unreliable even in a populated area, so I'm looking for an alternative. Since the cellular usage won't really be needed in the US, the international plan is the primary concern.

    My strong preference would be to only have to pay for service during the overseas trips. In other words, keep no data plan at all until a trip comes along then buy coverage just for the duration of the trip (month at a time?).

    AT&T seems to have a reasonable approach by which you can start a domestic plan, then add a month of international data at a time. Verizon isn't quite clear on their site about how this works, but does seem to offer both pay per use and monthly plans. Verizon also obliges you to have a domestic plan.

    Does anyone have experience with this type of arrangement? Starting domestic service for a short period just to add-on the international data plan sounds like a hassle, but if the carrier makes it easy then I think it would be okay. I'm just not sure how practical it would be to start/stop coverage several times a year.

    Also, these overseas plans are ghastly expensive on a per MB rate. $30 per month for 50MB? That's insane. Is there a better way to do this, like buying a sim in country?

    Any insight welcome. Thanks.
     
  2. poloponies Suspended

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    #2
    If you're visiting a country where GSM is the standard, the simplest solution is to buy a local prepaid microSIM or standard SIM (which can be cut down). The local SIM can be then used with either the AT&T or Verizon models.
     
  3. donnaw macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2011
    Location:
    Austin TX
    #3
    Yeah, buy a local sim. Go check out some expat forums for the country you plan on visiting to find out the best value.

    You might want to invest in a cutter that will cut down a regular sim. You can find them on Amazon really cheap.
     
  4. Eauboy thread starter macrumors regular

    Eauboy

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #4
    Thanks to you both.

    So, if I'm going with GSM is the AT&T model the one to go with? Seems like Verizon's network is in general a CDMA network, but on their web site it suggests that you can join GSM networks with the device. At least, it shows GSM coverage maps alongside the CDMA maps.
     
  5. Eauboy thread starter macrumors regular

    Eauboy

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #5
    Bump, in the hopes that someone on the day shift can add. Just trying to decide which of the two models will yield the most flexibility and cost effectiveness for international travel without getting tied to an expensive plan.


    Thanks...
     
  6. Akack macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Location:
    USA
    #6
    For the new iPad, both the AT&T and Verizon have sim cards so either would work internationally.
     
  7. christophermdia macrumors 6502a

    christophermdia

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    #7
    Verizon is better value here since it includes the CDMA bands, especially if your traveling to Asia. For CDMA you wouldn't be able to use a local plan but as long as there is still GSM then you can use the GSM sim in the Verizon iPad. Of course LTE wouldn't work with either Verizon or ATT in other countries.
     
  8. wharzhee, Mar 23, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012

    wharzhee macrumors 6502

    Joined:
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    texas
    #8
    never,ever,ever,ever try to roam, its soooo f*kin expensive!
    they dont warn u, if u exceed limits.. n they force u to pay... and it cld range in the thousands..!
     
  9. Eauboy thread starter macrumors regular

    Eauboy

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #9
    So, if I bought the Verizon iPad I could buy sims overseas for either CDMA or GSM networks depending on whichever system is dominant in that country?

    This is a bit intimidating since of course when you go to shop for iPads you get these "only works on the network of the carrier chosen" warnings. Is this an empty threat for the most part?


    Thanks...
     
  10. christophermdia macrumors 6502a

    christophermdia

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    #10
    you wouldnt be able to choose the CDMA local carrier, that would need to roam through Verizon, since there is no physical SIM. But it would give you that capability to use it on a CDMA network if you had to. Most countries that have CDMA also have GSM, and with those you can just get a micro-sim to pop into the iPad. I have done this several times and works like a charm.

    I wouldnt worry about which carrier you select, as long as it has coverage....most plans are all prepaid so you wouldnt have to worry about overages and stuff like that, you buy data on a sim, use it then throw it away when your done....I did buy a reloadable Rogers SIM to use in Canada and that works great too.
     
  11. whtrbt7 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2011
    #11
    AT&T version. Here's why:

    1. AT&T's version is a lot like the Verizon version in that it can run in the US under LTE. What makes the difference are the international plans.

    2. Below are the international data rates:

    Amt of Data | AT&T | Verizon
    50MB | $24.99 | $30.00
    125MB | $49.99 | N/A
    150MB | N/A | $75.00
    275MB | $99.99 | N/A
    300MB | N/A | $125.00
    800MB | $199.99 | N/A

    Overages:
    1MB | $19.50 (however it's counted in KB) | $5.12

    As you can see AT&T does set data for less than Verizon. Overages on Verizon however are a little more lenient however they count up in MB instead of KB. These plans are for just in case you don't have availability to data on microSIM in the country you are visiting.

    3. If you have a HK resident address, you can get decently cheap international data from 3HK. Monthly cost is about USD$12 and roaming costs HKD$138/USD$17.80 per day for most places around the world or in China/Macau HKD$68/USD$8.71 per day.

    I travel a bit internationally so I normally use my 3 plan in order to alleviate costs however AT&T seems to be cheap if you know how much data you will use no matter where you are.
     
  12. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #12
    CDMA technology doesn't use SIMs, so I'm doubtful that you'd be able to find a pre-paid plan for that technology when traveling internationally.

    As for it only working on the carrier chosen, that applies while in the US, and it's not totally true. But for the most part, if you buy an AT&T iPad, don't have the expectation that you can just pop in a Verizon LTE SIM and start using Verizon's network.

    So for international travel when it comes to buying pre-paid GSM SIMs at a local shop, the AT&T and Verizon iPads are equal.

    The Verizon iPad does additionally support CDMA (which its 3G network in the US uses), but I really don't know if being able to support CDMA on your iPad is going to be an asset to you when traveling internationally.
     
  13. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #13
    IMO, it's crazy to pay any carrier to roam internationally if there's the option of buying a pre-paid SIM when you arrive at your destination.

    I snag one of these when I arrive in HK. It's about US$26 and gives me unlimited data for about 10 days. Much better of a deal than paying Verizon or AT&T roughly the same amount of money for only 50MB of data.

    Seems like most carriers around the world offer similar pre-paid SIMs. I guess unless you don't want the inconvenience of finding a shop that sells pre-paid SIMs when you arrive at your destination, I can't see why anyone would want to pay international roaming rates?! :confused:
     

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  14. Eauboy thread starter macrumors regular

    Eauboy

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    Jan 28, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #14
    Very helpful, thanks.
     
  15. jeffsaha macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2011
    #15
    From what I've read only the AT&T iPad has the cellular band for HSPA+. So if the country you go to has HSPA+ the AT&T model would seem more beneficial. Again, I don't have an iPad 3 as of yet so I don't have first hand experiece, but I would take a look at that.
     
  16. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #16
    FWIW, other than the US LTE frequencies (and the Verizon iPad supporting CDMA), the rest of the cellular support is the same. :)

    http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
     
  17. b.c. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    #17
    a couple data points if you travel to Asia

    I just returned from a couple weeks trip to Hong Kong and Singapore with my iPad (4G+wifi model). local prepaid 3G microSIM cards there are quite reasonable - much more reasonable data plans for temporary use IMO than most data plans back home (Rogers - Canada)

    there may be cheaper alternatives but these are the ones I found without looking very hard.

    Hong Kong: 3HK prepaid microSIM card, reloadable, no contract, initial cost 198HKD (~C$25)

    data: $18HKD per month (~C$2.30) for 50MB, plus 2HKD for each MB over that

    BUT, here's the good part - it's capped at 18HKD max/day
    i.e. for about $2.30/day you get unlimited 3G data


    Singapore: StarHub MaxMobile prepaid microSIM card, reloadable, no contract, initial cost $32SGD (~C$25)

    data: you can choose from various data plans offered,
    I picked $25SGD for 5days+2bonus days of unlimited data.

    you can buy the StarHub cards at 7-Eleven anywhere in Singapore, or at the UOB currency exchange booths at Changi airport, among other places. very convenient, I bought mine and was online minutes after leaving the baggage claim at the airport.


    these 3G cards simply activate once you insert them in the iPad. with the StarHub one, you have to first choose the data plan you want to use when you first connect (you can do it directly on the iPad via Safari). with either you can log on via web browser to top up the card.

    @Eauboy - your use case is same as mine - don't need cellular data at home but want to use it when traveling several times a year.
    forget about expensive data roaming from your home carrier!
     
  18. takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    #18
    Always consider the source. Try reading Apple's specs (emphasis added):
    http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
     

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