Which carrier for sporadic international use?

Eauboy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 28, 2008
120
6
Washington, DC
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.
 

poloponies

Suspended
May 3, 2010
2,669
1,360
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.
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.
 

donnaw

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2011
1,137
6
Austin TX
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.
 

Eauboy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 28, 2008
120
6
Washington, DC
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.
 

Eauboy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 28, 2008
120
6
Washington, DC
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...
 

Akack

macrumors 6502a
Mar 5, 2011
687
44
USA
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.
For the new iPad, both the AT&T and Verizon have sim cards so either would work internationally.
 

christophermdia

macrumors 6502a
Sep 28, 2008
743
153
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.
 

wharzhee

macrumors 6502
Apr 27, 2010
279
0
texas
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..!
 
Last edited:

Eauboy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 28, 2008
120
6
Washington, DC
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.
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...
 

christophermdia

macrumors 6502a
Sep 28, 2008
743
153
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.
 

whtrbt7

macrumors 65816
Jun 8, 2011
1,013
72
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.
 

aristobrat

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2005
12,269
1,319
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.
 

aristobrat

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2005
12,269
1,319
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
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:
 

Attachments

Eauboy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 28, 2008
120
6
Washington, DC
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.
Very helpful, thanks.
 

jeffsaha

macrumors member
Oct 6, 2011
54
0
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.
 

b.c.

macrumors 6502
Nov 5, 2008
406
4
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!