Why T-Mobile is Bad for Digital Nomads
$75/mo for 128 kbps, max 1 Gb/day, and could be cut off

Dec. 17, 2017
Oct. 15, 2018

This post makes the following assumptions: You are a digital nomad who works online while traveling internationally, you change countries frequently (every other month or more), and you need large amounts of data (more than 10 Gbs per month). If these assumptions do not apply to you, this advice may not, either.
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T-Mobile is a mobile service carrier familiar to US Americans, as is their One Unlimited plan, which advertises unlimited texting & data abroad. This plan is perhaps the most commonly discussed among US American digital nomads. However, there are several reasons that this is not a good plan for international online workers, and as always, the devil is in the details.

The Details

  • Price: $70-75/month, depending on if you sign up for automatic withdrawals
  • Data is unlimited at “their speed”, which depends the country.
  • Throttle point: 30-50 Gbs
  • Plan must be initiated in the US

The Devil (ie the troublesome details)

A throttle point at 30-50 Gbs sounds pretty great, doesn't it? Well it's important to note that that only applies to your device, you cannot tether with this plan. So if all of your data use can be done via a phone, this may be a good plan for you. But if you want to tether, you need to buy an International Roaming Pass, which costs $20 for 1 Gb that can be used over a max span of 10 days. But if you want to use more than 1 Gb, you need to buy another, at $20.

Next, “at their speed” is another way to say, “we don't know.” The speed might be fast, or it may be as slow as 128kbps. It's out of T-Mobile's hands, and they make no promises.

Finally, this is a plan meant for occasional travelers, not full-time digital nomads. That means it is not meant to be used internationally for more than a few weeks at time. Scanning digital nomad groups and forums you see a lot of chatter from people who had their service cut off after 1, 2, or 3 months out of the US. There doesn't seem to be a firm rule. Maybe you'll get it cut off, maybe you won't. There's no way to know ahead of time.

All of this adds up to mean that with T-Mobile One Unlimited you're paying $70-$75 a month for service that can only be used on one device, may be as slow as 128kbps, and could be cut off at any time. Spending only a few minutes on the international sim wiki will find you multiple plans in any number of places that offer fast connectivity, with decent data allowances, many of which allow tethering, won't be cut off, for much less than $70—more likely closer to $20.

T-Mobile One Unlimited may seem like a decent plan to US Americans who are accustomed to overpaying for their mobile service, but it is woefully inappropriate for an international digital nomad.

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