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Sprint challenges T-Mobile with free international data and texting

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Sprint is taking cues from the Uncarrier. Today, the company is introducing what it calls International Value Roaming, a new perk that will get subscribers free data coverage and unlimited texting in "major areas in Latin America, Europe and Japan." Right off the bat, we should point out that you won't get anything approaching LTE (or even 3G) data speeds. Sprint says customers will have access to 2G data transfer rates suitable for email and web browsing — though even those things are likely to be slower than what Sprint users normally get here in the US.

Sprint still sells international packages with faster data starting at $15, but the carrier thinks this is a good option for travelers who would otherwise just shut off data to avoid roaming charges. Unlimited texting is also included at no cost, and voice calls can be placed for 20 cents per minute.

Just don't expect anything to be fast

Specifically, Sprint says International Value Roaming will work in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and the United Kingdom. By contrast, T-Mobile customers on Simple Choice plans get free international data coverage in "120 countries and destinations" according to the company's own count. But just like Sprint, the data speeds you get overseas from T-Mobile — at least for free — don't come close to LTE. T-Mobile caps those speeds at 128kbps, which falls into the same "2G" category as Sprint. Perhaps with two carriers now offering some semblance of free international coverage, we might see them compete to offer consumers more tolerable speeds. Even if not, it's free data that costs nothing extra on your bill.