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Sprint counters T-Mobile with free 3G data in Canada and Mexico

Plus a dozen other Latin American countries

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Sprint is making it a bit cheaper for its customers to travel the Americas, announcing today that it will give customers 1GB of free 3G data each month to use while in Canada, Mexico, and around a dozen other Latin American countries. Travelers in those areas will also be able to send and receive calls and text messages at no additional cost; Sprint previously announced that it would give customers unlimited 2G data when roaming in Latin America, but it sounds like this new promotion won't build on top of that. If customers do need additional 3G data, they can buy it at $30 per gigabyte, billed by the megabyte.

Sprint is defending itself against T-Mobile and AT&T

Sprint is calling this its Open World plan, and it really ought to make traveling a bit less expensive. But the deal isn't coming out of nowhere. The plan is very much a response to T-Mobile's new roaming plan — and both Sprint and T-Mobile seem to be bracing themselves for what AT&T might do in Mexico. T-Mobile announced in early July that it would let customers use their existing LTE data plans at no additional cost in Mexico and Canada; they'd also get free calling and texting. There are arguments to be made about whether that's better or worse than receiving a single free gigabyte at slower speeds, but both are meant to address the same need.

It also seems likely that both Sprint and T-Mobile are preparing for AT&T's big move into Mexico. In the past year, it's bought up two big Mexican carriers with the stated goal of creating the "first-ever North American mobile service area covering over 400 million consumers and businesses in Mexico and the United States," which basically translates to AT&T having a dominating network and customer base in both countries. Sprint and T-Mobile can't keep up with that kind of spending, but by making travel easier for people who do often move between those regions, it may be able to hang onto customers who would otherwise consider jumping ship.