Google announced Wednesday that it’s launching a new cell phone project call Fi. The service will give subscribers unlimited calls and text for $20 a month, with each GB of data costing $10 on top of that. What’s interesting for travelers is that the data will be available oversees.
Later Wednesday, as I was discussing Fi with some colleagues, I learned T-Mobile already offers unlimited data and texting in 120 counties. As a long time Verizon user, I had no idea.
The rise of international data is really good news. It means connecting to Google maps while wandering around unfamiliar places. It means checking train times and booking flights while in the back of a taxi. It means comparing hotel rates in a new city without spending hours wandering around asking for prices.
This was already possible of course. When I traveled to the U.K. in 2013 I bought an inexpensive SIM card for my iPad that gave me several GB of data — which came in handy almost hourly. And of course there was the T-Mobile option that was apparently already available.
But these options were either inconvenient, poorly understood, or required you to be on a network (T-Mobile) that doesn’t have great coverage back in the U.S., especially if you go on road trips.
What’s exciting about Google’s Fi, however, is that it helps solve some of these problems: it runs on both T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks, comes from a well-regarded tech company, and presumably will offer a relatively seamless transition between domestic and foreign data.
All of which seems to suggest that we’re moving toward a future in which U.S. travelers have data overseas by default. That would be a huge shift, and having traveled extensively both with and without data, I look forward to these changes.
— Jim Dalrymple II