Roam Mobility gets cutthroat with new unlimited U.S. plans

Daniel Bader

July 30, 2014 10:50am

Roaming is for suckers, according to Roam Mobility. The Canadian company has staked its reputation on providing better service and significantly cheaper rates for customers travelling to the United States, and today is announcing a new range of plans, bundles and add-ons to undercut Canadian carriers even further.

Earlier this month, we told you about Roam’s new LTE network, which uses T-Mobile’s growing footprint in most big cities. The company asks existing customers to pay a one-time upgrade fee of $1.95, and is using these new plans as incentive to do so.

The company now offer three unlimited usage base plans:

  • Text + Data: Global texts/MMS, 2G (EDGE) data – $1.95/day
  • Talk + Text: US talk, global texts, long-distance to Canada – $2.95/day
  • Talk + Text + Data: US talk, global texts/MMS, long-distance to Canada, 2G (EDGE) data, 300MB 4G/LTE data – $3.95/day

The latter two plans are practically identical to what Roam offered yesterday, while the Text+Data plan is new. The main difference throughout is the addition of unlimited 2G data across the States, which assures users at least some form of web connectivity, albeit at a gruellingly slow rate of 128Kbps.

But there will be cost savings for some users: after 14 days of straight usage, all three plans turn wholesale, dropping to just $1 per day. Packages can be purchased in bundles of up to 60 days.

As for the Talk+Text+Data plan, users get a total allotment of data depending on the number of days they pre-purchase: one day nets 300MB, while five days nets 1.5GB, all of which can be used at one time if necessary. It’s a bucket, not a quota, which is different and better than the way T-Mobile doles out its own pre-paid service, which limits visitors to 200MB total. Of course, one can’t pre-pay for multiple days on T-Mobile itself unless one has signed a contract so the distinction is moot.

Roam has also launched two new options for those who may want more data. Data Bolt-ons are for those who don’t want to pre-pay for multiple days just to get more data; the company was finding that, as above, one or two-day travellers were paying for three or four days just to get accumulate more data.

The Data Bolt-ons begin at $5.95 for an extra 300MB of LTE data, rising to $9.95 for 500MB and $14.95 for 1GB. Unfortunately, the prices don’t work out to be cheaper than pre-paying for extra days of service, but the Bolt-ons are meant to be used as one-time top-ups, not necessarily to extend service. The Bolt-on doesn’t expire until its associated plan does, so it may be useful in situations where a user needs extra bandwidth under time constraints.

For those customers who want just data service, Roam continues to have choices between 300MB and 5GB.

  • 300MB – 3 days valid, $7.95
  • 500MB – 7 days valid, $14.95
  • 1GB – 7 days valid, $19.95
  • 2GB – 30 days valid, $29.95
  • 5GB – 30 days valid, $59.95

While the prices haven’t dropped, the plans now include LTE connectivity which, in many cities, exceeds 20Mbps down and 10Mbps up.

Finally, Roam now allows customers on the Snowbird Plan the option of adding one-month increments, up to six months, to the minimum threes month plan. Snowbird starts at $119.85 for three months of nationwide talk/MMS, global text, 2G data, long-distance to Canada and 3GB of LTE data, and can now be topped up by 1GB allotments at $39.95/month.

Roam Mobility is careful to point out the devices that its LTE plans are compatible with, too. Of course, a smartphone must be unlocked to work at all on Roam’s network, but only a certain number of devices, like the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, Nexus 5, Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, and certain late-model iPhone 5’s, will work with LTE.

The company is certainly doing a lot to make U.S. travel more affordable to Canadians, despite moves by the incumbents to lower costs. Rogers has been doing well with its $7.99/50MB plan, which uses AT&T’s LTE network, but it doesn’t stand up to Roam’s offerings, especially now that T-Mobile has such a strong LTE presence in larger cities. AT&T still has a larger overall LTE footprint, and offers for consistent 3G service in more sparsely-populated areas.

Travellers will still need to purchase a $20 SIM card from Roam’s website or one of its growing number of retail partners (7/11, London Drugs, NCIX, Staples, various Duty Free border stores), which does add to the on-boarding cost, but unlike buying a prepaid T-Mobile card, Roam SIMs don’t expire — ever.

  • Will

    So how bad is the 128Kbps (2G data)? Wondering if its enough to get by for some Foursquare, BBM, Email, and Maps… or will it be too frustratingly slow?

    • JTon

      2G latency is significantly worse than newer technology. You’ll notice delays sending messages, but that’s fine right. BBM and email should be fine unless you want to attach large files (>1-2MB). I wouldn’t touch maps. That would be mind-melting slow. You need to download all the map data.

    • Will

      Thanks for reply. Perhaps I’ll try the 2G and pre-download an offline maps app.

    • JTon

      Np. Keep in mind ROAM doesn’t work with legacy BB devices. BB10 only (because it doesn’t support BIS)

    • ArclightX

      “…we told you about Roam’s new LTE network.”
      “…a smartphone must be unlocked to work at all on Roam’s network.”

      Perhaps it’s just semantics or nitpicking but I’m guaranteeing you that less informed readers are going to interpret this as, ‘…What? Wait! You mean Roam built their own network with towers and fiber and everything in the US?!! When did that happen? Cool!’

      “The company now offer three unlimited usage base plans:

      Text + Data: Global texts/MMS, 2G (EDGE) data – $1.95/day”

      So for the record, T-Mobile’s 2G (EDGE) Network is literally unusable. By that I don’t mean ‘oh… well… it’s a little on the slow side but still better than nothing…’ No I mean its functionally the equivalent of not having data service. I say this not to slag Roam or T-Mobile. I say this so no one is under the false assumption that Edge is a viable data option for a modern smartphone.

      “…For those customers who want just data”
      –> 5GB – 30 days valid, $59.95

      I keep going back to comparing every “Roaming” option to T-Mobile’s own in-house $30/mo prepaid plan.
      – 100 nationwide minutes
      – unlimited nationwide texting
      – 5Gigs of 4G/LTE data <– Win

      "…unlike buying a prepaid T-Mobile card, Roam SIMs don’t expire — ever."

      Yep. Point for Roam. I currently have a small but growing collection of T-Mobile Micro-SIM cards at home. Perhaps I can display them in a Collage or Mosaic of some sort.

      "The company is certainly doing a lot to make U.S. travel more affordable to Canadians…"

      Agreed.

      I commend Roam for offering far better roaming options than the big 3.

      Having said that we as consumers are living in a competitive marketplace where we each balance price with level of service before we make our purchasing decisions.

      Bearing that in mind, what would you prefer to pay $60 or $30 for wireless service on the same physical network?

    • 05HemiMagnum

      Since you have to have an unlocked cell phone for their sim to work, how about you just get a prepaid sim card from the USA when you travel there? Probably far better rates than Roam and more data. I see no benefit to getting this sim card for US data. That’s what I did when I was in Finland….had an unlocked Galaxy S2 and just got a prepaid card….5 euros was enough for some texting and enough data for maps for 5 days…ran out on my last day there.

    • JT money

      Unlimited calls back to Canada and can keep number longer than most US providers

    • Columbo

      Should be ok for things like emails and BBM. Good luck with maps though…

    • Will

      Thanks for reply. Might try it when I go down to the US in September, but I’ll be sure to download an offline maps app before.

    • out2late

      frustratingly slow

    • crimsonablue

      I used 2G T-Mobile in Orlando for 9 days. Once you open Google Maps once (on Android), the maps are cached. I suggest using Wifi once for the initial load, after that, it’s completely usable. I would say Foursquare might be even slower than Maps if you’re browsing images – maps are vector based and thus load faster.

    • MassDeduction

      Or use HERE Maps, which allows preloading maps before your trip. HERE Maps comes baked into Windows Phone, and is available for download for some other devices (not sure which ones). At that point your phone can use GPS, and zero data, for your mapping. Did that last year in Montreal, Bellingham, Las Vegas, and Anaheim on a Lumia, and it was awesome.

    • Alex

      I’ve recently used the Roam Mobility service (2G talk + text + data) for 10 days while in New York.
      I was using maps and texting on a regular basis, and made the occasional phone call. Other than the occasional drop in 2G signal, while walking though Manhattan (which has many skyscrapers interfering with the signal) everything was fine.
      The one annoying thing was that they did not support MMS messages to be SENT, so if you’re planning on using picture messaging, beware.
      I believe this has since been fixed, at least with the new 4G plans.

  • out2late

    Have used Roam Mobility a few times in the past however had to always switch back to roaming via Rogers because of poor connectivity in rural areas. Can’t always believe the “coverage area” maps that Roam Mobility has on their website.

    • JTon

      Yep same thing happened to me. If you see farms, you won’t get coverage with ROAM. I’m OK with that for the price though. The coverage in the cities is great.

    • MassDeduction

      I think it depends. It’s better in places like rural Washington State where Voicestream has a strong presence back in the day. At least, that’s my understanding.

    • Will

      Can anyone comment on their coverage in Chicago? I imagine major cities, T-Mobile (who they use) must be decent…?

    • JTon

      According to their coverage maps. Chicago and it’s suburbs look well covered

      www . roammobility . com / coverage

    • Will

      Downtown appears excellent on their map, though out2late said “Can’t always believe the “coverage area” maps that Roam Mobility has on their website” so I was curious if any mobilesyrupers had personal experience with Roam there.

    • MrHomz

      Works great in Chicago. I’ve used it all over Michigan, IL, NY and other places and have had great luck with it. Now that it went LTE it’s better than ever.

    • Pat Brown

      “I’ve used it all over Michigan”? according to their coverage map there is no coverage north of Flint. What part of the state are you visiting?

    • Anonymous501

      I think Roam (T-Mobile) works fine in urban areas. It’s outside of major cities that it struggles the most.

    • Stephen_81

      I’m not sure about Roam because I’ve yet to use them, always think I should, then never do.
      But t-mobile coverage is hit or miss even in cities, you need to research each city. when I was in Indianapolis tmo service was pretty much non existent. AT&T on the other hand was perfect.
      But according to tmo we should have had coverage.

    • Anonymous501

      I’ve have pretty good luck in the bigger cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Vegas etc…. Decent coverage along the interstates too (I5 and I90 come to mind). Outside of big cities or major intersates it really does get sketchy.
      I have also noticed I had a much smoother experience when I got a new phone and the phone supported AWS. T-Mobile still has a lot of areas that support 4G unless your have an AWS compatible device. Seems to have made a big difference for me.

      Edit: It’s kind of Moot because Verizon and AT&T don’t include data on pay as you go daily plans. I primarily want the coverage for data/texting…. T-Mobile (and ergo Roam) are the only ones that offer data (without charging you a fortune by charing by the KB)

    • MassDeduction

      Your point about AWS is solid. Though virtually *any* phone in Canada is going to support it, as I believe every carrier in Canada uses HSPA (Wind of Mobilicity) or LTE (Rogers, Bellus, Sasktel, MTS, Videotron, EastLink) over AWS (even Public Mobile, now that Telus has taken them over, who were previously the only one who didn’t).

      Roaming on any U.S. carrier you want every frequency you can get. In Canada, things are nice and simple. Rogers, for example, is HSPA over 850MHz and 1900MHz, and LTE over 700MHz, AWS, and 2600MHz. The U.S. is *not* like that. It’s a crazy mish-mash of carriers having different frequencies and different technologies in different cities. For U.S. roaming you *really* want something like, as one of many examples, the Lumia 1520 which is pentaband on both HSPA and LTE (on the five frequencies mentioned above). There’s no GSM frequency in use in North America that the Lumia 1520 can’t do. I presume there are one or more Android phones with the same feature, if Android’s more your thing. I think a lot of people who complain about coverage of U.S. providers simply weren’t able to use all the refarmed and oddball frequencies the U.S. provider has. Not all, but a lot of them, I’d bet.

    • vn33

      While I don’t have a Roam SIM, I use the T-Mobile SIM and can tell you that it is perfectly usable in urban area ad immediate suburbs.
      While in Chicago area, I have no problem using it in the West suburbs

    • Thom

      I used them in Chicago 2 months ago albeit on 3G. Had great coverage throughout the city and it was very easy to top-up.

  • Ry29

    According to their compatibility page, the phone must support AWS for LTE. Therefore, any Canadian unlocked phone that supports LTE would work. Not sure they they filtered it down to such a small list.

    • MassDeduction

      Not strictly true. Rogers offers some LTE phones that can only do LTE over BRS (AKA 2600MHz). For the most part you’re right, though.

  • A.G.

    what about the 3$ a day, unlimited everything pre-paid option that t-mobile offers ? you buy a 10$ sim card, and you are set… also you get to keep your US number for 90 days or more (just have to put another 10$ before the 90 days is over)

    if you are going to piggy back on t-mobile.. might as well use the real thing if its cheaper.

    • MrHomz

      Roam lets you keep your US number forever. If you only need one day, then you only pay for one day. If you don’t go back to the US for 364 days, you don’t have to top it up at all. I use mine all the time and it works very well.

    • MassDeduction

      When did “forever” start? It used to expire after a year. Which is damn good, mind you, but not forever.

    • Anonymous501

      The T-Mobile plan includes less data and doesn’t include text/voice back to Canada. This even though the t-mobile plan is cheaper I think Roam is better (even if it’s an extra buck/day) if you have any intention of communicating with anyone in Canada (or anyone that came on your trip with you and still has a Canadian #).

    • ArclightX

      You can add-on unlimited voice/texting to Canada to T-Mobile’s prepaid plans for $10/mo more.

      You have to call it in but it’s doable.

      Most everyone I communicate with is on Hangouts so that’s not so much of an issue. Failing that I use SMS via my Google Voice # which is free.

  • PΞTΞЯ™

    I just used Roam for the second time in Miami this week and i just love using them. It’s nice to have a permanent phone number to use in the states while i’m travelling.

  • hunkyleepickle

    I recently used their new LTE upgraded plan, from the border down to Portland, the speeds were very good, coverage was just average on the interstate between major centers, with some dead zones.overall very satisfied with them

  • Vincent Nguyen

    I upgraded my Sim to LTE capable. I bought the 1 day talk+text+and data plan while travelling the Washington State, set up the APN and everything on my Nexus 5, but couldn’t connect to data 99% of the time. Even when I did connect, I was on 2-3g network. Very dissapointed…

    • khangt1

      On my Nexus 5, in Seattle in June before the 4G plans were official, I got HSPA+ 3G speeds easily and used over 2GB in 10 days.

  • Jeremy Janzen

    I’ve used Roam twice in Anaheim, CA and both times it was a really bad experience. First time I used a iPhone 3GS and I only got 2g speeds, which was barely steady enough to download email – let alone browse the web (literally wasn’t possible). Second time around a year later, I tried again with a different phone – HTC One X. It was no better.

    Not sure if this was down to phone compatibility or not but it was a terrible experience.

    • Salinger

      It was definitely down to the phone with 3GS. The iPhone 5, I believe, was the first iPhone compatible. The One X, I’m not sure.

      I used a Note 3 with Roam in Orlando and it was flawless. And that was before the LTE upgrade. Anxious to see how much better it is now.

    • MassDeduction

      Pretty much any LTE-capable Lumia made for the North American market, and especially the ones made for the Latin American market, are going to rock the frequencies needed for Roam, as well.

  • CrazyFish

    So if I have a Nexus 4 (unlocked) what data speed would I get in Orlando area?

    • hamza

      Technically, 3G/H+, but you can root and mod your N4 to get LTE speeds.

  • Kenjuta

    their SIM expires a year after the last plan expire

    • Salinger

      Yes, but the great part about Roam is that on say, day 364 you can buy a 1 day plan and future date it for 6 months or a year out just to keep your SIM active and phone number valid. When you have a trip coming up to the US, just go onto the website and adjust the date you want the plan to become active. So, really, it’s quite easy and inexpensive to keep your SIM and phone number active indefinitely, even if you don’t travel to the US regularly.

    • KiwiBri

      Woah! awesome. thanks!

    • Kenjuta

      that’s true but the article is misleading. at the end it says “but unlike buying a prepaid T-Mobile card, Roam SIMs don’t expire — ever.”
      based on what you said. T-Mobile card can be topped up again to keep it from ever expiring but you have to do it every 3 months I believe

    • Salinger

      You’re right, that is definitely misleading in the article. I missed that.

      Roam still tops TMo in terms of keeping your SIM active though, even aside from the 90 vs 365 expiry date.

      With Roam, you have to buy at least 1 day’s service in a year but you can just change the date until you’re actually going to the US so you will eventually get to use that day you paid for. With TMo, when your expiry is near, you have to buy service and it’s active immediately whether you’re going to the US or not. So, if you only go a couple of times a year, you’re wasting a few days fee to keep your SIM active.

    • Kenjuta

      interesting
      always thought you had to use that one day before the 365 day is up
      good to know

    • Salinger

      Please double check with Roam, but that’s how it was explained to me when I was asking them before signing up. You have to buy at least 1 day a year, but you can continue to change the dates of any non-activated purchased packages any time.

    • Gordon

      Can you keep pushing that same purchased day back further and further (like multiple years) if you don’t use it? Or do you have to buy another day each year?

    • Salinger

      I don’t want to come across as a Roam expert, so please confirm with them. I asked a lot of questions of them before I signed up and based on my understanding of what they told me, you do have to purchase at least 1 day each year to keep your SIM and number active. The act of simply extending the activation date of your purchased package is not a “transaction”. But you can continue to change the date of the activation of your purchased package (day) to whenever, as long as you do so before it’s set to go in effect.

    • JT money

      The service must be actually “on” per 365 days, not just purchased

  • bob43

    I have used them 3 times now.IF you are in a major city coverage is not to bad for the most part. However, if you us it to travel via car from Canada to say Florida, well expect 1/2 the trip down to NOT have coverage.

    Rates are pretty good…coverage outside citys, well i give it a 4/10

  • Splum

    I’m happy with them except the plan I usually get went UP $7!

  • MassDeduction

    I’ve been debating between going with Roam or going with Wind. Looks like I’m going with Roam! I don’t live within Wind’s coverage, so I would have got a Roam SIM on prepaid for one for two months and then cancelled it, but since Wind roams on both AT&T and T-Mobile I was willing to go through that. However, Wind would have me stuck at 3G, so I think it’s time to try Roam’s LTE given these new rates. I mostly go to major areas in the U.S. (and Bellingham/Ferndale WA, which I *think* have coverage despite being smaller centres). If I end up not working out during the trip, I’ll go into the nearest store and pick up an AT&T SIM, so I won’t get stuck no matter what.

  • Jakob

    This company gets an A+ in my books. Well done, boys.

  • disqusmy

    The wind has better deal if you use wind mobile. Wish other carriers have it, but i know they wont. :)

  • cookipuss

    I got the Wind $39 international plan.. I go to the US and turn on international roaming, I have unlimited voice, text and data in the US.

    • Mark_Ont

      Wind is NOT unlimited as they claim. They only offer 1 GB of data and then throttle it to worse than 128kbps.

      Roam gives you 900 MB for just 3 days before they throttle you which they tell you in advance that they will vs reading the fine print with Wind.

  • Brian

    For the money, if you can live with T-Mobile, I find the U.S. MVNOs usually offer better solutions. I’ve used Lyca in the U.S. for over a year now: Cheap, easy & it costs about $2 per year to keep it active beyond 90 days.

    • Mark_Ont

      Roam doesn’t charge to keep the SIM active plus it’s in CDN currency.

      It doesn’t get better than these guys even after these new plans.

  • FakeBibic

    How does this compare speed wiseprice to Winds 15 dollar add-on?

  • Dave Gruia

    i’m in the US, and bought a plan that was meant to start yesterday — so far it’s not showing up on my accoutn but don’t worry, i’ve been charged. Waited two hours on hold before being cut off, and no answer to my twitter/e-mails… not impressed with ROAM today…

  • Dave Norton

    be careful, upgraded to their LTE update, did not work, they blame Apple, iPhone has LTE with ATT SIM, Telus SIM and TMobile SIM, 3G with Roam Mobile, no customer service since their ISP is down and they cannot take calls, 3 days a customer and ready to move back to T-Mobile

  • Dave Norton

    Great Concept until carriers make North America all local, execution very poor, how can a company have their customer service lines not working for 2 days on a long weekend

    • Mark_Ont

      I’ll bet they are having a tough time keeping up with demand. Most people on twitter seem to love their customer service.

  • Todd

    Actually Roam sims do expire, if they are not used in a year.

    And I’ve had 2 colleagues travel to the U.S. recently and all they are getting is 3G speeds (at best) – NYC and Chicago. And yes, they paid up “upgrade” to the LTE service. Just saying….