Update #2, July 20th: Telus has informed us that while US roaming is currently limited to HSPA+ speeds, customers will begin roaming over much-faster LTE networks starting “later this summer.” It plans to make an announcement accordingly in the coming weeks.
Update, July 16th: Telus has updated its website confirming US Easy Roam, providing details on a few things that were unclear yesterday (though one thing is still unclear that I’ll get to in a minute).
As we said below, US Easy Roam costs $7 per day, up to a maximum of $100 per billing cycle, so users can continue to use it for free after 15 days (the 15th day will cost $2 to round out the $100 maximum and subsequent days will be free in a 30-day billing cycle).
Users can easily sign up for Easy Roam by texting TRAVEL to 7626, or by logging into their My Account app and heading to the Mobility section and choosing ‘Easy Roam’ under Roaming Options.
It’s still unclear whether Easy Roam customers will connect to US networks like AT&T and T-Mobile over LTE, since until now Telus has lacked the same reciprocal LTE roaming agreements that Rogers and Bell signed in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
When Rogers debuted Roam Like Home in November, its $5-per-day U.S. roaming solution, which allowed Share Plan customers to use their unlimited call, text and assigned data bucket down south for $5 per day, the gauntlet was thrown for other providers to match it.
Since then, however, neither Telus nor Bell has dramatically changed their U.S. roaming offerings, continuing to cite the competitiveness of their various travel packs and add-ons. Until now.
While Telus’s own U.S. roaming packs have traditionally been quite good, the company will launch a new service called US Easy Roam that, like Roam Like Home, allows users to tap into their Canadian mobile plan south of the border.
There are a number of differences between US Easy Roam and Roam Like Home, highlighting the varied marketing strategies of the two providers. Easy Roam will cost $7 per day when it launches on July 16th, a 40% premium over Rogers’ $5 per day Roam Like Home. But unlike its competitor, US Easy Roam is not limited to share plans; it appears that all current Telus customers can tap into their current plans, even if those plans don’t include unlimited calling or texting.
For example, if a Telus customer has a legacy plan that offers 200 local minutes, 1000 text messages, and 500MB of data per month, using some or all of those features in the U.S. will merely dip into that monthly allotment, and tack on $7 for each day one or all of those features are accessed outside of Canada. Presumably, users will be able to make calls and send texts to those both in the United States and back in Canada for that daily fee. It’s unclear if Telus customers will connect to U.S. networks on HSPA+ or the much faster LTE speeds provided by AT&T and T-Mobile, but we’ll clarify soon.
There are a few eligibility stipulations, but they’re not particularly limiting. US Easy Roam is only applicable to HSPA+ or LTE customers, so CDMA and Mike users are out of luck, and customers with older ‘North American Plans’, which include a modicum of US roaming in one’s monthly tally, are stricken from eligibility. Prepaid customers are also out of luck.
It’s also unclear whether Telus, as Rogers does, will stop charging customers after 13 days (or fewer), since the Wireless Code of Conduct limits roaming fees to $100 per billing cycle, unless the customer explicitly consents to continue being charged.
Telus notes that tablet users are eligible for Easy Roam with a compatible SIM card, though they’ll presumably be limited to data, and of course Share Plan users are encouraged to use the service, though each number on an account will need to be separately opted-in through text message or Telus’s web portal.
Roaming has become something of a battleground for Canadian carriers in recent months. The proliferation of inexpensive unlocked phones, coupled with greater awareness of alternative roaming options like Roam Mobility and KnowRoaming, have forced carriers to take a revenue hit to better compete. All three incumbents, including Telus, noted in recent earnings reports that wireless revenue continues to decline due to lower roaming revenues, which were traditionally hundreds, or thousands, of times higher than domestic coverage.
With T-Mobile recently launching its own all-in roaming plan, which includes LTE roaming in Canada and Mexico at no added cost to the consumer, and parts of Europe no longer acknowledging wireless borders between countries, Canadians are still paying more than many for roaming, but the cost is dropping.
US Easy Roam is launching tomorrow, July 16th, so we’ll likely learn more soon.