T-Mobile starts selling cheap international voice plans

Last year T-Mobile became the first major U.S. carrier to break the stranglehold on international roaming by offering free SMS and 2G data to customers who ventured beyond U.S. borders. Now it’s taking a crack at the other side of that cross-border communication equation.

On Wednesday T-Mobile launched two promotional international calling plans with different costs depending on whether you’re calling a landline number or a mobile phone. The first is $5 a month and gives you unlimited calls from the U.S. to landlines in 70 countries, including Mexico, Canada, most of Europe, and parts of Latin America and Asia. The second plans costs $10 a month and give you unlimited calls to mobile numbers as well (overseas mobile numbers have higher termination fees), but it’s available only to 30 countries, mainly those in Europe.

There is one other big plus to these plans: they apply to T-Mobile accounts, not individual phone lines, meaning every line on the same bill can take advantage of the unlimited calling plans for a single $5 or $10 monthly fee.

All of the major carriers offer international calling plans of some sort, but they tend to be of the “pay to save” variety — for example, $5 a month gives you a $0.15-a-minute rate rather than a $1.50 per-minute rate – or country-specific plans like AT&T’s $5.99 monthly Call Canada plan. Until now, mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) like América Móvil’s TracFone and Ultra Mobile have been the ones really targeting the foreign national market.

The T-Mobile plans are available to customers on its Simple Choice plans until the end of the year, though customers can carry the plans over into 2015 and beyond. As the holiday season ramps up, T-Mobile is cranking up its deal machine. Starting on Friday T-Mobile will start giving a free Android tablet, the Alcatel OneTouch Pop 7, to anyone who signs up for a slate data plan.