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The definition of data roaming is when your phone connects to a different network than your main carrier operates on.

Helping you to make and receive phone calls, send and receive texts, and access the internet on a different network. This is most common when you're traveling to a foreign country.

In this guide, we've broken down what data roaming means, who's it for, and the cost of data roaming.

What does data roaming mean?

When you travel to another country most carriers will not have network coverage and your phone will use your mobile data by connecting to a local network that has an agreement with your carrier.

However, this does come at a cost. The prices will vary depending on your carrier, so it's best to check before you travel if they have any data roaming packages for your destination country.

What is data roaming for?

Roaming data is used when traveling abroad to areas your network doesn't cover. They'll have an agreement with a local network that can offer you service at an additional cost.

It means you can use your SIM card and number while traveling, rather than the hassle of having to purchase a local prepaid SIM card with a different number.


What uses your mobile data?

If you're accessing the internet without a Wi-Fi connection, you're using your mobile data allowance. And if you're traveling outside of the USA, you'll be roaming.

Your phone's SIM card connects you to your chosen network's wireless cellular connection, and mobile data allows you to use a number of apps and services on the go, including;

  • Web browsing
  • Send and receive email
  • Google Maps
  • Gaming apps or online games
  • Streaming music and videos
  • Video calls like FaceTime and Zoom
  • Using social media apps

How much does data roaming cost?

The price of data roaming can vary depending on your carrier and cell phone plan also the country you're visiting.

You don't want to rely on it solely when you're traveling or you could end up with an expensive cell phone bill. It's always best to connect to Wi-Fi when you have the chance.

Some cell phone providers offer data roaming packages or data passes that you can purchase from your carrier.

If you're looking to use your mobile device outside of the US, it's worth speaking to your provider to find out about extra fees to avoid roaming charges.

Data roaming limits

Each carrier will provide a limit to how much data you can use when roaming, even if you have an unlimited data plan.

When you've reached your limit your speeds may be slowed, or you may be charged overage fees at an expensive rate.


Domestic and International roaming

International data roaming is related to when you're using your phone in a country that the carrier doesn't originate from, whereas domestic data roaming refers to when you're using your phone off network in the United States.

Most carriers will not have a charge for domestic data roaming, it will just be using your mobile data allowance.

However, if you're outside of the US you'll likely have roaming charges due to being on a different network than your phone contract.

How to turn data roaming off

If you don't want to incur additional costs when you're roaming you can disable data roaming on your phone.

On an iPhone you need to go to Settings on your phone > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Click to turn Data Roaming off.

On Android phones click on Settings > Connections > then Mobile Networks > then click to turn off Data Roaming.

You can also use the above steps to check if your data roaming is turned on.


Recap

Data roaming relates to your data when traveling to international countries.

The cost of data roaming access will vary depending on the carrier, network, and country you're visiting. But also your data usage.

Some offer packages or travel passes, however, to save money it's best to try to stay connected to Wi-Fi whenever possible.

You can always turn off the data roam option if you're worried about incurring additional costs.

Data usage FAQs

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