Last updated: 29 July 2015
In order to provide roaming to clients that travel outside Brazil, mobile operators partner with foreign service providers to offer services such as voice calls and data.
In this article, we will show which Brazilian carriers offer roaming services in the United States and what technology is used to this end.
It is common practice for mobile network providers to partner with one another, in order to provide telecommunication services when there are no proprietary antennas in some regions in Brazil. This is also the case in foreign countries such as the United States. Since Brazilians are travelling abroad more frequently, providers are making investments to assure their customers are still able to use their services even outside the country.
The United States has been for the past few years the main international destination for Brazilian travellers. In 2012, the country was visited by 1.79 million Brazilian tourists. It is estimated that the number of Brazilians travelling abroad grows around 7% each year, and between 2003 and 2012, the number of Brazilian tourists travelling to other countries increased 244%.
International Roaming in the United States
The five largest mobile network providers in Brazil created a partnership with two major North-American carriers. The services offered may vary slightly according to each operator, but in general they all offer voice, messaging and mobile data roaming services. These are individually charged per minute, message or megabyte used or included in packages, which tend to be the cheaper option. Note that the coverage area is limited to what is provided by each partner.
The technology used tends to be similar between the two major providers, AT&T and T-Mobile, only differing when it comes to the services they provide to Brazilian customers, such as availability of 4G data coverage. In order to assure the compatibility of these services with mobile devices, the frequencies available for roaming must be checked according to what is supported by each device.
All prices charged by mobile providers presented below were checked in July of 2015. Some changes may occur according to each company policy.
Vivo has partnered with the following carriers and their operational frequencies are:
- AT&T - GSM 850/1900 MHz, 3G 850/1900 MHz and LTE 700 MHz
- T-Mobile - GSM 1900 MHz and 3G 1700/2100 MHz
Both American providers offer similar services, except AT&T which also has data coverage through LTE.
The call rates are converted from US dollars to Brazilian Reais and are charged per full minute, for example if a call lasts 20 seconds it will be charged one minute. The prices include taxes and will be charged up to 150 days after receivíng or sending calls. For the United States, Vivo charges USD 2.69 per minute. A package called Vivo Travel Voz is also offered, and includes 50 call minutes for the fixed price of BRL 99.90 over a duration of 30 days.
The individual rates for messaging and internet usage are charged in Brazilian Reais according to the usage. Each outgoing SMS cost BRL 0.79. For the internet a flat rate of BRL 29.90 is charged per day after the first kbyte transferred. The transfer speed will decrease to 32 kbps when the data cap of 50 MB is reached, being reset after 11:59 PM local time.
TIM has agreements with the following providers:
- AT&T - 2G/GPRS/EDGE 1900 MHz and 3G 850/1900 MHz
- T-Mobile - 2G/GPRS 1900 MHz and 3G 2100 MHz
The rates for calls from postpaid plans subscribers are set at USD 2.90 per minute including taxes, counted per full minute any time of the day. This rate is the same for calls for locations inside and outside the United States. There is also the option for the package Liberty Passport Voz, that offers 50 voice minutes for a duration of 24 hours for the price of BRL 29.90 per day, which is activated on the first minute of a received or made call. After 50 minutes, it will be charged the rate per minute. For prepaid users the only option is the rate per minute that ranges from BRL 2.99 to BRL 4.49, according to the chosen plan.
For messaging, roaming services are charged USD 0.89 per SMS sent for postpaid users, and varies between BRL 1.20 and BRL 1.50 each for prepaid users. Roaming for internet connection for postpaid users is charged at BRL 29.90 per day after the first kb used, and the connection speed will drop to 25 kbps after the first 5 MB are consumed, and to 5 kbps after 25 MB are consumed. As for prepaid users, they are charged a rate between BRL 9.90 and BRL 33 per MB used, according to the chosen plan.
Claro has roaming agreements with the following providers:
- AT&T - GSM 850/1900 MHz and 3G 850/1900 MHz
- T-Mobile - GSM 1900 MHz and 3G 1700/1900/2100 MHz
The rates for calls made by postpaid users are set at USD 3.53 per minute for calls to Brazil, USD 1.67 for local calls and USD 1.67 per minute for received calls. For prepaid users it is charged BRL 3.39 per minute for both received and outgoing calls. Postpaid users can also hire voice plans that range from BRL 44 for 25 minutes and BRL 454.90 for 500 minutes.
Messages are charged individually and are available only for postpaid plan subscribers at the price of USD 0.60. Prepaid users cannot send SMS messages on roaming, although receiving them is possible.
For data roaming, postpaid plan subscribers are charged BRL 29.90 per day, and the connection speed drops to 32 kbps after the consumption of 10 MB. They also have options for data packages that range from BRL 69.90 for 40 MB to BRL 1,699.90 for 5GB. Prepaid users are charged BRL 2.99 per MB used.
Carrier Oi has agreements with the following providers:
- AT&T - GSM 850/1900 MHz, 3G 850/1900 MHz and LTE 700 MHz
- T-Mobile - GSM 1900 MHz, 3G 1700/1900/2100 MHz and LTE 700 MHz
Oi provides both packages and per minute rates for calls. The packages range from BRL 59.90 for 30 minutes to BRL 89.90 for 50 minutes. The minute rates are set at USD 1.59 for calls received and made to locations inside the United States, Brazil and other countries.
Data packages range from BRL 49.90 for 20 MB to BRL 99.90 for 50 MB. There is also the option to pay USD 3.51 per megabyte used. Messages are charged at USD 1.27 per SMS sent, while received messages are free of charge. Rates charged by Oi are applied independent of the type of plan contracted by users in Brazil.
Nextel is only partnered with AT&T for international roaming. The North-American provider offers services in the 850/1900 MHz frequencies for 2G and 3G.
The packages for mobile data range from BRL 14.90 for 15 MB and BRL 99.90 for 150 MB for postpaid and prepaid plans subscribers. The voice calls packages range from BRL 49.90 for 50 minutes and BRL 99.90 for 150 minutes. BRL 3.20 is charged per minute in the case where no package is activated. Each SMS, sent and received, costs BRL 0.80.
Prip, an app used for push-to-talk calls, can be used abroad as long as the mobile phone is connected to a Wi-Fi spot or 3G network. If the mobile phone has push-to-talk through radio transmissions functionalities, the service can be used normally following the same procedures as in Brazil, noting that it must be under an area covered by AT&T.