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Data roaming is when a person’s cell phone can’t connect to their carrier’s network, and so it connects to another carrier’s network instead to access the internet. There are two types of data roaming – domestic roaming, which is when roaming occurs in the user’s home country, and international roaming, which is when roaming occurs internationally.
Domestic data roaming is almost always a simple, seamless experience. People rarely have any interruptions with streaming and using data. If a person’s data services stop working, that means that they’re off their carrier’s network and they don’t currently have access to any network frequencies.
It’s also important to note that if a person exceeds their plan’s data limit during data roaming, that means they’ll run out of data until the next billing cycle starts.
How roaming works is easy enough to understand. A person goes somewhere that their carrier’s network can’t cover, because it doesn’t have towers everywhere. However, there is another carrier that does have towers in that area. The person’s carrier makes a deal with that other carrier to allow its customers to use the other carrier’s towers to access data. The other carrier may charge the first carrier for this, or they could come to another type of partnership.
Domestic data roaming is available free of charge and will typically cover a person’s entire home country, or at least the majority of it. It’s rare for a carrier to lack a backup partner network that its customers can use when necessary.
Although there is no extra fee for this service, as it’s part of the customer’s monthly services already, the customer does need to keep their data limit in mind. It’s possible that they hit their data limit sooner while roaming. If this happens, they’ll need to use Wi-Fi until the next billing cycle.
Related: Compare Unlimited Data Plans
There are many international data roaming options available, but unlike domestic data roaming, these usually come at a cost. It’s a good idea for people to check on their international data plan and roaming options when booking a trip.
International data roaming can have far more requirements than domestic roaming, such as data passports, SIM cards, fees and even new features added onto a current phone plan. Fortunately, all this is simple to set up with any phone carrier.
There’s only one method that’s guaranteed to prevent any data roaming charges during travel, whether that travel is domestic or international, and that’s for the user to turn the mobile data feature off on their cell phone and stick to using Wi-Fi networks only. Otherwise, there’s the possibility of roaming using up the person’s mobile data and causing extra charges.
If the user wants to switch their mobile data on so that they can stream a few songs, watch a video or upload a picture to social media, they should make sure they know about what the potential data roaming fees could be. They should also try to connect to Wi-Fi networks whenever possible to keep their data roaming and any fees to a minimum.
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