Sprint now offering free roaming data (...but there's a catch)

Sprint follows in T-Mobile's footsteps, but falls short of offering comparable service.

(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Sprint customers can now text and use data abroad for no additional charge, following in the footsteps of T-Mobile.

But there's a catch. Those who use data in Latin America, Europe, and Japan will be stuck on older 2G speeds.

If users want to bump their speeds to 3G network speeds, they can do so for $15 for a one-day pass of 100MB data, $25 for a seven-day pass of 200MB data, or $50 for a two-week pass of 500MB data.

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On the plus side, Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure said in prepared remarks that the regions were "only the beginning." He added: "We will continuously add new countries to ensure our customers can use their device virtually wherever they travel."

Also included in the announcement, text messaging is now set to unlimited at no extra cost, and voice calls cost 20 cents per minute.

It's the latest catch-up step by Sprint to tackle its nearest rival, T-Mobile, which has over the past two years pushed the limits of what the traditional cellular company has provided and upended the industry with its radical new ideology.

T-Mobile began offering international roaming for no additional charge two years ago -- while offering next-generation LTE and 4G speeds.

"The industry's been charging huge fees for data roaming, but what's most surprising is that no one's called them out," said T-Mobile chief executive John Legere on launch day.

The company, which this year claimed to replace Sprint in third-place, is growing in size, taking customers away from its much larger cellular rivals.

Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T aren't out of the loop, nor are they ignorant to what's going on. Sprint's announcement Friday is just another incremental step to try to avoid being alienated by T-Mobile's bolshie moves.

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