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What is Domestic Roaming? Here's Everything You Need to Know

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three iPhones on desk displaying a T-Mobile coverage map, domestic roaming settings, and an example of a phone connected to a partner network

Domestic data roaming is a feature that some cell phone plans include. But what is it, and do you need it?

What Is Domestic Data Roaming?

Domestic data roaming is when your cell phone switches to using a partner network for coverage in areas where your primary carrier doesn’t have coverage.

For example, let’s say you are a T-Mobile customer and you are in an area without any T-Mobile coverage. Your phone may switch to, or “roam on,” the AT&T network for coverage in that area. 

Network operators like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will create roaming agreements between themselves to help improve their customer’s experience and to make sure you get cell phone coverage in more locations. 

You can typically see where carriers have roaming agreements by checking their coverage maps. 

The striped areas on the T-Mobile coverage map below indicate partner coverage in Vermont and New Hampshire. T-Mobile likely has a roaming agreement with AT&T here because AT&T offers excellent coverage in those states.

T-Mobile coverage map next to AT&T coverage map to illustrate T-Mobile is roaming on AT&T for coverage in Vermont
It looks like T-Mobile is offering data roaming on the AT&T network in Vermont and New Hampshire

What Cell Phone Plans Include Domestic Roaming?

Domestic data roaming is a feature that is primarily available with postpaid data plans from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile directly.

It’s less common for MVNOs, aka the smaller prepaid cell phone plan providers, to offer domestic roaming with their plans.

That said, some MVNOs actually do include some roaming agreements. 

Here is a full breakdown of the domestic roaming policies I’m currently aware of:

  • Verizon: free data roaming up to your plan’s monthly data allowance (this means your unlimited plan will get unlimited data roaming)
  • AT&T: free data roaming up to 100MB
  • T-Mobile: free data roaming up to 200MB, you also get unlimited data roaming at up to 2G speeds on preferred partner networks
  • T-Mobile Prepaid: free data roaming up to 100MB
  • Ting: customers using Ting on the T-Mobile network will get up to 100MB of free roaming on the AT&T network, along with unlimited calls and texts
  • Twigby: free roaming on the Verizon network, but only for voice calls

Check out a full list of the best cell phone plans that include domestic roaming here

What Happens If Your Cell Phone Plan Doesn’t Have Domestic Roaming?

If your cell phone plan does not offer domestic roaming, then your coverage will be limited to the underlying network.

For example, if you’re on a T-Mobile MVNO without domestic roaming, then your coverage will be limited only to the native T-Mobile network. 

Anywhere T-Mobile does not have coverage, you will lose service.

Thankfully all network operators, like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, are all striving to build the best networks possible with the greatest coverage footprints. They continue to improve and expand their networks every day.

If you feel you are getting poor cell coverage from your current provider, then upgrading your phone may be one way to improve your coverage.

Newer cell phones include more LTE and 5G antenna bands that allow them to get reception in more locations. 

What’s The Difference Between Domestic Roaming and International Roaming?

The difference between domestic roaming and international data roaming is quite simply where the data roaming takes place. 

Domestic roaming refers to any off-network use that takes place within the United States.

International roaming is when your phone connects to a partner network that is outside of the United States.

You can see the best cell phone plans that include international roaming here.

How Much Does Domestic Roaming Cost?

Most carriers include domestic data roaming free of charge. They want to provide the best coverage and experience possible for their customers.

However, as you can tell from the data roaming policies above, many carriers will limit the amount of data you can use while roaming and/or your data roaming speeds.

If you’re concerned about accidentally incurring data roaming charges, be sure to contact your current carrier to confirm the data roaming rates, or simply turn off data roaming in your phone’s settings.

How Do I Turn On Or Off Roaming?

iPhone users can turn off data roaming by following these four steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on “Cellular”
  3. Tap on “Cellular Data Options”
  4. Set data roaming to “off”
steps to turn on or off data roaming on iPhone

Android users can turn off data roaming by following these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on “Network & internet”
  3. Tap on “Mobile network”
  4. Set data roaming to “off”

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Stetson Doggett profile picture
Stetson Doggett

Stetson graduated from Ithaca College in 2019 with a degree in Communication Management and Design. He launched BestPhonePlans.net as part a senior project in school. He loves helping people find great, affordable cell phone plans that meet their needs. When he’s not reviewing cell phone plans on his YouTube channel or website, Stetson is out hiking in the crisp Colorado air, playing board games with friends, or competing in an epic game of pickleball.

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