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MetroPCS offers $5 unlimited international calling

For $5 more a month, MetroPCS customers can call over 100 countries from their mobile phone for free.

Regional prepaid cell phone carrier MetroPCS announced Wednesday a new plan that allows its customers to make unlimited international calls to over 100 different countries for only $5 extra a month.

To be eligible for the $5 unlimited international calling plan, users must already be signed up to an unlimited national calling plan that costs $40, $45, or $50 a month. Making international phone calls from a cell phone has typically been rather expensive with major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

For example, AT&T offers its WorldConnect service for $3.99 extra a month, which gives subscribers lower rates on international calls. This means that a call to France still costs 22 cents a minute even with the $3.99 a month WorldConnect plan. By contrast a call to France using MetroPCS' new $5 unlimited international plan is free.

MetroPCS mainly competes against other prepaid services such as Sprint Nextel's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA. But recently as the economy has tanked, it has been stealing some customers from traditional carriers. With its unlimited plans and an expanding network, MetroPCS offers mainstream cell phone users an alternative to expensive contract services from the big carriers.

And now for people who make calls to friends and family in other countries, MetroPCS offers an even more compelling reason to switch to its service. Of course, the main drawback of the service is coverage. Even though MetroPCS is expanding its network to cities such as New York and Boston, its footprint is still relatively small compared to the major carriers. Most of the areas it covers are near major cities. But for customers in the MetroPCS markets who don't leave those markets very often, it offers a good deal compared to the post-paid, contract plans of the major carriers.

One other potential drawback is that MetroPCS, like other prepaid operators, doesn't offer the latest and greatest phones. That said, it does offer the BlackBerry Curve.