Thursday, June 6, 2013

Travel Gear: Mobile Internet

My SIMs from UK, Japan, USA, Turkey
Once, while traveling in the UK, T-Mobile billed me $400 for 25MB--that's $16,000 per GB! This was a surprise as, under that same plan, I had not been charged for data use during previous overseas trips. I asked T-Mobile to waive the charge (they did), but I cancelled the phone plan because any future overseas use would be charged at that exorbitant rate.

I resolved I would never, again, give a phone company that amount of control over my wallet.

Phone companies generally ship their phones locked to their service, with the operating system modified to prevent or charge for tethering. This is anti-consumer.

These days I use an unlocked phone, with pure Android, and no tethering restrictions. I can use the phone as a mobile WiFi hotspot, with whatever data service I choose, without incurring additional charges for tethering.

Within the USA:
  • Free WiFi hotspots are pervasive in cities.
  • I have a separate mobile 4G hotspot (FreedomPop) giving me 500MB free data every month. Coverage is spotty beyond major cities. 
  • I generally do not pay for a data service. I pay about $15--$20 per year for voice and text using T-Mobile prepaid. If I want to use T-Mobile's 4G service, I temporarily switch to their $3 per day voice/text/4G option. 
Outside the USA:
  • Until recently, I simply used the slow but free browser on my Kindle 2 (3G) to check email and look up travel information. This even worked in India.
  • These days, upon arrival in a country, I pick up a local data-only SIM. I have never paid more than $40 for 1GB (typically) for a month, including the SIM. 
  • If I need to make a voice call, I use VOIP; however, the connection can be choppy.
Both within and outside the USA, hotel rooms with wired or wireless Internet for no additional charge are becoming commonplace. 

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