Monday, May 19, 2014

Staying Connected

I do some international traveling and the one thing I miss when I'm abroad is the ability to pull out my phone anywhere and have access to the web, Facebook, or a map showing where I am. Cellular data roaming is notoriously expensive with pay-per-use rates typically around $20/megabyte. In the past I've always forgone having complete connectivity and restricted myself to the hotel's WiFi which isn't necessarily free, and often inadequate.

A recent post on the AirfareWatchdog blog reviewed a product from Xcom Global that provides a portable international hotspot and promises unlimited connectivity for up to 10 devices for $14.95/day. This seemed like a good deal until I looked into the details. Xcom Global indeed offers a MiFi device for $14.95 a day, but you are charged for each day of your trip, not just the days you use it. You must tell them the start and end dates of your trip, and they will ship you the device the day before you leave, and you must return it the day after you return. You pay for each day in between, including those while you are in transit. In addition, you are charged $29.90 for shipping. So for my upcoming trip it would have cost $104.65 for a little over 2 days of access. I decided against the Xcom Global solution this time.

My wireless carrier offers a monthly international data roaming package with access capped at 120MB for $30, or 300MB for $60. Also, the access is only for one phone, although you can share the connection by enabling the phone's personal hotspot. Assuming my data usage stays under 300MB this sounded like a better deal so I am giving it a try this trip. I'll report back afterward on whether my internet needs were sufficiently met.

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