Global Internet roaming

Tips & Hints

Posted 15 July, 2005

How do you surf the net while on the road?

Like mobile phones, some people just can’t leave their technology at home. With many people dragging laptops around the airports and hotels of the world, having your Internet connection follow you is a good idea. It can be done, but like mobile phone roaming it can be an expensive and frustrating exercise.

What is global Internet roaming?
Global Internet roaming is where you log onto a local Internet provider, that provider checks the account with your ISP and then allows you to log on. For the road warrior this a very useful as you can log on using your computer and your account. You don’t have to mess around with Internet Café’s, other people’s PCs and you have access to all your data and address books.

How do you use it?
Once you’re signed up to a plan, you download a dialler program. This program sits on your desktop and when you want to use it, you select the country and city you are in. The dialler then gives you a choice of numbers and you choose one of those to connect to the net.

How do I get it?
Most Internet providers offer global roaming as an extra option to their plans. Almost all use either the iPass or the GoRemote systems. In turn, iPass and GoRemote use local Internet providers for their dial in numbers.

The global roaming services provided by ISPs are generally expensive, and not very good. You have to change your outgoing (SMTP) settings to send from your email program each time you change a connection. Both the iPass and GoRemote systems usually offer multiple numbers in each city or country and each one will have different SMTP settings.

Another problem with the GoRemote and iPass systems is the local ISPs tech support won’t support you, requiring an expensive phone call home to your home ISP. Tech support is a major weakness of the ISP provided global roaming services. The ISPs add to the problem by not training their helpdesks to deal with roaming services.

Another global roaming option is to choose an international provider who has their own international network. The three biggest networks are UUNet (who used to own Ozemail,) Compuserve/AOL and ATT (which used to be IBM.) These providers are best used when you are using global roaming on a regular basis.

The advantage with international providers is that their technical support is usually far superior to that provided by Australian ISPs. Also, they will have local phone numbers operating to local time. So there’s no having to sit up until 4am when the Sydney helpdesk opens.

Collecting and sending email is the biggest problem with global roaming. It’s worthwhile seeing if your ISP offers a webmail service or allows you to divert mail to a free email service. With this, you don’t have to mess around with changing mail settings.

The important thing with all global roaming is to make sure it is set up prior to leaving. It’s important to try dialling and logging onto the foreign connection. Keep in mind though that many ISPs don’t allow connections from overseas numbers so not all tests will work.

When not to bother with global roaming
If most of your travel is spent in one country then signing up with a local provider is usually better value. Many Internet providers have a national number for dialling in, so there’s less fiddling around when travelling between cities. This also gives you the advantage of local support.

Keep in mind too laptops are a hassle to lug around and a security risk. If it all sounds too hard (and for many non-nerdy people it is) then it’s probably easier to make do with using Internet café, hotel and business machines. It might also be an idea to forget pesky computers and enjoy an IT-free holiday.
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