Yesterday on my flight to Raleigh Durham, North Carolina on United from Dulles I picked up the in flight magazine during take off, because my iPad had to be in the OFF mode until we hit 10,000 feet. In it I saw an ad from Verizon Wireless touting their Global Wireless data plan offer for connected VZW Wireless Modems and devices.
It brought me back to a post from MG Siegler (aka Paris Lemon) he titled The Data Dystopia, which pretty much sums up the state of the connected traveler who ends up needing data, but doesn't know where to look. I agree with MG, it's a bitch figuring all this out so it's made easy for the next guy/gal who ends up in countries and need to connect. (Note, I've also done this in Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Columbia, and its not very diffcult, and even easier if you speak the local language, or can find someone who speaks English in the shops.)
For $25.00 I could have gotten 100 megs of data, and for another $25.00 another 100 more. WOW. Such a deal..I think NOT.
I say not, because I just spent almost three weeks in Portugal and looked on my iPad's Celluar Usage meter and over 9 weeks consumed on average 400 megs of data per week or some 3.6 gigs of data across AT&T, Yoigo (Spain 8 days), Optimus (Portugal 18 days), Three (UK 4 days), SFR (France 11 days).
Using Verizon Wireless I would have spent $900 dollars but I spent a lot less than that. I spend under that by a long shot?
How? Well in the UK I was able to use my prepaid Three SIM and it cost me 3 pounds a day for what was 48 hours of usage. Total cost even with the exchange rate, call it $10.00 and I had 500 megs to consume. With Verizon that would have been $125 dollars. With Three you add credit and draw against your balance, buying the number of days and amounts of data you think you'll need. T-Mobile, whose SIM I have inside a MIFI works pretty much the same way. By memory I think Three has better rates and I have balances with both providers to draw down on and since I'm in London enough times per year, the hassle factor is non-existant.
In France I used SFR and their prepaid 35 Euro unlimited plan, call it 30 dollars. I also used a 48 hour pass that was about 10 dollars. Call it $40.00
In Spain with Yoigo the usage goes against my prepaid account which has credit and did my quarterly top up of 10 euros to keep the account from shutting off. I consumed data but less than the 10 euros I added. I also have a Vodafone SIM for the iPad added 25 euros but didn't use it as I wanted it for my next trip as Vodafone has the better network, and no speed caps like Yoigo does when you hit 100K per day. Given most of my time in Spain was in Mallorca, and there was awesome WiFi everywhere I went, I knew I wouldn't be consuming much. Still even at 10 Euros/13 dollars, the amount of data consumed still would have been less costly with the 25 euros on Vodafone than using Verizon. I still have a full five gigs waiting for me on Vodafone so let's not count that in.
In Portugal, on Optimus, for 15 euros I got a full Gig. So, call that 18 dollars. I used close to the full amount in the 18 days I was in Cascais, Lisbon and Porto as the iPad went everywhere. When the villa's broadband wouldn't let me make a HD Voice call, I used the iPad, plus I downloaded apps, managed tons of email, worked virtually, did a few GoToMeeting and WebEx presentations where I was a participant, and a ton of conference calls using TurboBridge and CounterPath's Bria, plus made Skype calls.
So, what did I spend in total for wireless data on my iPad? $81 dollars over all the time I was in Europe and that was close to six week. $81 vs. $900 dollars for the same amount of data.
Tips and tricks:
Look for Carphone Warehouse in the UK or PhoneHouse stores in Spain, France and Portugal. They have the most knowledgable people. Start there, even if you end up getting your SIM from the carrier. In Portugal if you just need a day or two of data and Voice, Vodafone at the Airport in Lisbon is a fast solution. Note Vodafone caps data on prepaid at 30 Megs a day. TMN (Portugal Telecom) is the best deal on Smartphone data, while OPTIMUS is best for tablets, dongles and MiFis. In Spain, Yoigo is the best deal on Smartphones, while Vodafone is best on iPads and Android tablets, MiFi's. In France for Android, Orange's Mobicarte is easiest and best, while SFR is best for iPhones and iPads. In the UK, Three, TMobile seem to be the easiest to work with. I'm interested in seeing what FREE (Iliad) comes out with in PrePaid in France.