Wondering How to Get Mobile Broadband Access in Italy?When you leave for Italy, it’s likely you’ll be thinking about the best way to access a mobile internet service while you travel. For some of us, an internet connection is simply a convenient way to access email, research possible restaurants or even post comments to their Facebook account. For myself and many others, having reliable internet access is fundamental and without it, there simply wouldn’t be a vacation. If you are like me and cannot be away from the office without staying connected, you’ll need to decide exactly how to achieve that before you leave. There are 3 main ways to access the internet while in Italy: wifi; data roaming with your current US cellular provider; or doing what the Italians do and using a local data solution.
Let’s start with the mobile wifi solutionWifi access in Italy, is as not as prevalent as it is in the United States, especially free wifi. You can’t just expect to walk into a Starbucks and get free internet access. While many hotels do offer wifi service, there is usually a charge. Another drawback of using the wifi in your hotel is that you have to stay in to use the internet. This may work if you are able to make do with very limited internet access, but you’ll enjoy your vacation a lot more if you can get out of your hotel and go exploring. More and more cafés in Italy are offering free wifi. This is particularly true in tourist areas and larger cities, but you will almost always need to get the password and that means that you will have to patronize the café. Still, there are worse things in life than having to grab a cold beer in Piazza Navona in the middle of July so you can access a little free wifi!
What about Global Roaming?Another way to get internet access while traveling is by “roaming” with your current provider, assuming that your cell phone works in Italy. Roaming means that you are using your current AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or other provider to access data. These days, you can buy bundles of data (around 50mb for $50) and, while certainly not inexpensive, this may be an acceptable solution if you only need limited access to the internet and/or only on your cell phone or iPad. A word of caution though – if you use more than your allotted bundle or have not purchased a bundle to begin with, you can literally spend thousands of dollars!
How easy is it to use an Italian mobile broadband carrier?The third option is to do what Italians do, and use an Italian carrier for your data needs. Cellular Abroad in Los Angeles offers access to these solutions, allowing you to have your service ready to go as soon as you arrive in Italy. If you only need to access the internet on your iPad or cell phone, you can purchase or rent an Italian data SIM card. For more intensive data needs, you can rent or purchase a mobile hotspot, also know as a Mi Fi.
An Italian Mi Fi is a small portable device that creates your own personal wifi hotspot with unlimited access to the internet. This device is particularly ideal for travelers who need to have internet access without having to worry about running up a bill that could potentially be in the thousands of dollars. The Mi Fi allows you to connect to the internet with any device that is wifi enabled, including a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Tablet, Blackberry, etc. Your Mi Fi will provide mobile broadband access for up to 5 users or devices at the same time. As an example, you can browse the internet on your Mac while your significant other streams videos on an iPad and your kids are uploading pictures to their Facebook accounts. The Mi Fi is also very easy to use. Simply turn it on and connect!
In the end, if you truly need unlimited internet service available any place, any time, the Mi Fi is definitely the easiest and most flexible option, and it can be used with any device. If you only need internet access on your handheld device and providing it works overseas (quadband or 3G and unlocked), an Italian data SIM card is a good solution. You can also roam with your current carrier but always remember that the costs are high. Lastly, if you only need to use the internet occasionally, using a hotel or café wifi hotspot may work for you.