Accessing the Internet from a mobile phone or tethering a PC over it while traveling all over the world has been possible for many years. Unfortunately, it was also prohibitively expensive. A solution to the problem was to use local SIM cards but getting them has and still often is a hassle. 2014, however, will have been the year when all that has changed, at least for some of us, fortunately including me. And here's why:
New in 2014: EU Data Roaming For A Few Euros A Month
Earlier this year I reported about the new Euro-Roaming offer of my network operator that lets me use my data bucket that is included in my monthly subscription in all EU countries without any extra charges for 5 Euros extra per month. One price for all countries. Perfect, my Internet access problem is solved, and I no longer need local SIM cards except in really exceptional circumstances.
New in 2014: Global Roaming Prices Reach Affordable Levels
But the EU isn't the world and I also travel a lot to Asia and the US. Again, new roaming prices of my home network operator for global destinations completely changes the game. Instead of 20 euros a day for only a few megabytes, the latest offer for any destination is around 12 Euros per week for a 150 MB bucket. If the data is used up sooner, another bucket can be bought instantly via a landing page. 150 MB is not much by today's standards and I had to buy several packages during a recent trip to China to keep me connected, but compared to previous prices this is heaven and totally usable.
New in 2014: Fast Networks And LTE Roaming
When I visited countries such as China in previous years I always noticed how slow even 3G connectivity was. While it could have been the local network I suspect that connectivity between the visited network and my home network was rather underdesigned. Again, when I was recently in China, 3G connectivity was fast and totally usable. I'm delighted! Also, 2014 is the year when LTE roaming agreements finally started to fall in place. Over the past months I've roamed on foreign LTE networks in quite a number of countries and I've achieved data rates of well of 20 Mbit/s. Not that 3G networks are slow but seeing that LTE indicator in the status bar is still something special and promises fast data rates.
New in 2014: Viginti Band LTE Phones That Also Include 5-6 UMTS Bands
While LTE roaming in Europe for European customers is not a problem from a mobile device point of view, getting LTE connectivity in other parts of the world has been another matter altogether so far as North America and China use different UMTS and LTE bands. 5-6 band UMTS and LTE devices have been available for a while in Europe but these unfortunately did not include bands for other regions. But again, things have changed dramatically for the better. One popular smartphone now boasts support of 20 (!) LTE bands and 6 UMTS bands. This includes all major LTE and UMTS bands used in Europe, North America and even the TD-LTE bands used in China. That's especially good news for global travelers no matter where they come from because true Global UMTS and LTE roaming has now become a reality. I'm more than delighted!
I've been using mobile Internet access while traveling for pretty much a decade now. 2014, however, has brought about an as dramatic a change of my usage behavior as the introduction of local prepaid SIM cards for mobile Internet access had many years ago.