USB Internet use whilst travelling

by Claire

I need some advice.

A friend is looking to take a laptop to North America for 2 months and then a on an extended tour of Europe, maybe around 9 months.

She would like to simply pick up a Pay as you Go sim card to access the internet, only whilst in country. I have been looking on line and getting very confused!

I need your advice on the best and most simple solution for her if you have time.

So some questions:

Is there a universal usb dongle that will do all the countries she requires: North America, France, Spain, mainland Europe basically.

If you use multiple sim cards with it - how is the different providers software loaded onto the PC? Is additional software needed?

What about the different network types? I understand Verizon use a different network, so might not be compatible. Am I looking out for a basic 3G internet supplier?

How easy is it to pick up prepaid sim cards in country? I've looked at some American websites and they seem so much more complicated than here in the UK!

It is very easy here in the UK to pop into 3 or O2 and come out with a usb dongle and sim card combined, pre loaded and pay cash with no need for registration and an address in country.

I am happy to buy one per country providing they offer the value we get here int he UK. £30 per country is fine.


Comments for USB Internet use whilst travelling

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Nov 13, 2012
European Data SIMs
by: World Wide Wayne

There are actually solution that provide data across the whole world - they just tend to have pretty small data bundles (e.g. 200MB).

For you I think you'd be better off with a US solution and then a European one. You might also want to consider a Mifi device rather than a USB modem since you can connect your laptop, smartphone AND tablet to a Mifi device - all through wireless.

However, you can get a European USB modem for $99 at Cellhire
and for that you get 1GB of data to use all across mainland Europe.

Hope this helps.

Mar 27, 2011
by: Anonymous

Great feedback guys, thank you.

Ok so I've managed to buy an AT&T lightning USB dongle by sierra on eBay uk for £3! So all I need is info on how to get a prepaid data sim in the us for AT&T. Is there an unlimited option? I'm there for two months? Phone wise I'm gonna pick up a cheapie walmart pay as you go and give it to the family I'm staying with in Vegas at the end.

Great feedback again. We'll deal with the european mess once north America is sorted. X

Mar 24, 2011
Prepaid Wireless Internet While Travelling - Part 1
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

This is becoming a very common question these days, and I completely understand the objective. At a high level, I have to say, unfortunately, that you're not going to currently find any seamless solutions available, as this market has not yet matured. Here's some answers to your specific questions:

- There currently are no universal dongles/modems available that will cover all of the countries you noted. Europe has a lot of products that will work across European countries, however, you're not going to find a product that works for both Europe and North America. Note that while some products will roam across these two regions, the roaming cost is so high that it's basically absurd, and completely unreasonable (at least currently).

- If you go to each country and buy a prepaid SIM card that is compatible with your modem, it's highly likely that the wireless carrier specific software that's needed to connect to the network will be included on the SIM card. The drivers for the modem shouldn't change. That said, some modems have the carrier software built into the modem (and its self-installing drivers) rather than on the SIM card. Storing the necessary carrier software on the SIM card is considered best practices, however, unfortunately, I couldn't tell you for certain that it will work in all cases. I would recommend that when buying a SIM card, you look at the package for modem compatibility, and ask the clerk whether it works on a modem other than the carrier's modem. Ideally, they would allow you to immediately try using it in the store, and if it doesn't work, they'd give you a refund. That's definitely something you'll want to try before leaving the store if possible.

- Europe uses GSM based technology, so you're right, Verizon (and Sprint) won't work with a European 3G wireless modem. You would need to get an AT&T or T-Mobile modem to have a chance of it working, as they both use GSM technology. Note, however, that Verizon, T-Mobile, and most carriers in the U.S. (aside from Sprint currently) are deploying 4G LTE technology. LTE is going to likely be the global standard for 4G, so if you buy an LTE modem in Europe, it could possibly work on Verizon. That said, technology compatibility is only one component; the frequencies used must also be compatible.

Mar 24, 2011
Prepaid Wireless Internet While Travelling - Part 2
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

- You're absolutely right, the UK is FAR more compatible and easy to understand and use than the U.S. It's fairly easy to buy a phone or modem in the UK and travel across different European countries, pickup a SIM card, pop it in, and quickly be getting the benefit of local rates. In the U.S., however, that's not the case. Even GSM/SIM-based technologies are not compatible across carriers without reflashing, unlocking, etc.

I'm sorry this seems so convoluted; unfortunately it is! You'll have a fairly reasonable experience while in Europe, however, while in the U.S., you'll likely be better off seeking out a local provider. It's also highly likely that you'll have to buy a new modem to use in North America, though I can't say for certain that NO European modems will work properly in the U.S. if used on an appropriate provider.

I hope this helps?! Hopefully someone who's actually tried this will share their experience here. One of these days I'll need to travel around the world and test this myself!

Here's a couple of direct links people may find helpful related to prepaid broadband:

Prepaid Broadband Plans (U.S.)

Wireless Broadband Providers (Canada)

International Wireless Broadband

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