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Internet around the globe: iPass and TelenetConnect tested

telenet1One of the things that worried us the most when leaving for a year of  location independence was the internet.
We tried our best to choose locations which had reliable internet access, but I have to admit that South Africa wasn’t giving us good vibes.

Did our destinations have high speed internet available? And if so, was it affordable? Thailand didn’t pose any problems, as we found out in September, nor will Argentina. But South Africa was worrying us. We got two opposing kinds of report. People saying the speed was fine, and others saying it was amazingly slow…

There is the great story of the pigeon; a company tried to send 512mb over the internet, and at the same time released a pigeon with a USB stick. It turned out that the pigeon was the faster….

Additionally, opening an account with an internet provider for three months isn’t exactly the thing we would like to spend time on whilst abroad. (It turned out we need not have worried so much about availability as the prices, which are amazingly high over here… More on that below)

By chance, I found out that the Belgian internet provider Telenet was becoming an iPass dealer at the very affordable rate of €32 per month. TelenetConnect enables wifi access at more than 140,000 access points worldwide. This seems expensive, but the nice thing is that there is no real restriction on your devices. This means it can run on your Mac, Netbook and iPhone/Blackberry/Nokia, all at the same time.
There is one pre-requisite though; all these devices need to be at one location. It is not possible to run an iPhone in Belgium, while being connected through your PC in Johannesburg, for instance.

This is exactly what we needed; no worrying about the internet, no need for expensive internet rates in hotels and, moreover, internet in all the places we would go to. The main disadvantage is that we can’t connect at home (so we need to connect at one of these access points) and it’s not like 3G where you connect via the phone-network. You need to be at a hotspot to enjoy wifi internet.

Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much. I think it’s the perfect way to go cold turkey from our internet addiction, and finally stick to the “I’ll check my mail once per day” promise. It might cause problems when developing some websites, but then again, all these things can be done offline.

A few phone calls and a meeting later, the nice people at Telenet were even offering us a super deal; two free TelenetConnect accounts to test out for a year.

I admit I was a bit sceptical. I am totally in love with the Telenet WifiHotspots in Belgium (they were included in my account) and I use(d) them frequently while on the road. But what would this worldwide solution be like?

At first the Macsoftware was giving me some headaches, with the spinning wheel turning non-stop, even urging me to re-boot my mac. But this problem disappeared, and I soon really started to like the system. Wherever we go, it checks for iPass/TelenetConnect-enabled places and then logs in automatically. No more looking for the password, and no need to go through all the login pages of wifi-enabled spots. It logs in and you can start working.

The software for both the mac and iPhone works this way; and it works pretty well. Sometimes the login doesn’t work first time, but trying again often solves the problem immediately. Make sure you download the latest software from the iPass site (Telenet should change their link asap). The 3.2-version for Mac works perfectly, while 3.1 and 3.0 definitely have some bugs in Snow Leopard.
The iPhone software has built-in upgrades, so no worries there.

The software for PC can be downloaded on the Telenet site, and has some extras; offline browsing of available hotspots is possible and is something I really miss on both the Mac and iPhone version…
At the moment, for instance, we’re sitting here in Swasiland with very limited internet resources. Checking available hotspots is rather easy on the PC, while on the mac I need an internet connection to find one.

A nice feature is that there is no download limit (or maybe I just haven’t reached it yet). We tend to use quite some bandwidth at home, but on the road we need a whole lot less (no more watching TV on the internet). But we were stunned to find out that our hotel in Jo’burg charges 70 rand for 100Mb.
That’s €7 for 100Mb !
Somehow, we managed to spend 100Mb in three hours (not doing a whole lot; downloading emails, answering them, uploading some changes for a website). Pretty soon we were in search of an iPass-enabled coffee bar, and were enjoying not having to think about “will the limit be reached?”
(Here in Swasiland we pay €5 per hour, at a reasonable speed.)

We got the iPass software installed on our iPhones, and in combination with a SIP/Skype, it is the perfect solution for cheap calling abroad. (Type iSIP in iStore for a free solution). Upon arrival at Jo’burg Airport, I picked up the phone, opened iPass, found an enabled TelenetConnect hotspot, logged in, and called my mom to tell her we’d arrived safely. It was done in two minutes. Total cost? €0.00.

At €32 per month, this solution is a huge money saver in South Africa, where internet prices in hotels reach amazing heights, and mobile internet costs almost as much as a month’s accomodation.
€1.00/mb* isn’t an exception. (*For  16-Gb ADSL, you pay €99 per month from July onwards)
On top of this, TelenetConnect is giving us top notch internet, very often with faster speed than other hotspots. We do need to go and sit in bars, but at least we’re paying for the drinks and not the internet.
(Drinks in South Africa are very affordable, btw :) )

We’re very aware that in other countries this solution might be a bit expensive compared to the hotel wifi rates, yet I do believe their top notch speeds often beat the local free wifi we have so far experienced in Thailand. Free internet is nice; having to wait isn’t.

Finally, we need to mention that iPass/TelenetConnect is especially aimed at business people, for whom this solution is often an alternative to expensive rates in the ( as expensive) hotels. They also offer fast access to a huge network of wifi hotspots. (We lifehack the system as we speak. :p)

Btw, I say ‘hotposts’, but these locations can be accessed via ethernet (often in hotel rooms) or via call-in options (which is a lot harder, I guess, as not many of us still have a 56k-modem in our computers…)

As a nice side note; at home we installed a Fon-router. Once you’re a Fonero, you get access to all Fon-hotspots worldwide, for free. Their network isn’t as large and as professional as that of iPass, and totally depends on its users offering bandwidth, yet it can be an easy way of getting a few extra hotspots along the way.

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One Response to “Internet around the globe: iPass and TelenetConnect tested”

  1. Hi guys — glad you are enjoying the service!!! Just in January, we added over 900 new Wi-Fi and Wired venues worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US, and our global network of 140,000+ locations covers 83 countries. How many countries are you planning to visit? Safe travels! Estelle (EMEA Marketing Director, iPass)

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