Comparison of International Wi-Fi Internet Service Providers

Wireless Internet access for travelers and road warriors

An international wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) offers wireless hotspot access in countries around the world using one convenient login. Wi-fi hotspots are ubiquitous these days, particularly for travelers, with thousands of hotspots throughout the world in public locations like airports, hotels, and cafes. Although you can find free wi-fi at many retail establishments, if you're a frequent traveler you may prefer the assurance and ease of having a dedicated wi-fi Internet service plan that lets you log into wi-fi hotspots in most countries with one account. Below are several wireless Internet service providers that offer global wi-fi Internet access.

1
Boingo

Boingo Wireless claims to be the world's largest network of wi-fi hotspots, with over 125,000 hotspots worldwide, including thousands of Starbucks, airport, and hotel wi-fi locations. Boingo offers several plans for global wireless Internet access at these hotspots, for both laptop users (PC and Mac) and smartphones (many different devices supported).

Plans offered, as of this writing, are:

  • Boingo Mobile: unlimited smartphone use at hotspots worldwide for $7.95 per month
  • Boingo Unlimited: unlimited laptop use throughout the Americas for $9.95 per month. Outside the Americas, additional $0.12 to $0.18 per minute roaming charges apply.
  • Boingo Wi-Fi Combo: Combines Mobile & Unlimited plans (smartphone and laptop access) for $17.90 per month
  • Boingo Global: up to 2,000 minutes per month worldwide on your laptop with no roaming fees for $59 per month

2
iPass

iPass is the world's largest multi-technology mobile access network: they offer mobile broadband, wi-fi and ethernet, and dial-up access worldwide. In fact, the iPass platform is used by telecom and mobile operators to expand their wi-fi network coverage -- AT&T and T-Mobile are iPass partners. There are over 140,000 iPass wi-fi and ethernet venues in over 140 countries around the globe. Although iPass is offered as a platform for enterprises, iPass Reseller Partners offer iPass global Internet access to individuals, including:

  • iRoam Global Internet: offers plans for 3G mobile broadband, wi-fi, wired, and dial-up Internet access. 3G mobile broadband plans start at $60 per month, and global wi-fi monthly fee is $7.25 per month plus per-minute charges starting at $0.12 per minute (there is a maximum daily cap on charges). iRoam also offers in-flight wireless Internet on select airlines. You can use the iRoam plan builder to find rates specific for your needs and destination.
  • Worldwide Dialup is another iPass reseller. Broadband access rates range from $9.99 to $34.80 per day depending on the remote location. To see specific rates, select the country where you'll be using the data from their roaming rates selector.
  • iPass Connect: iPhone and iPod Touch users can sign up for global wi-fi at over 100,000 iPass wi-fi hotspots in 80 countries; rates are $6.95 to $9.95 per month

3
AT&T Wi-Fi

AT&T offers wi-fi hotspot service for free to select customers and as a paid subscription or one-time fee for other users. The wi-fi hotspots are located at thousands of airports, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, McDonald's and other locations around the world (Check out the map of AT&T Wi-Fi Locations to view their coverage.)

Free AT&T Basic Wi-Fi service is available to three types of current AT&T customers:

Basic Wi-Fi service, however, doesn't include international w-fi access through AT&T's roaming partners. For global roaming access, you can subscribe to AT&T's Wi-Fi Premier plan which includes the basic hotspot Internet access plus international roaming for $19.99 a month.

Non-AT&T customers can subscribe to the Premier plan or pay $3.99 for each wi-fi hotspot session (in US locations).

4
T-Mobile Wi-Fi

T-Mobile HotSpot service is available at over 45,000 locations worldwide, including airports, hotels, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble.

Current T-Mobile wireless customers can get unlimited national hotspot usage for $9.99 per month. For non-T-Mobile customers, the monthly cost is $39.99 per month. Single DayPass usage is also available at prices varying by location.

For certain international and US hotspot locations, an additional roaming fee (from $0.07 per minute to $6.99 per day) may apply.

5
Verizon Wi-Fi

Although Verizon's wi-fi hotspot service isn't international, information is provided here for comparison with other national plans. Verizon's wi-fi hotspot service is free for qualifying Verizon Internet residential service subscribers. The service is available only in select markets in the US (search for a nearby hotel, airport, or restaurant that has Verizon Wi-Fi hotspot service with their Wi-Fi Access HotSpot Directory).

The service is not currently offered to non-Verizon residential customers, and can only be accessed by PC laptops via the Verizon Wi-Fi Connect software.

6
Sprint PCS Wi-Fi

Sprint offers high speed wireless access at public US and international hotspots. Unfortunately, other than indicating you need Sprint PCS Connection Manager software to connect at the wi-fi location, Sprint's website, as of this writing, does not offer more information on coverage or pricing. To buy, you need to contact a Sprint sales rep.