Mobile Broadband for Italy
It used to be that people would inquire about cellular service for Italy. While still problematic (click here for an article on cellular service in Italy http://www.summerinitaly.com/traveltips/how-to-get-affordable-cell-phone-service-for-italy), more and more travelers are concerned about staying in touch by email, accessing their Facebook account, Skyping or surfing the web. While some mobile devices from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and other carriers offer international data for travelers to Italy, the rates are incredibly high. Furthermore, if you have other devices such as an iPad or a computer, it is very difficult to get internet access. In theory, one could go to an Italian cell phone store and get a pay as you go SIM card or micro SIM card or a SIM card with a USB “dongle” and access the internet. In practice, this is seldom a straightforward approach. By far, the easiest solution that is currently on the market is the MiFi service for Italy offered from Cellular Abroad.
The MiFi device is a small pocket-sized device that creates your own portable and personal hotspot. You can literally put it in your pocket or handbag and have a hotspot with which you can connect your wifi enabled device as well as up to four other devices. Simply turn it on and with your wifi enabled device such as your iPad, iPhone or computer you and your friends and family can connect to the internet. If you want to prevent others in your vicinity from connecting, simply set up a security password that only you and your friends know. The MiFi data device is about the size of a cell phone and, like a cell phone, is rechargeable. The battery life between recharges is about 7 hours. That means that you can be outside, having a glass of wine the main piazza on the island of Capri or at the beach in Positano and you can continuously browse the internet as long as you have a charge. Of course, having the MiFi device is only part of the equation. The actual data service itself is the other part.
There are two ways of obtaining the MiFi device. The first is to rent the device from Cellular Abroad, a Los Angeles, CA company that will ship you the device prior to your departure for Italy. This is a good option for those that are planning on going to Italy for 1-4 weeks. With the MiFi rental, the data service is included with the rental fee. All you need to do is to power on the MiFi once you arrive in Italy and, with your cell phone, computer, iPad or whatever device you have, you can start to navigate.
If you are planning on staying in Italy for longer than a month or if you are a frequent traveler to Italy (once or more per year) and, better yet, speak Italian – and have patience – it probably makes sense to purchase the device and once you get to Italy, purchase a pay as you go SIM card from one of the carriers (TIM and Vodafone have better coverage but are a little more expensive than Wind and Tre, the other two carriers). Cellular Abroad also sells the European version of the device, which is not the same as the one readily available in the United States. Whichever carrier you settle on, the basic requirements are that you go to a store, purchase as pay as you go SIM card and get data as an add on. There are different plans but unlimited should be around $30-$40 for 30 days. You will need to add the credit to the account as well. Depending on the level of service that the cell phone store offers, this may or may not be a tedious task. Still, if you have the time, patience and speak Italian, it is feasible and in the long run you will save money.
In sum, compared to what the large carriers in the United States offer, the savings and convenience with an unlimited MiFi for Italy is a tremendous value. You can send and receive unlimited amounts of emails and surf the web as much as you need. While technically and financially feasible, hopefully you will not spend your time in Italy in front of the computer or iPad all day!
Cellular Abroad is offering a US$ 10 discount to all Summerinitaly.com visitors. Be sure to mention Summerinitaly.com or, if ordering online, enter promo code Summerinitaly. Go to http://www.cellularabroad.com/italyRmifi.php
Been there? Done that? Share your experience and tips!
Haven't visited yet? Have questions? Ask them here!