Just like Cellular GSM phones have global roaming, now the internet offers this feature for the frequent traveller.There are several ways to have roaming, with different approaches:
- Speciality Global ISPs There are several global ISPs which cover the whole globe. These include America On Line, and Compuserve (currently owned by AOL). However, in the Arab world, there are no local access points, so this is a limited solution for our region.
- Local Corporate Offices If you work for a corporation that have local offices in Saudi Arabia, and other cities, you can have access to the internet by dialing modems located in the local office of that company. I used to do this in Dubai and Cyprus, while working for a large mulit-national corporation.
- Internet Cafes and Public Access Teminals If you plan ahead, Internet Cafes can be a very good means of access. If you have a free web-based e-mail account, such as that provided by Maktoob, USA.Net, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail, then you can access your e-mail anywhere in the world from any Internet Cafe, or even on a friend's PC. In addition to accessing your e-mail from a web browser, Yahoo Mail has the advantage that you can access your e-mail as a POP account, and thus download the messages into your PC. The same service is offered in some countries in a public access terminal/kiosk (e.g. UK and Netherlands).
- 2-Way Satellite Internet Access I had great hopes that services like Iridium would finally free us from "the wire"; connecting us to the phone company and acheiving worldwide access to voice, fax, and internet. Iridium has 66 satellites circling our planet. However, the company, even though a technology success, has severe financial problems and have (August 1999) filed for Chapter 11 Bankrupcy protection, and finally went out of business in March 2000. Now another company, Globalstar, is set to offer very similar services soon. A far more ambitious plan is by a company called Teledesic, which plans 800+ satellites, but will not be operational for a few more years.
- iPass iPass is a worldwide service offering travellers access to the internet through access points in the world major cities. As of early Summer 1999, they had no access points in Saudi Arabia. However, in the Middle East for example, they have access points in Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh). It normally works by you (the subscriber) paying a monthly fee for access to this service (some ISPs will charge this monthly, some will charge only for the month you travel and actually use the service), plus a per minute charge when abroad. To this, you must add the per minute charge from the hotel you are staying at. Visit their site for details on city coverage and charges.
- GRIC GRIC is another provider of global internet roaming. They seem to have less coverage (at least for the time being) than iPass. Check their ISP Locator.
Further reading:Here is some further reading that you may want to check out. These are discussions on a technology oriented forum called SlashDot. We are including those so you can get alternate views of the subject from various people across the world.