Mobile Internet access with a Mac in Switzerland and Europe

I decided to check out the offers here.  I am often in Italy for the weekend and in Portugal whenever I can. Usually I take the PowerBook with me, so that I can write, if the mood strikes to blog, and to check and answer email. I can not be bothered with email on a mobile, and that may only be because my life is not “that” dependent on me being available every minute. To me mobile phones are on the right development path, but they are still much too bothersome for somebody very used to typing with ten fingers. Call me an animal of habit. SMS’s from my mobile phone are rare and in emergencies. When I do send SMSs then via the Internet from a computer.

Either in Italy or in Portugal, I do have Internet access, but it is not as convenient as it could be, and the convenience of  mobile Internet is very appealing, but it must be affordable. Portugal was very early in deploying UMTS, but when they first did, the service was still being offered at rather unreasonable prices, and again, the Macs were not included. If I remember correctly it was Vodafone that first offered this.

Orange has a very attractive subscription offer, unfortunately their card is not mac compatible, so that eliminates that option for the time being although it would have been my first choice. With this one when online via WLAN on a Public Hotspot abroad you pay the same rates as in Switzerland; cool deal.

Sunrise was not sure if their card is mac compatible or not and the manufacturer makes no such claims either: it is a Sierra Wireless AirCard 850. The WLAN minutes here are only national.

Swisscom‘s offer is also just for PC, and a visit to their shop was enlightening, but did not offer any real alternatives at a comparable price.

I am not the early adopter type, and once again this exercise is confirming it. I will wait until the gadgets for the mac are available and the whole a bit more affordable.



  1. I spent a month in the spring of 2005 living in a small rural village near Montpellier, France. It was a “working vacation” and while I didn’t need to be online constantly, I did need to check in with Canada every couple of days at least.There was no easy method for obtaining wireline access in the house we were living in, and I found that using my Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone as a “modem” with my iBook cost me an arm and a leg use Orange’s “mobicarte” service. Like 5 euros to check my email.What I ended up doing was trawling for wifi in the neighbouring villages and towns. I did pretty well, although it did cause some interesting scenes — checking email while standing on an outdoor ping-pong table in Clermont-Herault holding my iBook in one hand to pick up the signal from an open wireless access point. When I absolutely positively needed to get online, I could always fall back on hotels in the Accor chain (Formule 1, Mercure, etc.), as they seem to universally have Orange-based for-fee wifi service everywhere on the property.I think if (when?) I return to France for a similar trip, I’ll seek out a more reliable method that requires less driving around.

  2. Thank Peter for sharing your wild adventures in trawling wifi in France.It must have looked adventuresome. I have not gone that far because in the places that I frequent I now have alternatives and it is in the countryside. However the cost factor with mobile Internet is quite a bitch still. I have done the same bit with the mobile and the PB using GPRS in Portugal, and indeed the costs were high although I have forgotten how much exactly, I do remember spending hundreds of € on mobile connections in Portugal in the past, and that was using a local GSM card for a couple of weeks.

  3. I guess i would recomend you to get an UMTS phone, that way, you wouldn’t probably be dependant of the card being compatible with your mac! ;)Hope everything is fine back in switzerland. I hope we can have a on your next visit to Portugal, is it a deal?

  4. Yes Pedro, the UMTS phone option may be the thing to do; it is just not urgent right now, and I will look into it when I am in Portugal since it is there that I need it the most.It sounds like a good idea to have a chat/coffee or whatever next time that I am there. We email about details later.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Dannie. I haven’t been back to Europe for a few years, but it’s good to know what I might expect. Better keep my old AT&T dial-up account going, in case of areas without wifi.

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