Travel tech tip: buy WiFi access by the minute using Skype

By danwarne, August 24 2011
Travel tech tip: buy WiFi access by the minute using Skype

Travellers can buy access to over a million Wi-Fi hotspots on a per-minute basis, rather than having to buy in hourly or daily blocks.

Skype is marketing the service as "Skype Wi-Fi" (previously known as "Skype Access".)

The rates range from 4c per minute to 14c depending on the operator of the Wi-Fi hotspot, but it is deducted from your existing Skype credit, so you don't have to enter credit card details into each hotspot.

Obviously, at that price, it's most suited to bursts of short use, as the per-minute rates quickly add up for longer blocks of time, and it's likely hotspot operators will offer a better deal for several hour or daily blocks of time.

But, at the same time, for travellers who are moving from location to location a lot, Skype Wi-Fi could save a lot of money -- having to buy blocks of time directly from multiple hotspot operators can really add up over the course of a trip.

How to get connected

On laptops, you can use the latest version of Skype to connect to a Skype Wi-Fi hotspot.

There's also a special helper app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that connects to Skype Wi-Fi hotspots.

Currently, the Skype Wi-Fi app doesn't tell you where the nearest hotspot to your current location is, so it may be useful to download the JiWire app (iPhone / Android) as well, which can tell you your nearest hotspot, even if your phone doesn't have an internet connection.

You'll still need to figure out which of the hotspots listed in JiWire are included in Skype Wi-Fi access, though.

Coverage

You can check coverage in any country by going to the Skype Wi-Fi page and typing the name of the country into the search box near the end of the page. The results will tell you the names of the Wi-Fi network companies Skype has partnered with.

Although Skype Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the world's biggest hotspot network -- Fon -- with over four million hotspots, it doesn't give you access to many operated by large telcos that are often the only ones available in important locations like airports.

For example, in Australia, the only hotspot operators supported are Fon, iBahn, Tomizone and the mysteriously named "WLAN". Optus or Telstra, who dominate Australian airports' airwaves, haven't opened the kimono.

In USA, the list of hotspots is equally arcane, with the most recognisable name being "Best Western". There's no mention of T-Mobile or AT&T, the two big telcos that will almost always pop up in your Wi-Fi list while you're in an airport lounge or city street.

Coverage in the UK is a bit better, with BT Openzone hotspots included (but they were already available by the minute, which probably explains why they're available through Skype Wi-Fi as well.)

In Singapore, no major telcos' hotspots are included (though that's not a huge issue, as incoming travellers get free access to Starhub hotspots if they set their mobile to use Starhub for roaming.

In Hong Kong, Skype Wi-Fi does include PCCW hotspots, operated by one of the big telcos there.

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 20

I am in Singapore at the moment and the StarHub connection you mention above doesnt appear to work. I have tried call the StarHub helpline a couple of times but they dont seem to be aware of this service, even though the web link is still live.


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