I’ve just returned from a 3-1/2 month trip, mostly holiday with my wife Kate and 11 year old son Dan, in which we visited Hong Kong, Vietnam, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, and the USA, generally avoiding big cities. Naturally, it was important to stay well-connected every place we went, so we employed a combination of mobile broadband through local telco and wifi in the accommodation we stayed at, mostly AirBNB.
In Hong Kong, CSL provided excellent mobile broadband, but the various accommodations I used had pretty terrible wifi.
Vietnam’s Viettel also provided generally great mobile broadband, and accommodations actually provided wifi that was surprisingly good.
In Europe, we used Orange Spain as they had a deal where for they charged EUR 1 per 100MB of data. Problem was, for some reason, in parts of northern Italy they seemed to charge a lot more than that – without any real reporting. Access and speeds in France and Spain were OK but not great, and wifi in private residences was uniformly terrible.
The USA was particularly disappointing. I travel to the USA a lot, and use a T-Mobile sim card. They recently prohibited tethering which made things difficult, and at USD 3 per day (a plan which has been discontinued), it isn’t exactly cheap. Furthermore, T-Mobile’s coverage is patchy and even in urban areas when you can get coverage, I couldn’t ever get download speeds greater than 1Mb/s as measured by Speedtest. Wifi was also pretty average at best, with the odd exception of an AirBNB we stayed at in Idyllwild, California, in the mountains, a long way from anywhere.
Back in New Zealand, using either Spark or Vodafone, tethering is allowed, speeds are regularly above 50Mb/s using 4G networks that are widely available, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Wifi in peoples’ homes is generally good, and I really missed my cable broadband where again download speeds are reliably 50Mb/s.
Who would have picked Vietnam as a star performer, and Europe and the USA as letdowns?
OK, these measurements provide an anecdotal picture at best. I know that:
- Speedtest is not a reliable measure of speed
- We were staying mainly in rural areas
- NZ’s domestic network is super fast for cached and local content, but we’re still 150+ ms from anywhere in the world other than Australia
But still… I regularly hear Kiwi individuals and institutions whinge about how our Internet is both slow and expensive. That may have been true a few years ago, but things have really improved a lot recently. Anecdotally, that’s great for Kiwi individuals, businesses, and the economy.