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Opinions about Boingo Wireless?

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I just finished traveling for the last few weeks in Germany, England, and Denmark. Before I left, I got a Boingo account so I could have internet service while I travel. I don't know if anyone else has ever tried Boingo Wireless, but here are my experiences and thoughts:

  • Boingo is absolutely worthless in Germany. I was in Berlin and Frankfurt a lot, and never found a single Boingo-compatible hotspot. Not one. But you can't swing a MacBook without hitting a Deutsche Telekom hotspot. So, if you're traveling to Germany, your best bet is to sign up with a T-Mobile wifi account. But Boingo -- nope.
  • Boingo was virtually worthless in the UK. I traveled in London, Exeter, Torquay, and Oxford. The only place I was able to use Boingo reliably was at Heathrow airport. Boingo advertises that it works with BT Openzone hotspots, but every time I tried to connect with the Bongo app, the hotspot either refused the connection, or the app said there was an error. The only time I was able to get Boingo to work anywhere in England was at BT Openzone hotspots at Starbucks. But if you have a Starbucks card, you already get free wifi at Starbucks, so the Boingo thing is pointless.
  • Never saw a single Boingo-compatible hotspot in Denmark. But I wasn't there very long.
  • In order for the Boingo app to tell you if there are Boingo hotspots nearby, you have to connect to another internet service. If I have another internet connection, then I don't need Boingo, do I? So in terms of being able to locate a hotspot, the Boingo app is worthless because it doesn't cache any data. There is no way to store a list or map of Bongo hotspots before going to another country, or even in your hotel in the morning.

I just looked at my account, and in four weeks or so of traveling, I was only able to connect to Boingo eight times, and three of those were at Starbucks. Here's my entire usage:

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I just got off the phone with Boingo to cancel my account. The woman said the reason I was able to connect so easily at Starbucks in London is because those used to be T-Openzone (Deutsche Telekom) hotspots. Well, that's great, but it doesn't help me when I can't connect to anything. She suggested that I should have called technical support when BT rejected the Boingo login attempts. I told her that I was on hold for 26 minutes just to get to her, and at $3.99/minute to use my cell phone abroad, I'm not going to spend a couple of hundred bucks in cell phone charges for Boingo to work out its problems.

In short - If you're traveling abroad, don't buy a mobile internet plan in advance. See what options are available once you get where you're going, and buy there. Don't assume that because a wifi provider claims to have thousands of hotspots that they'll work or honor your login credentials.

One thing I did find occasionally useful was Skype wifi. This is an app that lets you roam on paid wifi hotspots and takes the money out of your Skype account. I used this a couple of times, and it worked pretty well. The availability was spotty, but still better than Boingo. More importantly, you're able to see a list of what companies you can roam with in a particular country before you connect. Boingo's app has no such facility.

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