Cost-effective Internet connection abroad

For business people traveling abroad, an important consideration is how to obtain cost-effective Internet connection. Up to now data connections built abroad were very expensive. However, with a bit of technical skill and understanding, this problem is relatively easy to solve.  IT Services offers various services and a user-friendly step-by-step guide to provide its customers with a way out of this expensive pitfall. Regardless of the device you are using, there are two stages that must be observed.


Below is a brief “how-to-guide”. The detailed guide “Internet Abroad” can be found on the ITS website.

Use Wi-Fi (WLAN)

Try in every case to build a Wi-Fi connection (WLAN). The latter is often free or very cheap:

  1. Hotels: Ensure that hotel bookings include free Wi-Fi.
  2. Restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies, airports: whenever possible use the free Wi-Fi.
  3. Request guest account at participating universities / colleges
  4. Use world-wide eduroam service
  5. Use the hotspot feature on your local colleague’s device (tethering). The mobile phone thus assumes the role of a modem.
  6. For employees and professors at ETH: use iPass Wi-Fi roaming service (costs money!)

Use local mobile network

This possibility should only be used if you travel very often or you will be staying abroad for a longer period. Here too, there are several cost-effective possibilities:

  1. Longer stays (from 3 weeks): Purchase a prepaid SIM card from a local provider in combination with a mobile phone, or even as a hotspot transmitter. These are available with limited volume respectively for a limited time. For other devices, use option 5 above (tethering). The phone takes on the role of a modem for your other devices.
  2. Shorter stays: Purchase a data packet on the “cockpit” from our ETH CMN carrier Swisscom (you want to transfer data only in the context of data packets). This can only be purchased from abroad. Access to the cockpit itself is free. “Cockpit” is an Internet site, where the customer can define settings.
  3. Repeated stays: Select an appropriate subscription version with flat rates or permanent data option. The IT Services is happy to help you navigate your way.
  4. For emergencies or one-time, short connections, turn on roaming on your device (necessary as well for options 2 and 3).
  • iPhone: “Settings” > “General” > “Network” “Data Roaming”
  • Android (HTC): “Settings” > “Wireless & networks” > “Mobile networks” > “Data Roaming”

More ways to save when telephoning

  1. Turn off your voicemail: Redirected calls in the voice mailbox are charged three times: for the connection to a foreign country, for redirecting to voicemail and for listening to voicemail
  2. Send text messages instead of calling
  3. Use public pay phones or ask to be called back in your hotel room.


The term “roaming” originates from the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard used by mobile phones, which is the de facto global standard for mobile communications.  In wireless telecommunications, Traditional Roaming is a general term referring to the ability for a cellular customer to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services, including home data services, when travelling outside the geographical coverage area of the home network, by means of using a visited network. For example; should you travel beyond your cell phone company’s transmitter range, your cell phone would automatically hop onto another phone company’s service, if available. Using another phone company’s service can be done by using the subscriber identity in the visited network. Roaming is technically supported by mobility management, authentication, authorization and accounting billing procedures (Wikipedia).

VPN: Connection to the ETH network

If you need a dedicated connection to the internal ETH network use VPN. VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. The VPN client is a software that allows an encrypted, secure and authenticated connection from remote locations to the ETH network.

The IT Services is happy to help you in any way.

ITS Service Desk

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