Roaming service is the ability to get access to the Internet when away from home at the price of a local call or at a charge considerably less than the regular long-distance charges. For example, if you normally get access to the Internet from an access provider in Brooklyn, New York and are travelling to Hong Kong, you can call a designated access provider in Hong Kong. Instead of paying long distance charges to your local provider in Brooklyn, you pay the local phone connection charge in Hong Kong and possibly a modest additional charge for the service.
Roaming service is made possible through Internet service providers (ISPs) who have cooperative agreements to grant each others' customers local access to the Internet. Special software allows cooperating ISPs to keep track of and calculate prearranged payments for usage differences. Here's how it works for the user:
- The Internet user must already subscribe to an ISP that offers roaming service arrangements.
- Assuming the ISP does, the user can determine a cooperating ISP in a city to which the user is travelling.
- In the travel location, the user can call the local ISP's designated phone number through the computer modem, entering information during login that will identify the user's home ISP.
- The "foreign" ISP will contact the ISP and determine that the user is a valid user.
- The "foreign" ISP will grant the user access to the Internet. The user will be able to access e-mail from the home mail server.
- The user will be charged at local phone rates. In addition, depending on the particular service arrangement, the home ISP may levy an additional hourly usage charge of several dollars an hour or a monthly charge in case the service is used during that month.
If you are travelling and simply need to be able to exchange e-mail, you can consider getting a freemail membership (usually free) from HotMail, Rocketmail, or other freemail providers. Hotmail also offers POP3 server accounts for access to up to four e-mail accounts you may already have, assuming you remember the POP3 server name and your user IDs and passwords.
If you subscribe to a somewhat global service such as AT&T's WorldNet or the IBM Global Network, you may already be able to access your account in certain cities through your provider's local point-of-presence (POP) on the Internet without having to pay for a long-distance call.