16 July 2009

Scenes From A Consultant’s Toolbox – Part 2

I have been playing with mobile data. What a frustrating experience. Commercial models get into the way of the technology. But increasingly it is the way of the future. We are seeing (FINALLY) some real time 3G based services. But don’t buy the hype and be careful in what you buy.

Let me give you some examples. My Crackberry account in the USA is with AT&T. I can have an 3G mobile internet data package and I can have tethering – just not both!!!! How stupid is that!!!! I know a lot of US frustrated iPhone users who are really ticked off at the way the iPhone is locked out of some features and services by AT&T’s hobbled network and commercial practices. Hence my nickname for it – the CryPhone.

Yet the iPhone has tethering capability in the UK with the iPhone licensee O2. You just cannot tether with any other device on O2’s network. Instead you have to buy a dongle (on sale this month for 15 pounds on a pay as you go plan. Now I don’t know about you but typically my PC usage is about 1GB of transmission activity per day (there are several free tools you can use to track the throughput on your PC). So using metered activity is a pain in the rear. However O2 has an interesting set of plans – 500MB costs just 2 pounds per day. So think about this if you are travelling to the UK.

One of the best tethering devices is my other phone (my contract is with O2 in the UK but the phone is unlocked so I can use it with other sim cards). My phone is the excellent SonyEricsson C902. I have the stylish James Bond version – it also comes in basic black and red. As a tethering device it is in my humble opinion far superior to Nokia’s products. However I haven’t tried the new N97 yet. In Australia I bought a Sim and was very happy with the performance. Too bad that it cost me about 1 dollar per MB. So it could have easily cost me 500 dollars a day for my regular usage. Bah Humbug. However that’s better than O2’s roaming rates for mobile data in Europe which is 3 pounds per MB.

So here are some advice points for you if you travel and want international mobile data.

The best plans on the planet are the mobile email plans from T Mobile (USA) and AT&T. Your Blackberry unlimited email including attachments is only 50 dollars worldwide unlimited. Just don’t use voice or surfing.

For mobile data – always look to the number 2 carrier in each market they tend to be cheaper. However some times their plans are a little screwy. For example Optus in Oz has a really bad set of plans. In the UK O2 is better but costs still quite a lot. Consider the purchase of a dongle package. One benefit is that frequently they provide free access to a local Wifi network. For example in the UK the O2 program gives you access to the Cloud Network.

In the USA look at Boingo for a good service with wifi hotspots. Skype zones had a lot of promise but it has become yet another Skype failed initiative.

One thing I really want to try is the Samsung dual sim card phone. Currently a first generation effort – I would really like to see an advanced product. I am still waiting.


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