Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mobile in Morocco

View of the Mediterranean from my flat in Tangiers

I'm investing in an apartment in Tangiers, 100 m from the beach and in a prime position overlooking McD's. Look to the right out of the window and you will see not only the new train station but also the site where Tanger City Center will rise.

I'm excited about Tanger City Center. My experience of both Muscat and Dubai City Centers is that these developments are nice places to shop, with lots of outlets, including Carrefour. They attract lots of footfall.

I hope it will also offer free wifi connections where I can go and sip coffee and check my mail and Google Reader, whether on my new Android phone, yes, I bought one, or my netbook.

Although I will have net connection in my flat across the road.

I'm very happy with my new HTC Desire, albeit I have to put up with 3mobile in the UK, but it's a 30 day contract, so I could, theoretically, switch to a new provider at any time.

Don't you just feel for the guys in the States who are locked into service providers with the iPhone? Their gain is that iPhones and Android phones are so much more ridiculously cheap there than in UK. Undoubtedly because it's a bigger market.

I still haven't actually found out if an HTC Desire bought in UK would work in the States with a US provider. When I visited Florida in 2006, I had to buy a different phone for my US sim because, as they would, the Americans use a different transmission protocol. CDMA/EVDO instead of UMTS/HSPA.

So what about mobile net surfing in Morocco? Phone charges are high from your provider and extortionate for data transfer. 3mobile would have charged £5.50 per Mb for data roaming.

The solution is to buy a local sim for your phone and a USB Internet modem for your laptop. Foreigners can buy on showing their passports.

Both Maroc Telecom and Méditel offer a European compatible modem at £22 ($33) with one month's unlimited Internet. I chose Maroc Telecom because that was the nearest shop when I was looking. There are outlets all over Tangiers. The 3G signal was great in Tangiers and also halfway up a hill around 30km to the west. But the signal dips when you're in the valleys. This is also a problem with a plain old ordinary sim in your phone. For one night, I was connected continuously to Movistar of Spain. I suspect that Maroc Telecom may have a more comprehensive network than Méditel. In both cases, connections are likely to be more erratic in rural areas.

The newly rebranded company INWI (formerly WANA) does not offer internet data sim-only deals, because its phones and modems use the American CDMA/EVDO protocol and won't work on European networks. In May, INWI was charging around $57 for a Huawei USB modem including one month of free Internet access.

Only Maroc Telecom offers a 3G prepay Sim card (Menara) to enable your mobile for the web. Read this extremely informative article about where to buy and how to set it up.

It's an internet only service, so you need a Jawal sim in another phone to be able to use voice services. Complicated, I know. But in country charges are reasonable, you can top up, and if are going to be visiting regularly, as I intend, then you can keep the number going.

Just one thing, iPhone is not officially supported in Morocco at the time that I write. I shared tweets with a young Moroccan lady who commutes between Casablanca and Florida. She sold her iPhone to her cousin and let him get on with unlocking it to insert a Moroccan sim.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Buzzed off with control freak business

In my previous post, I conjectured that my 3mobile mi-fi might be able to provide a wifi signal for an iPad, should I buy one.

Not so! Cunning Mr Jobs has put the dampers on that one. First thing I saw on my twitter list this morning was a link to a headline: Jobs: iPad can't tether to iPhone.

And if it can't tether to an iPhone, it can hardly be expected to work with a 3mobile connection - I guess.

As Mr Jobs explained so glibly, Apple are producing the 3G version of the iPad to provide constant net access, so there won't be a need for tethering.

That's another idea fallen by the wayside.

Did you see that headline earlier this week saying that big business in America thinks that open source should be banned, because, presumably, it's unbusinesslike and offers unfair competition. That includes such staples as Apache web server software, MySQL database software, Linux operating system etc

At least SourceForge reversed its earlier unpopular decision to block downloads of open source software to users in countries on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list, which includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. There's quite a few in these countries who are glad to be able to get hold of software which enables them to participate in the global community, despite their governments' best endeavours.

Should we actually be grateful to American and other multi-millionaires for creating an infrastructure that increases wealth and money supply? It certainly isn't because they're providing goods and services at a fair price if they're blocking potential demand and access to information.

Oh yes. Buzz. I'm still using it but am SO frustrated at the confusing lists of comments, most of which are dross. This means that I am not following a load of people who are following me, because there's just too much to scan and read. It puzzles me that Google doesn't reverse the policy and let users choose whether they want to see comments rather than displaying them by default. And how about putting tick boxes by posts so that you can mute all those you don't want to see any more in one fell swoop?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mobile broadband blues

I was so excited about my iPodtouch. Then increasingly I realised that its value was compromised because I could hardly ever find a venue with free wi-fi connection that would make it work as a web connected tool.

The BTFon network proved to be totally useless because it didn't recognise my username and password. I can't say that FON went out of its way to explain clearly whether you need a different username and password for BTFon than when you sign up to a FON network.

So I have this iPodTouch, which I want to use for checking email on the move, sometimes, because most of the email that I get is totally non-essential. And I want to be able to check my calendar and contacts which of course are up in the Google cloud somewhere. Occasionally, I might check BBC news. It's an interesting revelation that the majority of websites do not have a mobile version, including 3mobile, but the BBC does.

That's one of my objectives for this year, to build a mobile version of my website.

Paying horrendous monthly fees for telecoms costs is anathema to me. I'm a great user of email and the landline rather than mobiles. Why? Writing comes more naturally to me and use of my landline within UK is free, other than the rental.

Not even the offer of a free, or reduced cost all-singing, all-dancing do-it-all mobile phone is tempting.

I've only moved over to one of the cheaper Virgin Mobile contracts within the last six months, and I still don't use all the minutes, let alone the texts. I much prefer the option that I had in Oman. Buy the phone and pay just for what you use.

I once had a stand-up row with the manager of the local Orange shop, telling him that mobile phone contracts were a rake-off for the companies. He laughed and said that people preferred it that way. Phooey. They were just not given any other option at the time. He even brought the shutter of the shop down on my head as I was leaving.

And then there's the mobile broadband issue. I'd been an early adopter of the 3mobile broadband plan meaning that I had paid £15 monthly for the privilege only to discover that I couldn't get reception in the places that I most needed to use it. I rang 3mobile to say I didn't want to renew at the end of the contract. A very nice Scottish gentleman made me an offer I didn't think I could refuse, monthly broadband at half the price with a new dongle. It seemed fair enough.

Until I found myself on holiday up in the Yorkshire Dales last November without any 3mobile connection at all. But my Orange phone had a fairly good signal. Which gave me an idea. Since mid-year, I had been holding on to a brochure advertising Orange mobile broadband for £4.89 a month, only for 500kb, but that was enough for what I wanted. I took the Settle-Carlisle railway line one rainy day, because walking in the Dales was out of the question. Lo and behold, just around the corner from Carlisle station, I found the Orange mobile shop. I signed up and got my dongle. And it worked. In places 3 can't reach.

So if you've been following me so far, you will have worked out that I now have two mobile broadband contracts.

And then I saw the 3mobile mi-fi advertised. What's that? It's a little device that generates a wi-fi signal from a 3G connection. You can link it to up to five devices.

Well, I didn't want the contract offering an iPodTouch at £23 a month, because I already have an iPodTouch.

The no-strings Mi-fi on Pay-as-you-Go seemed a good option. Reader, I bought one.

Oh dear me. PAYG? It's a joke. You have to pay £10 a month to use it. It comes in the small print as an Add-On, which of course I had overlooked. You might think that sounds reasonable, but I can tell you now that I wouldn't get the use out of it.

Two protracted phone calls to 3mobile in a bid to try and return the thing failed totally. How is it that people simply cannot refer you to the right department??!!

I have to say, that I am enchanted that the mi-fi actually works. I was going to use it for as long as I could before the data allowance ran out and then forget about it.

However, the man Jobs, and you really should take a glimpse at the cover of The Economist for this week 30th Jan 2010 which bears the inscription, The Book of Jobs, has just launched the iPad.

Thinks. There will be a wi-fi version and a 3G version. If I have a mi-fi, would I need the 3G version.

Crucial question of all, will the mobile phone companies lock down the iPad to a contract. I do hope not.

No, I haven't mentioned Google's Nexus phone. Not in UK yet and it will be tied to a contract.