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.