Tag Archives: mobile

Silicon Valley without the Silicon Connection

It’s ironic really. I’m in what could be considered one of the birth places of the modern Internet and yet I can’t get Internet access. As soon as I stepped off the plane, the data on my phone stopped working and it effectively became a dead weight in my pocket.

I’m in Silicon Valley on a work trip. The birth place of many of the Internet brands and names which we all know today. My hotel is a stones throw away from McAffee and Intel, with Google, Apple, and AMD just short drive.

Sure my hotel has WiFi and when I’m in the office the company has WiFi, but as soon as I step outside of these islands of connectivity I’m cut off from the internet and instantly geographically displaced. I’m pretty much lost. I find myself uncertain of my location and not entirely sure where I’m heading.

I learnt to map read when I was ten, I know I can do it. The problem is I don’t actually have a map. I don’t carry one anymore. I’ve come to rely on my mobile device to have the map for me, and when it doesn’t. I feel a bit like a floundering fish. This I can overcome, with some scribbled notes and a constant chanting of directions. “Out turn left, third on the right” (repeat).

But what really irks, what stings, is being instantly cut off from family and friends. Most of my communication now happens over a data connection. From Viber and WhatsApp (I’ve both) to Skype messages, email, Twitter, FaceBook and FaceTime – it all goes via data. When the data stops it goes silent very quickly. I’m instantly on my own.

Running the numbers
I’ve started looking at ways to solve this problem, to obtain mobile internet. At home my typical mobile data usage is roughly 4 gigbytes a month, I use it alot – from podcast and streaming using to video calls. I’m in the US for roughly 3 weeks which translates to roughly 3 gigabytes of data or 3072 megabytes.

Turing on my data here in the US isn’t an option. While travelling in the US it costs me €5.08 or $6.67(USD) a megabyte. Turning that into real money – that’s €15,605.76 or $20,490.24 (USD) for my normal data usage! – My eyes watered just writing that.

So what are the options?
My mobile phone is locked to my Irish carrier (3 Ireland), so I can’t swap the sim-card. But what would work would be a mobile wifi hotspot or MiFi as they are known.

One of the best options around at the moment is FreedomPop. It’s a 4g WiFi converter (MiFi) which you can carry with you. It’ll provide a WiFi access which would allow me to connect my mobile device to it. More importantly they provide 3 gigbytes of data as free for the first month when you sign up. It sounds ideal.

I’d love to borrow one for the time I’m here. I’d even pay for the rental of it and return it at the end of the trip. There were be little point in taking it back to Ireland – I couldn’t use it, and to top it all off I only stumbled across FreedomPop on my last week here.

‘Feel This’ Barcelona #mwc

After the flight from Dublin my dash to the local bathroom in Barcelona resulted in a few chuckles at what I thought was Spanglish. The handle on the inside of the door was adorned with the words ‘feel this’ yes I must admit I did giggle and I even shared an image on twitter. By the end of my two days at Mobile World Congress, ‘feel this’ may have been one of the most poignant messages I took away.

Mobile World Congress is big and from what I overheard its getting bigger – a number of attendees where starting to compare it to CES and CEBIT.

I enjoyed Mobile World Congress, working in the industry it’s a fantastic chance to meet with your peers from across the mobile landscape – its amazing how useful a chance encounter over lunch or a random chat in the hall can be. It’s also the place where companies do deals and impress potential customers, there are some fantastic stands costing multiple 10s of thousands of Euros and an accompanying small army of construction workers to put them up and take them down. Then of course there are the lavash parties and shows including a light show visible across a wide area of Barcelona when the Fira Espanya was lit up with coloured spot lights and accompanying sound track.

This deliberate show boating and visible opulence contrasts with the economic reality currently facing parts of the EU including Spain.

Like any large city the volume of people passing through the public transport system means that it often becomes the home to beggars and this was true in Barcelona. From a wailing beggar woman to the energetic young rappers trying to make a penny every trip I took I was met with someone trying to make money. This shouldn’t be surprising in a country where unemployment is running at 22%.

I only had the chance to attend 2 days of the show, however at the end of both days their were protests outside of the venue.

On Tuesday the protests where smaller but focused on the raw deal the local bank is giving to pensioners – preventing them from withdrawing their savings.

On Wednesday evening this resulted in the areas of MWC nearest the protest being closed off and the local metro station being shut, with riot police posted outside the main entrance. Luckily [what I saw of] the protest remained peaceful.

It was possible to see that the whole city was trying to convey a message – ‘feel this’, this is hard, this is difficult. It’s a sobering thought especially when you realise that even those of us luckily enough to have employment could be an excel sheet away from the unemployment line.

Feel this indeed Barcelona… Let’s hope that by this time next year the European and indeed the global economy will have improved.