Reflections on mobile stuff in Amsterdam

Originally posted on The Really Mobile Project.
Last week I spent a few days at the BSS Summit in Amsterdam and just wanted to share some thoughts on the ‘roaming experience’.
The Vodafone Passport promotion whereby calls and SMS come out of your regular price plan bundle is excellent.  For the first time you can use your mobile abroad just as you would in the UK without giving any thought to a nasty bill racking up in the background. It’s worth just signing up for a Vodafone SIM for the Summer if you’re going to be travelling where Vodafone has a partner network.
I made a lot of use of WiFi, both in my hotel and at the conference venue, however yet again the user experience was marred by the challenges of using WiFi. When WiFi works, it’s fast and cheap (cheap compared to 3G roaming), however getting connected can be a real issue. Coverage at both locations was via Swisscom and using the iPass trial on my Nokia E63 I was able to make calls via Truphone and browse the web (including Twitter, of course) … some of the time. On some occasions the handset connected instantly but at other times I got a variety of connection errors. The conference venue seemed to be better than the hotel, despite both being Swisscom – why? I also experienced variable connectivity using Swisscom on my laptop so don’t believe iPass was to blame here. I think what it shows is that however comprehensive WiFi roaming coverage is; you never know what state the local network or local hotspot is in. One neat feature with iPass is the ability to enable or disable fallback to 3G, so when roaming disabling 3G is a must to avoid nasty surprises back home. Long calls via Truphone and iPass were a very satisfying experience knowing there were no big bills at the end of it!
I’ve used a number of WiFi services and good as they are, they only deliver a part of the wireless connectivity jigsaw. Wireless connectivity must be a transparent user experience; users should not need to make choices based on price and coverage, the technology should do that. Yesterday I had a chat with the guys at Agito Networks who are doing some clever stuff in this area and I’ll be blogging about them shortly.

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