Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unplugged on the road

No internet connection by spentrails, on FlickrI travel a lot in my work and am privileged to have a job that allows me to visit so many fascinating places and meet so many people. However one aspect of being on the road really irritates me and that is connectivity. I've got all the devices you need to be able to work anywhere but for various reasons they aren't always able to deliver what they promise. Allow me to write a few paragraphs of general moaning.

First there is the problem of mobile coverage on trains. Train travel is excellent since it should allow you to work as you travel. The trouble is that, at least here in Sweden, the mobile networks don't follow the railway tracks and coverage is patchy and on many sections non-existant. Phone calls need to be made during stops at stations and as for accessing the net, you're really in trouble. Of course you can do a lot of work off line but I try to do most work on the net and am rather reliant on coverage. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that the mobile operators try to focus on providing coverage for rail passengers now that roads are well served.

Second is the problem of mobile data roaming costs. In Sweden I've got flat rate unlimited net access on my computer and mobile but as soon as I cross the border to, say, Copenhagen the cost rockets. The result is that I switch off virtually all connectivity as soon as I leave the country since the cost of simply checking e-mail can be steep. The only hope while abroad is to find free wifi and check everything then. I can't believe that the costs of mobile data rises tenfold just because I cross a national border but I suspect that the reason for the prohibitive roaming fees are to avoid the home networks being swamped. If we all had flat rate for all data access the bandwidth demand could outstrip capacity. If that's the reason please explain it to us all. If not I hope the EU and national authorities can find some way of pressing prices to acceptable levels. Then we would not have to find so many strange work-arounds like buying local pay-as-you-go SIM-cards just for a few days' visit and so on.

Thirdly, once you get to the conference centre and log on to the wifi and think all is well you look around for the nearest power socket. These generally seem to be very scarce and the few that exist have a flock of laptop users around them trying to share the same watering hole. Many times I've got all the cool technology but the batteries are dead and it's back to pencil and paper. Not alway a bad thing but conference centres need to address the power socket problem as soon as possible.

All the technology is in place to be able to work anywhere but there are still a few snags to work on. It shouldn't be so difficult to fix.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
by  spentrails 

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