Wednesday, 5 January 2011

London calling - but no data

I am writing this post as a first warm up post for the coming Learning Technologies 2011 Conference in London later this month. I am really looking forward to this and will blog before, during and after the conference. In this first post I am frustrated over how ridiculous charges limit my ability to use available technology when going overseas.

In my pocket I have the most wonderful tool, that just a few years ago was an impossibility. This little thing gives me instant access to all the knowledge in the world, all the latest sports results, all the music I could ever dream about, maps, games, you name it... I am of course talking about my beloved HTC Hero Android cellphone.


In three weeks time I am heading overseas to London to participate in the Learning Technologies Exhibition. And just think about the amazing possiblities my Hero will bring me. I will be able to navigate with the help of Google Maps, I can check opening hours for shops, bars and pubs. I can use augmented reality applications to get more information on the things I see. I can book tickets to transportation, theaters and concerts. When I go into a store I can scan the bar code of things I want to buy and get information on the best prize in Sweden for the article and make a decision on whether to buy it in London or wait until I come home. And while strolling around the streets of London I can listen to my favorite British artists streamed directly from Spotify. I don't need a tourist map, guide book, calculator to convert British Pounds to Swedish Crowns- And if I get home sick I can ask my wife to take some pictures of my two kids and dump them in my Dropbox folder that I can access from my phone.

Doesn't it sound great?

But there is a problem...

The ridiculous cost for data traffic when visiting another country. It's incredibly expensive to use the phone for anything but calling. EU has regulations on roaming costs but that is only for calls and text messages. I just don't understand how data traffic can be so extremely expensive. I am charged 32 SEK per MB (that is about 5 USD, or 3.6 EUR or 3GBP. And yes that is for 1 MB. Just think what this would mean if I were to use my phone in the way I described above. I would be ruined.

Let's say I decide to listen to the classic album London Calling by The Clash for half an hour. Spotify consumes about 1.24 MB/minute which means that half an hour consumes 37.2 MB. That would cost me 1190 SEK (that is 176 USD, 134 EUR or 113 GBP) This is simply insane. London Calling is a fantastic album but it's not worth paying 1190 SEK to listen to 30 minutes of it.

The fact is my mobile service provider has realized how extremely expensive it is and have put a roof on how much data I can use when being abroad to avoid me ruining myself. Because it's not just that it is expensive, it's almost impossible to keep track of how much data I have consumed.

I can't understand why the EU doesn't act on this. I mean the politicians working in the EU must have the exact same problem when travelling from their home countries to Brussels.

All of a sudden my fantastic tool has turned into a piece of plastic that I can't use for anything valuable (I can't even play a game of Angry Birds since it will fetch commercial and that I definitely do not want to pay for).

About a month ago Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator) wrote a blog post on the same topic. In a response tweet to that blog I wrote that "my phone wants to be connected", but the fact is that it actually demands to be connected. It can be quite tricky to turn off all the data traffic, it might even be that you have to download an app to do this.

So if you are in London and you happen to see a tall skinny guy desperately walking around with an HTC Hero in his hand shaking his head it's just me trying to find a free wifi-hotspot to be able to at least check my mail.

Thanks for reading about my frustration,
Mattias

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