Staying Connected on the road

I arrived home from Africa yesterday after an extended voyage courtesy of the volcano in Iceland. Fortunately, we only had a 40 minute delay on the ground in Heathrow and an extra hour to fly around the ash cloud. When we left airports in Northern England were already down and Heathrow followed a few hours after we left. Definitely one good reason to have the internet while traveling – confirming your flights and itinerary are still valid.

For those of you who travel a lot, and want to avoid the exorbitant fees for international calling or data rate plans with a 4G card, we tend to rely on the internet connection of the hotel in which we are staying and this can vary significantly in both quality and price. Geography is not necessarily the deciding factor, nor is the price of the hotel room.

Unfortunately, while in Johannesburg, the relatively new hotel we stayed in used “AlwaysOn” as their ISP. My experience was more like “RarelyOn” at least in my room. I had to go into the lobby to get a connection that worked. When I used the same service elsewhere in the country I had no problems and it worked better by the end of the week. Certainly made me appreciate when everything does work right.

What is interesting however, is that many of us can remember when dial-up at 28 kbaud was the norm and you paid for roaming fees to a global provider such as AT&T. Today if it is not at least 802.11b we are p**d. Of course, it should be free as well. My experience is that the more you are paying for the room, the more likely the chances that you will also pay for Internet connection – I suppose they assume you are on expense account so not out of your pocket. Same hotel chain, but in a lower tier, everything is free including breakfast and maybe even an evening reception with a suite room to spread out.

I know I depend on having a connection when I travel – even if it is only to do e-mail at night. Scary part is that less than 15 years ago road connections were a luxury. Bet you that 15 years from now we will expect all our wireless in our plant to ‘just work’ all the time as well.