Mobile Computing Shines in Trinidad

A trip to "the Island of Spice" leaves Jim feeling positively zesty about wireless connectivity outside the U.S. While more Wi-Fi service would be nice, GSM and GPRS seem

March 31, 2005

3 Min Read
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For this expedition, I went armed with a laptop equipped with Wi-Fi anda BlackBerry 7230. As with all my travels, I needed to keep up with mybusiness and family as well as communicate with people in the localarea.

While on the plane heading down there, it would have been nice to haveInternet access onboard the relatively long flight. I believe that thiswill eventually come to all airlines, however. In fact, Germany'sLufthansa airline recently expanded its service on internationalflights. Other airlines are beginning to follow with similar service.

Similar to my experiences in other overseas places, there were no dataports on the phones at my hotel. Internet cafes were available in thesemi-local area, but they were difficult to reach because of the needfor a taxi and the very heavy traffic in the local area. A citywideWi-Fi service would have come in handy to interface my laptop with theInternet.

In the United States, many cities are deploying metropolitan area Wi-Finetworks. In fact, Chicago recently threw its name into the hat. InTrinidad, around the Port of Spain and its surrounding towns, a nearbymountain range is a perfect vantage point for illuminating much of thearea, which consists primarily of single-story buildings, with Wi-Fiservice. But I'm not sure if that will ever happen.To my great surprise, GSM and GPRS coverage in the populated areas ofTrinidad is very good. Even though T-Mobile reported coverage in thoseareas, I still had doubts that it would be usable. I was pleasantlysurprised to have consistently stronger signals in Trinidad than I do inmy home area of Dayton, Ohio.

This allowed the convenient use of my BlackBerry device to send andreceive e-mails, and I had no problems keeping up with business e-mails.I also chatted with my wife and kids back home by sending instantmessages to their phones throughout the day. It's a really nice way tosoften the hardships of being away from family when traveling onbusiness. This is something that doesn't get much press, but it'sextremely beneficial.

One problem I ran into was the difficulty of sending documents viae-mail. A link between my smartphone and laptop, possibly Bluetooth,would have been nice to solve this issue. Unfortunately, I wasn'tequipped for that. I noticed that some of my students were using GPRScards for sending and receiving e-mail directly from their laptops,though. I'm now thinking of investing in one of those to make travelingeasier.

Because of roaming charges ($3 per minute), my cell phone was veryexpensive to use. I'm glad I checked the price before leaving home;otherwise, I would have had a big surprise on my next phone bill. Inaddition, my phone wouldn't ring when other people called me, so I foundit basically useless, except when I needed to reach someone urgently.This situation certainly provides a good basis for using VOIP to maketelephone calls to reduce costs and improve usability.

When leaving Trinidad, in the departure gates of the internationalterminal at the airport, I saw a large banner advertising Wi-Fi servicein the gate area. For me, that was a nice touch after spending time in arelatively remote place. I could finally synchronize e-mails on mylaptop and send some large documents.In the future, places like Trinidad may eventually have Wi-Fi in morepublic places. For now, though, GSM and GPRS seem to be doing a good jobof enabling effective mobile computing.

Jim Geier is the principal of Wireless-Nets Ltd., a consulting firm assisting companies with the implementation of wireless mobile solutions and training. Read more analysis from Jim on his Wireless LAN Blog. Contact him at [email protected].

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