Saturday, October 29, 2005

Internet Connectivity on the West Coast - in Europe 

Two weeks ago I ranted about Internet Broadband Access in The Hague. This week I was in Brussels and was again severly handicapped. I was participating in a conference taking place in the Hotel Le Plaza in the center of Brussels. Le Plaza is quite a nice five star luxory hotel, but with no highspeed internet access in the rooms, but at least they have TV. And the food is excellent. So I was depending again on GSM roaming, reducing my internet connectivity to emergency email checking because of the charges involved.

I already complained here about the shaky Vodafone Mobile Connect SW. This time I detected another problem. My settings for connections are "UMTS preferred". This means that if an UMTS connection is available, it should connect to UMTS. In Brussels it connected to a GPRS network (BASE), which was very, very slow (appox. 1200 b/sec). Since my mobile phone was also conencted to BASE I thought this is the only network available. But suddenly my mobile phone changed over to Proximus and showed 3G/UMTS. So I finally looked up the available networks and found 5 networks, two of them UMTS. If they are unable to comply, why do they ask. This was the same with SkypeZones: if it detected a new network, it always provided a checkbox: do you want to connect automatically the next time? It was useless to click on this box, because it was simply ignored.

Vodafone Mobile Connect has another annoying feature. If you insert the card, it asks for the PIN code to be entered. This is ok. But if you enter the PIN code immediately, another window pops up telling you that no network is available und you type the last digits into limbo. You have to click on the window again and start over. This is nothing really serious, but since it happens every time, it is very annoying.

To finish my rant: connectivity on Brussels airport. Some time ago they had a Swisscom hotspot nobody seemed to use because of prohibitive prices. Now they finally have at least in the lounges free and high-speed wireless LAN access, at least a poster in the lounge said. Only drawback, it did not exist. The only Wireless LAN available and visible was Proximus, but nobody could connect. Seems to be a mobile operator feature (like T-Mobile) to build up fake Wireless LAN hotspots that do not work to demonstrate how bad WiFI is and how much better and reliable GSM/UMTS works.

Final rant: The airport express in Brussels is a candidate for the Guiness Book of Records. It is the slowest express I ever used. It is not stopping in between, but the average speed is about 5mph, with the maximum not exceeding 10mph. The only excuse could be that on that day there was a big strike in Belgium and although the trains worked, it could be that they went extremely slow in sympathy. On the other hand, since no ticket office was open, the ticket vending machines did not work and no conductor showed up, at least I had a free ride.

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