During my stay in the US I’ve discovered two great ways to pay less for mobile calls when travelling. The first is T-Mobile’s Blackberry 8320 with WiFi, which is incredible. It’s just like my Blackberry from Vodafone, except this has WiFi in addition to EDGE. T-Mobile (the fourth largest mobile carrier in the US) offers it with a global plan for EDGE traffic, meaning that they won’t charge you any roaming fee when you’re outside the country. So you can go to the US, buy this BlackBerry with WiFi and when you’re back in Europe you keep paying 40 euros per month (60 dollars) for the Blackberry service and voice minutes and you don’t pay for roaming. This of course is a great deal for those who travel a lot.
On top of this you get this phone’s incredible WiFi implementation, better then the iPhone’s. Not only you’ll never want to get back to EDGE for any kind of data transfer (pictures, attachments, web browsing), since download and upload speeds are way better with WiFi, but when you’re connected to a WiFi network (which happens automatically for any open network or, for free, for any T-Mobile WiFi hotspot) your voice calls and text messages are routed via WiFi too. This means that if you’re in Spain or wherever else you get access to a WiFi network, you can call like you are in the US, at US tariffs, using your plan’s minutes and with no roaming fees. I know there are other mobile VoIP solutions available for Nokia phones and other platforms but T-Mobile’s UMA service gives you seamless switching from the mobile network to WiFi and you can keep your number, while the WiFi connection manager on most Nokia smartphones is pretty bad, making the whole process a lot less immediate and practical.
When connected using WiFi with this Blackberry from T-Mobile, for example, you can call the US from Spain or China for 10 cents and calling Spain from China will cost you 54 cents (US->Spain tariff), still better then what Movistar, Orange or Vodafone charge you with roaming. Buying a T-Mobile Blackberry if you live in the US is a no-brainer, and if you live in Europe and travel a lot it’s a no-brainer as well. I spent 153 euros in July with my Blackberry from Vodafone just to download a few emails. And it has no WiFi.
The second great offer I found in the US is prepaid plans from AT&T, which give you free calls to anybody who’s on the AT&T network (something like a third of all US mobile users). With such a plan if you travel to the US with your family, like I do, and you have to give a phone to all your family members (I need 5), you can talk for free if you all have an AT&T prepaid plan. You get to the US, buy 5 SIM cards and talk for free with anybody who has AT&T, for just 20 euros per person. Calls to Europe cost you something like 1 euro per minute and calls to people in the US who are not on the AT&T network cost you 10c per minute plus $1 per day you use the phone. A family travelling to the US from Spain (or most European countries) with Movistar or Vodafone will be charged international rates to call and receive. Last year I spent 2300 euros for my vacations in the US. This year I just spent 150. And if you don’t have an unlocked phone you can get one with your prepaid card for nearly free.
Talking about unlocking, I just unlocked my iPhone using the 2.02 firmware. The process is a bit complicated but totally worth it. You don’t just get Installer, like with the old firmware, you get Installer, Cydia (an alternative to the Installer) and Apple’s Appstore. You can unlock any iPhone except the iPhone 3G which still can’t be unlocked to allow use with any SIM cards. I still have the EDGE model, since I always use my iPhone with Wifi and many functionalities are not allowed over 3G anyway (unbelievable you buy a 3G iPhone and you can’t download music over 3G, isn’t it?).
So I’m now in the US using an unlocked iPhone with a prepaid AT&T card (AT&T has much better coverage compared to T-Mobile) that I use for talking, music, photos and browsing via WiFi (data traffic is very expensive with AT&T prepaid plans), while I use the Blackberry for email, PINs and Google Talk.
Following last week’s announcement of FON’s partnership with Sony PSP we received a few negative comments from Foneros wondering why we would give PSP users access to FON’s network, even if they don’t share their connections like Foneros do. The reason is simple: this partnership helps us grow the network and promote FON, which ultimately is extremely positive for Foneros.
How does Sony PSP help FON? Simple, Sony is marketing FON to over 10 million PSP users. They find out about FON, understand how practical it is for them, learn how to enjoy it, and join FON. Sony is telling them what we already know: that FON is good. Sony will promote La Fonera and encourage PSP users to buy one to get full access to FON Spots. The announcement has already shown significant impact on Fonera sales in Japan, and it has been only a week.
PSP owners who will connect to FON Spots thanks to this partnership won’t have full access to the Internet nor will they be able to play online games, unless they become Foneros. With this deal they can only access the official PSP site and download custom themes, wallpapers, special characters only available at FON Spots (this only accounts for extremely minimal traffic). What a PSP owner wants to do online is to play online games, and for that he will need to buy a Fonera and share his Internet connection as any other Fonero.
The majority of the Foneros understand that this is great and we haven’t received a single complaint from our fellow Japaneses Foneros, quite the opposite. So far this agreement is only for Japan, but we’re working to extend it to other countries. It helps growing the network of FON Spots and we are sure that the success of the deal in terms of FON exposure, new Foneros and new FON Spots will be replicated in every country.
Now that the web has discovered that people get together according to affinities. How about seating people in airplanes according to affinity? For example long intercontinental flights with 400 passengers on a plane we could create 4 zones. One could be for singles who want to party and flirt at the back of the plane, with music and all. One called Zen for people who want peace and quiet library style far from the singles. One for families with little kids and kids in general who can have a good time among themselves and parents not get this guilt trips that they are bothering everyone. And lastly and one for networkers, people who dream getting on a plane with a business plan and getting off with an investor. I can´t imagine anyone who would get on a plane and would not find one of those airplanehoods.
Although several airlines have been testing similar services for quite some time, according to this recent press release Dubai’s Emirates Airlines has been the first introducing in-flight mobile phone services on Airbus (March 2008) and now Boeing aircrafts, allowing passengers to make calls and send SMS messages with their mobile phones during flights.
As you know all other airlines strictly prohibit the use of mobile phones during flights, even though there’s no clear evidence of the danger of electromagnetic interference to aircraft systems caused by cellphones and other electronic devices. A wikipedia entry on the issue collects results from the few tests that have been performed and statements from various experts, with mixed answers on the issue, although it’s safe to say all equipment on modern airplanes is heavily shielded and thus immune to any interference from mobile phones. Although cellphone use on planes is in fact possible below 10,000 feet and on my plane I often use it to check emails on my BlackBerry and some people do the same even on commercial flights (an empirical study shows that “at least one mobile phone is likely to be left on throughout a typical flight”), commercial airlines never had any good reason to do proper testing and allow mobile phones usage on flights.
Things start changing now that companies like AeroMobile and OnAir (an Airbus joint venture) are offering airlines the opportunity to let their passengers use their phones on board and make money out of it. These companies install picocells (devices that act like very small radio towers) on aircrafts that route mobile phone calls via satellite to the ground network and screening systems that stop the cellphones contacting the ground. Thanks to this technology these companies can charge the passengers’ mobile phone operators that in turn will charge their users roaming rates of as much as €3 per minute, and airlines will get a slice of the pie. Not surprisingly, Ryanair plans to provide the service on its entire fleet and many other airlines are testing the service as well.
I am going from NYC to the Hamptons. I just stopped at three convenience stores and none of them carried the New York Times nor the Wall Street Journal, nor Business Week, Forbes, Fortune…
What they did have was a wide selection of gossip, car and soft porn mags.
America is a class society less in terms of income than in terms of education.
As I have mentioned several times, Japanese love FON – and we at FON love Japan. So I am happy to announce another exciting collaboration in Japan with Sony PSP. As of now, all PSP users in Japan will be able to seamlessly access and enjoy videos, wallpapers and custom themes of PSP software as well as videos for PlayStation 3 from over 44,000 FON Spots in Japan and over 2,200 FON livedoor Spots, which primarily cover central Tokyo.
Furthermore with the launch of this service all PSP users will be able to download custom themes of new PSP software “DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY” (to be released in December 2008) from Japan FON Spots. More details on this service can be found on FON Japan Official Site and SCEJ Official Site’s “PlayStation®Spot” section. Currently this is only available in Japan – but of course we are working to provide it on a broader base.
Finally, from August 23rd, the launch date of PSP®×FON, we will begin sales of La Fonera and La Fonera+ in PC equipment section and game device section of some of Japan’s biggest retail stores including BIC Camera and Yodobashi Camera.
Last week I was in Sardinia. In Cala di Volpe. Today I am in Formentor, Majorca. Both Cala di Volpe and Formentor are beautiful bays (you can google earth them and see) both have a buoy service to protect marine life, but there the analogy ends. In Formentor the two nice guards who you see in the picture provide the service for free, but in Cala di Volpe it seems free when they help you, but the next day they charge you 360 euros for being tied to a buoy. Why is the average Mallorquin much wealthier than the average Sardinian? For a simple reason, honesty pays. Yes, I know that I just gave one example. But if Spain has been doing so much better than Italy over the last 20 years, I believe that this is mainly because on the average Spaniards are more honest than Italians and this shows all the way from the guy who rips you off in the Porto Cervo bar, because he argues that you sat in the VIP section of his mediocre bar (50 euros for a mineral water) to electing Silvio Berlusconi as President.
But there’s more to my stay in Porto Cervo. During my visits I hanged out with people who were frequently visiting Silvio Berlusconi´s Villa. The stories that they told laughing of all these beautiful women in their 20s with fake titles who surround him were very funny if you could only forget that they were not just talking about one billionaire and a regular at Briatore´s Billionaire´s club. The problem is that they were talking about the man who runs Italy and who is the Uber Furbo.
On a short ride from Porto Cervo to Cala di Volpe –a cab ride that would cost 10 euros in Spain and costs 30 in Italy– the cab rider told me that the economy was weak and that Sardinians income was half of those of the average Italian. Somehow, the formula works different in Spain where the average mallorquin´s income is not only higher than the average Spaniard, it is higher than that of the average German, even charging 10 euros.
Ripping people off is just not sustainable. As beautiful as Sardinia is and as good Italian food is (I prefer it to Spanish food), Italy has to find a formula that is more based on honesty not just vis a vis foreigners, but vis a vis each other.
And I know that Porto Cervo is not Italy, but Italy was being managed out of Porto Cervo when I was there and the picture was not nice. And I do speak Italian.
When we started Fon, back in 2006, 200 million WiFi chips were sold. This year according to GigaOm it will be 1 billion. This is a simple reminder that when critics say that 3G will kill WiFi they are just wrong. If anything 3G makes people even more interested in getting data which then operators want to offload to WiFi. The iPhone is a case in point. Why is it that when you buy songs from the iTunes store you can only do it over WiFi and not over 3G even in the 3G iPhone? The paradox of mobile carries is that they want you to pay for expensive data plans but then….use WiFi.
Why do I fly 7 hours and 30 minutes to get from Madrid to NYC and there´s a 6 hour difference while if I fly to Beijing is 12 hours, same latitude approximately and there is also a 6 hour difference?
Why do Americans work so many more yearly hours than the French and the average American lives like the average French?
Why are the most successful mammals on earth by number, other than humans, the ones humans eat?
While downloading TV series and movies is suprisingly legal in Spain for personal use and my kids used to be heavy downloaders, they have recently cut down a lot. They have not decreased their downloading activities because they had an ethical dilemma or because they were pestered by me. They almost stopped getting movies on the internet because they much prefer streaming to downloading. And they are not alone. Many people prefer an Internet connection streaming rather to downloading because of the instant gratification element in which there´s no need to spends a lot of money in storage. Examples of great sites are Hulu, Joost and Babelgum – disclosure: I’m an investor in Joost. Now my kids favorite is Hulu the online video joint venture from NBC and News Corp that offers streaming video of professional content like many popular TV shows.
But due to issues regarding the rights of distribution, Hulu’s service is still accessible only in the United States, and anybody who is in Europe needs to use workarounds to watch its contents. One of these workarounds is using Hotspotshield, a software that protects your data while accessing the Internet from a public place, driving all your traffic through a VPN. As a side effect, it allows people from outside the US to watch Hulu and access other services that are geolocked to the US, like video sites from TV networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX. So for many who don’t live in the States, watching streaming video on Hulu using software like Hotspotshield or a proxy server is already better then piracy. But to me the fact that kids are using Hotspotshield to watch Hulu outside the States proves that even when piracy is legal people prefer a great watching experience that includes ads than a laborious Pirate Bay type experience that does not.