This post is prompted by the recent 4G bandwagon started by Smart Communications and Globe Telecoms. You can read a little bit about it here. This also stems from being one of the early adopters of Globe GSM in 1998. My Globe (prepaid) number is 917-905-XXXX and I still use it and remember frowning on Smart and the 918 prefix because it was still analog. And I am conditioned to having unlimited Internet access (intermittently as I moved places) since 1997.
This could become a long post about my experiences with Philippine Internet infrastructure but I will try to be short. For reference I will mention having accounts from AMA Tel (I think–unlimited dialup), Globelines (metered dialup), BellTel (cable), SmartBro (fixed antenna wireless) and PLDT (DSL). At previous jobs I have dealt with Textron (dedicated wireless) and Bayantel (leased line). I currently subscribe to PLDT’s MyDSL service and seem to be the most reliable here in our area. I can indirectly endorse it even though I hear/read people complain about the service.
Seeing the proliferation of services being offered, the most basic requirement of providing reliable Internet connection for technology events (developer/professional conventions, product launches, etc.) is still very much guesswork here or something not considered very seriously by organizers and/or their connection provider/sponsor. At a recent Google event, it was embarrassing to experience technology fail during the lecture of Maps and Places APIs by a foreign speaker. It didn’t have to be lightning fast, it just needed to work.
Which brings me to the part of mobile data connections. Even though GSM has been here for more than 15 years (via Islacom and Globe) I yet to have faith in the reliability of services being offered by current telcos. I admit to not investigating this as consistently as wired data service providers because my work does not require me to travel much. But in the past years, with the promise of 3G, I started checking out Sun and Smart prepaid services (via USB sticks). Most recently compared prepaid data services on Globe, Smart and Sun using my phones as a prelude to actually getting a postpaid data plan. However my experience is not exactly encouraging because they don’t work all the time. Prepaid service is throttled to give way to postpaid subscribers and I believe my home office location is one of least priority because it’s a lower B to D class neighborhood.
A Google study also mentions that our data communications infra problems are congestion (too many access, too little provided) and latency (travels half the world then back). Unfortunately, I have no copy of the stats but it was presented during a Google event by a Google officer on his Emerging Markets talk.
With the frustration I feel, I considered developing an application to investigate on mobile services here. It would collect data from users and map which parts have GPRS, EDGE, 3G, etc., and allow them to visually represent their experience. I initially presented this idea during Android DevCamp. It also did not sell well during Startup Weekend as they said it will only be interesting to the NTC and data communications professionals. I have put this on hold but I will revisit the project soon with a better approach.
Now is a very good time for the application as Globe and Smart finally started this 4G brouhaha and PLDT’s soon launching its fiber network. My biggest challenge will be to identify who will champion my idea aside from myself.