Blogging on Vacation

November 30, 2004

in General Interest

I’m always a little unsure when and how to blog vacations. Broadcasting to the world that I’m on vacation seems to send all the wrong message. Those who I’m in daily contact for the most part know. However, there are many more that I’d like to share with and yet just like extending “presence” information too broadly it makes me feel a little uneasy. So while down in New Zealand I had to do a little experimenting using both my US T-Mobile account and a locally purchased prepaid card from Vodaphone. Generally travelling and using cell phones remains expensive.

Prepaid Vodaphone SIM:
On day one I picked up a prepaid Vodaphone account for NZ$35. (I had to unlock my T-MobileNokia 3650 to make it work. I called T-Mobile using SkypeOut and got the unlock code) Instant local number. It’s still expensive to run at NZ$.49 per minute (US$.35). Inbound calls are all free. For convenience it made travelling around a whole lot easier. Where I found the prepaid card system interesting was no one ever asked my name. I simply bought a number and then added a top-up card purchased from a local dairy. To top-up the account you simply scratch off the back of the card and punch it into your phone. Topping up calls are free. It amazed me that no name or registration is required. I guess every terrorist or crook must use prepaid cellphone cards. To my knowledge I’ve never been asked if I will only accept cellphone calls from people with legitimate numbers and identities. Yet it is a behavior I already apply when using Skype and will want even more developed with future presence services.

I used my US T-Mobile SIM card and Agilemessenger on a couple of occassions to identify availablity and whether it was an appropriate time to connect. I’ll be interested to know whether running AgileMessenger added to my connection costs. I know that using my US number down here costs $1.99 / minute. Not exactly cheap and I pay this surcharge for inbound calls. As I have the full US data package ($20/mth T-Mobile) I used it to connect a couple of times for about 15 minutes and was swamped with e-mails flooding in at the slow GPRS rate. It worked fine. Eact time some 3mb of e-mail downloaded. I hope to get an understanding for the cost. I think the Internet rate was US$.015 (1.5 cents) per KB. I think this means that using AgileMessenger is cheaper than using text messaging. I’m also tired of switching SIM cards. It would be useful to have an easier method to swap SIM cards or use multiple SIM cards in a phone. Do any phones provide this feature?

I’ve no idea what the real state of play on broadband connectivity is in New Zealand. Few homes appear to have broadband. Those that have are ones that had second lines for heavy use of dial-up connections. I’ve not really hung out in areas where fast connections and Wi-Fi is very likely. I’d need to dig deeper into the local telecom regulations however it appears that Telecom NZ is only being forced to resell a lower quality ADSL. Thus, you can read into that a potential “latency” factor to protect Telecom NZ from competitive VoIP deployments. From an outside perspective it seems to be working. This approach will shackle the populace in high cost communications. Communications with the rest of the world is key to “Kiwi” competitive advantage. New Zealand is not alone with the problem.

Still one friend introduced me to a NZ business prepared for the global Xmas shopping season. Apparently it’s turning out fancy pants and making a 25% margin on a multi-million turnover. Sometimes just doing something with a niche business pays out. Was a great example to me of “opportunities” that still exist out there on the net. Tomorrow before leaving I’ll check out how “wired” central Auckland is.

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