23 April 2007

WAP, Wi-Fi and the cost of internet access

TWO QUICK technology-related notes:

1. I love WAP. Our party were already at the predeparture area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport when I called up Frank Mendoza, our city administrator and acting budget officer, to tell him about a file I previously emailed.

In our conversation, the need to forward him another email I sent to Mayor Robredo came up. In the absence of free Wi-Fi access at the airport, I told Frank: "Can I just do it when we reach Germany and I can already access a PC?" Frank said OK.

But forced by circumstance, I turned to my Nokia 6288, logged into my Gmail account via wireless access protocol (WAP), and tried something I never did before: forward a 1.8-MG email using my cellphone's WAP.

Did it work? When I finally got to check my email a few hours ago, one of the messages that come through was Frank's: "Got the guidelines and the powerpoint." Which means my attempt worked. My only worry is how my postpaid account will be charged, considering that Globe's WAP rates are levied by amount of information sent (P0.25 per kilobyte, if I'm not mistaken), unlike Smart which offers a flat P10 rate per 30 minutes.

If it were only the text characters comprising the message, that would be OK; if the attached powerpoint file that boosted up the message size to 1.8 megabytes is included, then I'm in trouble. I will find out when the billing comes through.

2. A freebie or a recoverable cost? One clear difference between the Philippines and developed countries I've been through is illustrated by how we treat the provision of internet access.

In Naga, as well as in Davao as confirmed by my colleague Magnolia, Wi-Fi is largely a freebie, a value-added service that hotels and coffee shops offer to their customers. You dine, for instance, at Avenue Square and you brought your WiFi-enabled laptop along; checking emails, posting blog entries, and doing most other internet stuff come in for free.

But here, internet access -- either via Wi-Fi or through the PC workstations at the ground floor of the Theodor Heuss Academy -- comes for a price. There are only two rates: 2 euros (about P144) per hour, or 6 euros (or about P430) for four hours. It was a little better in Vancouver, Canada; Wi-Fi access can be had for an hourly or or daily rate via a local telco.

When I was still studying in the UK, internet access was never free for a room connection. There was a flat-rate for us Fitz students embedded in our termly fees which need to be paid to the college -- equivalent to a maximum amount of traffic you can send or receive under your account; any excess amount is billed, although at a minimal rate.

I think the difference has to do with how we view and do business. In a developing country like ours, free Wi-Fi is a subsidized service that is part of a broader strategy to continuously attract customers regardless of the cost. This model is open to abuse by users, as with anything that is available for free.

In developed economies, it is a service whose provision entails costs that need to be recovered. As a result, the charging of user fees influence behavior, forcing one to be more careful and more strategic in optimizing the available resource. Like composing emails and blog entries offline, and maxizing browser tabs to open as many sites as possible, all at the same time when online. Which I what I am doing right now.

10 comments:

dave (",) said...

A few minutes of GPRS browsing would involve megabytes of traffic. It's one sure way to zero out my load. I think the rate is P0.15 per kb, so that would be about P300 for you.

Anyway, I hope my latest post ("On the Spot") would offer some consolation ;)

Dominique said...

Ouch! That's going to leave a mark. I hope the city picks up the tab for the P300 Internet access. Globe really does have such a greedy and senseless mobile Internet program.

With regard to free-vs-paid Internet access, I think it's actually the other way around. It's in the more developed countries, Internet is a commodity and can be given away as recoverable cost. Just so happens, I think, that we may be hitting a point where we can't really keep calling ourselves "underdeveloped" anymore.

Anyway, I can send you a study on telco costs. Just have to search for the file first. ;-)

Arbet said...

I think you mean GPRS. WAP is so 90s LOL.

Yeah, when it comes to mobile Internet, Smart pwns Globe when it comes to price. When the blasted prepaid dialup (hint, hint) that I use conks out, I use my 3G phone as a modem. It's not exactly ten pesos, as they have to include the 12% EVAT, no thanks to ko-Recto.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Dave: I'll check it out.

Dom: Will look forward to that study, which should be an interesting read.

Arbet: I'm not really sure now. What I did was to go to the Gmail-Mobile at http://sayni.net and accessed my Gmail account from there.

Would anybody bother to explain whether what I did was WAP or GPRS?

mitsuru said...

some cities in the US have implemented free wi-fi access for its constituents. other's are now ff soon. of course, the big firms are not happy with this and would try to discourage people by saying it's "unsecured". but come to think of it pareho lang naman:)

some hotels charge their guests for the use but if you know better, you can always look for that free wi-fi even at the confines of your room.

that's what i did when i was in new york city where the waldorf charges $9 per day of internet access.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Hi Mitsuru: If there were a cheaper option, I would have gone for it. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case.

A problem though can arise with piggybacking.

mitsuru said...

It's not really piggybacking since you can see the "public" wi-fi access in the case of NYC and other major US cities.

so why pay the internet acces offered by hotels when you can access the net for free via the public wi-fi in the confines of your room?

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