Tag Archives: Global System for Mobile communications

GPRS on the Road? Forget it

I’m amazed by how hard it is to get GPRS when you’re traveling. Prepaid GSM cards don’t seem to support it unless you subscribe to some special service, and even then it’s crippingly expensive (altho not as expensive as roaming). I know 3G is going to replace this intermediate technology sometime, but given the popularity of the BlackBerry, wouldn’t you have thought that some of these operators would be trying to sell a bit of extra airtime to users keen to stay in touch on the road?

I’ve tried four different Hong Kong operators now and only one of them says they support prepaid GPRS. Even then, it’s not been possible for people to send me straight SMS messages on their network. Agh. I’m going back to smoke signals.

China’s Static Mobile Phone, And Its Mobile Static Phone

One of the things I noticed at last week’s CommunicAsia expo in Singapore was the range of phones. And not just fancy handhelds touted by dancing, skintight woven women, although that did claim some of my attention. But China, for example, is pumping out machines that run the gamut of needs, including desktop GSM phones.

Guanri, for example, of Shenzhen, sells several phones that use either CDMA or GSM wireless technology for phones that either sit in your office, or work as payphones, both for public places and ‘supervised locations’, which I take to mean shops or kiosks where someone can make sure you don’t run off with the phone and where they rather than the phone takes the money you owe for using it.

I realise this isn’t anything new: Africa and poorer regions do a lot of this kind of thing. But I guess this idea of a GSM phone masquerading as a desktop phone is kind of new, and represents a challenge to China’s quasi mobile market, where a technology originally devised for Japan called  Personal Handyphone System (PHS) uses a Wireless Local Loop (WLL) to offer a sort of mobile access, at least when you’re in range of an antenna.

The idea, I guess is one of applying the principle in reverse — where you can only use the cellphone when you’re near a loop — so that your use of the phone is limited by the fact that it’s physically stuck to your desk. Either way you’re making the most of what is available — a network that is not particularly farflung, but more accessible than a landline for which you’ll have to wait several blue moons.

This week’s column – Airtexting, Airport Pickups and Airheads

This week’s Loose Wire column is about mobile phones and how they are not just changing us, but the world we live in:

 The thing about mobile phones is that they have changed how we communicate (via 160-character bursts of text), how we perceive the world (it’s never less than a phone call away, unless we left it at home in which case we go back for it). But how are our phone habits changing the world we live in–and in the process changing what our mobile phones can do?

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

News: That Warm Fuzzy Feeling Could Be A Base Station

 More on the health effects of handphones, this time for 3G: Reuters quotes a Dutch government study that found users exposed to base station signals “felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous”. There was no negative impact from signals for current — i.e. GSM — mobile networks.
The kicker: cognitive functions such as memory and response times were boosted by both 3G signals and the current signals, the study found. It said people became more alert when they were exposed to both. The study differed from most previous ones which measured the impact of cellphones held close to the head, causing high fields of radiation close to the ear and warming of the brain. This one used lower a dose of radiation to mimic base station signals rather than handsets.

News: Beware Your GSM Phone

 Pointed out by OnlineJournalism.com, the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review, there’s a problem with your GSM phone. An Israeli scientist and his team, Reuters reports, have found a way to break into mobile phone calls, enabling them to know the calling party’s identity and even listen to the conversation. The call could be zeroed in on, even at the ringing stage and overheard from that point on.
Yikes. Mind you, I always assumed the spooks were monitoring my phone calls anyway. What a boring life they must lead.