"I have been over into the future and it works” said Lincoln Steffens after a 1921 visit to Russia. Well, I have been over into one version of the present –Internet access in Manila via 3G dongle – and I’m not quite as optimistic as Steffens. True, Globe Tattoo is way better than my hotel’s lame Wi-Fi, but I don’t think it’s a long term solution for connectivity, whether for the First, Second, or Third World. Good news first. Setup was easy. The instructions showed clearly how the SIM card slips into the Huawei-built dongle, which my computer recognized with no issues.
After a couple of minutes of software loading, I was online, at respectable if not blazing speeds. Keeping half an eye on a speed meter, I recorded one instantaneous burst of 539.4 kbps, and several in the 200’s and 300’s, although the average was a lot lower.
- Considering the slow dial-up speeds the hotel’s Wi-Fi was delivering, I wasn’t unhappy. And as a bonus, Globe is cheaper. Globe bills at PHP 5 (US$ 0.11) per 15 minute increment. This would be PHP 480 (US$ 10.90) for 24 hours, versus the hotel’s PHP 600 (US$ 13.65).
So what’s not to like? Inconsistency, for one thing. Those average speeds contained a lot of slow periods mixed with some high speed bursts. Even when stationary it kept slipping from HSDPA to what it calls 3G to EDGE speeds. This presumably reflects the shifting burden of traffic on capacity-limited cell sites even in (I blush to admit) one of Manila’s more upscale districts.
This is a problem for applications like Strategy Analytics’ VPN, which requires regular communication from the client. Something – possibly the dead spells or the switching from HSDPA to 3G – interferes with that check-in process, dropping me many times. VoIP is out of the question – I couldn’t even talk with Globe customer service.And what did I want to talk with Customer Service about? Why, how to add more funds to my account, of course. Tattoo may be imperfect, but it beats the alternative.
- And speaking of alternatives, this experience has made me appreciate that the emerging market opportunity for overlay wireless data networks, whether WiMAX or LTE, is not just a rural and secondary city play. There might be a few takers right here in Makati.