September 5th, 2012 by Tim Greenhalgh
The launch of Nokia’s very impressive Lumia smartphone in New York city underlined for me the WiFi connection crisis we struggle with.
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147) was at the launch and told Radio 4 PM listeners that there were a few technical problems, including the failure of the WiFi network.
He was very kind about this, saying that this was to be expected when you assemble 400 journalists in one room.
But, surely, we deserve better than this. Nokia deserves better than this – especially when it is launching a smartphone that connects through wireless.
Event connectivity is not rocket-science. For sure, it is complex and needs expertise, knowledge, careful planning and management.
But this lack of care and attention to detail extends way beyond events and conferences -we have all struggled with inadequate network provision at these events -and into the cities, the railways, the roads, the countryside and beyond.
What we have here is a perfect connectivity disaster, presided over by the government and the telecoms companies. We have had the technology to provide anytime, anywhere fast wireless broadband for more than ten years. WiMax has grown whiskers in the UK while the powers-that-be fiddle at the sidelines.
In the U.S.Â Sprint Nextel has deployed Mobile WiMAX networks since 2008, andÂ MetroPCS was the first operator to offer LTE service in 2010. USB wireless modems have been available since the start, while WiMAX smartphones have been available since 2010, and LTE smartphones since 2011.
Currently, we are choking on our competitor nations’ dust.
Meanwhile, at a pace that would be beaten by a snail on gravel, tiny parts of our urban shared spaces are being graced with wireless “hotspots”. Bristol tried to mesh disparate wireless services to become the first UK wired city but that project failed.
Now the government has allowed Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) to take the lead in deployment of 4G mobile fast broadband.
Everything Everywhere promises speeds of up to six times the current 3G norm – but anyone who has used 3G knows that the experience is akin to a dial-up 28K modem connection circa 1996 so don’t hold onto your hats.
I do not not pretend to know why exactly we are still in the Internet Stone Age when it comes to wireless connectivity but I’d say that the combination of warring commercial interests and a disinterested government might have something to do with it.
We deserve better than this shambolic procedure. We should demand ultra-fast, anytime anywhere wireless broadband as a right. To paraphrase Robert E. Grant in Withnail and I: “We want the finest wireless broadband available to humanity. We want it here. We want it now.”
I don’t think that is too much to ask. Do you?