Losing those broadband blues

Now that we’re all addicted to speed we’re lost without a couple of megs of bandwidth. It always happens at the worst times: they dig through the cable in the street on just the day when you have a big project to complete. You try to connect in other ways to get the job done and the air turns blue.

My home office is in a TV cable area but, when you need speed, the service can be patchy. The obvious thought was to get another broadband connection on copper. Unlikely that both would fail at once?

Initial adventures with a provider of an attractively-priced bundle were not good. Just as I was starting to shop around again, preparing to pay more, I realised that I’d be better off upgrading my mobile connection.

A few providers are offering HSDPA which gives good speed if you have coverage. I’d previously had reasonable service out of my GPRS connection using quite an old Sony-Ericsson phone so I thought I’d see what was now available. My thought was that there would be a network and a bluetooth phone capable of the speed I needed. I could use that in the office if the cable broadband went down and also on the road, especially at sites without Wi-Fi.

As a Mac and PC user, bluetooth is great as a method of connection. I chose another Sony-Ericsson phone, the k850i and, after an unsuccessful evaluation of O2’s customer service (don’t ask), I went with T-Mobile’s web-and-walk plus. Then the fun started.

As we all know “assume makes and ass out of you and me”. I thought the configuration process would probably be the same for this setup as I had previously experienced. However, I had just installed the latest version of the Mac’s OS, Leopard, which is not configured in the same way. Let the fun commence..

I first tried the various vendor websites and online forums without conclusive results. Then I tried the phone support lines of the 3 vendors involved. The circular finger-pointing excelled itself. Sony Ericsson advised me to get a PC as “Macs are not supported”. Apple could not help me (this was disappointing as they are usually above average). Then I tried T-Mobile who thought it was a network problem and could not help.

Fortunately when all else fails there’s always trial and error. It turns out that on Leopard you configure the connection through bluetooth setup, not as a modem. This is surprisingly easy although I’m not sure I have it running as fast as the phone can go. Anyway, I now have my lifeline in place and can get a fast connection most places I go.

PS. 500Kb is not as fast as the phone can go. I’ll update this when I find how to crank it up to 1.5Mb.

When I stop cussing about “help” lines I may have a go at connecting from a windoze machine. Somewhat academic as I prefer Mac but …

Another PS. On a recent trip to New York I did a couple of hours email through this mobile connection. Then my phone was cut off as I had exceeded a credit limit that I knew nothing about. T-Mobile kindly cancelled this charge (”just this once”) when I told them that I had no idea it would be so expensive. I understand that all mobile suppliers have this level of charge for “broadband” roaming. Next time I will get a PAYG card as I understand that that goes a long way to solving the problem and at least I’d notice the cost being incurred.