Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile, Harumph

So everybody says mobile is the next internet in Africa, and indeed Nairobi is chock full of teeny little stores that look like the one at right.  Despite their number, they all seem to do reasonably good business, at least in 20-somethings ogling, fondling asking questions about the latest offerings.  While having a shiny new phone may be "cool", it is absolutely not the solution for internet expansion in the next 5 years.

Even in the city, with 100% signal strength in the middle of the night, my brand new Orange 3G+ modem does about 256k.  Respectable, and certainly as good as the other options, but not mind-blowing.

Out in the rural areas, most places with mobile service have data speeds that will make you cry.  Do you know what a roundtrip time is?  If you do, then you'll know that 9 SECONDS is not even sorta-kinda-almost-close to acceptable.  (disclaimer: that was the worst I saw.  Average was closer to 700ms, and measured on a safaricom stick).  The facts are that long-range mobile wireless is hard to do well, a cell tower is only as good as it's backhaul, and the latest capacity numbers posted by wireless hardware companies are not much more than bench-test values.  In the real world, mobile eats it.

Nonetheless, when you've got nothing else, you might as well plug it into your fabfi.  Which Is why I'm working on this:

That's an Orange 3G+ modem in the back of a linksys.  Right now it connects, but needs to be hotplugged right before you try to do so for it to work (read: I don't have the modem commands worked out yet).  Nonetheless, progress...


  1. mobile really is the next internet, I agree this:)