It's a bit hard to concentrate on such mundane matters as Internet
roaming when there are reports of mortars crashing into buildings
(including the American Embassy) in downtown Freetown. My personal
friends there live quite far from downtown, although Securicom's
offices are quite close to the fighting and would certainly be
subject to looting if anyone knew how many computers were stored
there, not to mention the stray mortar round or two.
From South Africa it all seems a bit surreal, almost as hard to
imagine as when in Washington.
As for roaming, as expected, the connection is superb from
Johannesburg. I connect at 28.8kbps and download 30 messages in
about 3 minutes, or 10 messages a minute. Using the same formula as
before, assuming 1k per message, that's 10k per minute or about
1.3kbps in Johannesburg compared to .37kbps in Maputo. So although
the SITA per minute rate is the same worldwide through the roaming
service, the actual cost to the user varies considerably due to
throughput differences in each city. In Johannesburg, Amsterdam, and
Washington, throughput is superb. Not so in Maputo.
In Johannesburg I dial and login to SITA as from Maputo, with a
local Johannesburg number obviously instead of the local Maputo
number. And of course here I'm not paying the astounding 50 US cents
per minute for a local call charged by the Polana Hotel, which is
more than double the rate charged by the roaming service itself.
So the effective fee from Maputo was 72 cents a minute instead of
22. But if I'd been downloading my mail via an international call,
the Polana would have charged me $5 per minute, so perhaps I should
count my blessings.
Converting to effective cost per message of 1k, in Maputo it was
about 8 US cents per kilobyte, not including the Polana hotel local
call surcharge, only including the SITA 22 cents per minute charge.
In Johannesburg, 2.2 US cents per kilobyte. Almost a 4-fold
effective cost difference.
Nonetheless, the cost even in a place like Maputo seems worth it.
This system is very very convenient. I am able to use the same email
system as in Washington, with the same folders and filing system so
that all my work is readily available to me. I am able to travel and
maintain my virtual office with complete access to email. Since most
of my work in Washington is done by email anyway, I may as well be in
Africa. Hmm, what a thought...
And for some sites where no other alternative seems feasible, this
service offers access. If the value of communications is high, then
perhaps the cost is worth it.
All the best from Johannesburg,
[log in to unmask]
1111 North 19th Street Suite 210
Arlington, VA 22209 USA
Tel 1-703-235-5415 Fax 1-703-235-3805