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Several wrong answers to one wireless problem

This column was to have been titled "Finally, Something Works the Way It Is Supposed To." The observant reader may notice, however, that it most certainly is not.

I am writing this from a London flat. I arrived last Thursday at noon (travel hint: take the American Airlines 11:59 p.m. flight from New York to London. Since the departure time is close to normal sleep time, it is actually possible to sleep. American's aircraft feature Flagship Suites that provide a very flat and fairly comfortable sleeping environment at the push of a button.).

Whilst traveling from Heathrow into London via the Piccadilly Line (another travel hint: this costs only £3.80 compared with a taxi ride at a minimum of £40.00), I decided to check my e-mail using my Palm Tungsten T3, which communicates with my Sony Ericsson T610 mobile via Bluetooth.

The T610, using GPRS, serves as the Palm's modem. Although I have enjoyed a great deal of success with GPRS in the U.S., I was still concerned about international roaming. Almost immediately, I was reading my mail and reading the New York Times online via T-Mobile U.K.

About the author

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and chief analyst at Basex, an analysis firm that specializes in collaborative business knowledge in the enterprise. Click here to contact Basex.

My euphoria, however, was short-lived.

After unpacking, I decided to check mail on my laptop, again using Bluetooth. This time, I received an error message telling me that it couldn't obtain an I.P. address. I tried several times more, and then called T-Mobile technical support in the States.

I spent more than an hour on the phone -- with a total of four people -- and while the Tier III tech's solution of creating a new data account on my mobile solved the problem, it was only temporary, since it reoccurred the next morning. The Tier III technician had told me that the mobile operator in the U.K. was not allocating sufficient I.P. addresses, hence my inability to connect.

The tech who answered the call the next morning had a different solution -- try a different roaming partner. I switched to Vodafone, and voila, I was connected. However, that solution didn't last more than a few minutes either.

I then e-mailed our dedicated T-Mobile corporate support rep, who advised that there had been an intermittent "issue" with GPRS "across all markets" for the past few days. Funny how the five tech support people I spoke with previously were blissfully unaware of this.

Well, back to the string and tin can, I suppose. I was leaving for meetings in Athens and T-Mobile (U.S.) had just announced GPRS roaming with Telestet, a Greek mobile operator. More on that leg of the journey next week.

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