Road Warrior Pain and Devicescape One

Posted on June 19, 2008

One of the things that always frustrates me when I travel is the high cost of Internet access, especially at hotels. Oddly enough, it seems to be the premium hotels that charge extra for access, while the lower end chains give it away for free. I checked into a hotel near Heathrow Airport in London a few weeks ago and noticed that they had an “Executive Upgrade” which included Wi-Fi access and breakfast for $20. When I asked about the costs for Wi-Fi alone they told me it was $30. I guess the thinking there was that executives would be so dumb they’d need big help figuring out which one to choose!

Anyway, I went with the upgrade, but amazingly they warned me that I likely wouldn’t be able to actually access Wi-Fi from my room but I could certainly use it in the lobby. Now that’s great service. At least breakfast was ok.

It’s long been a bone of contention for many road warriors to pay high access fees when traveling. The all you can eat cellular data and Wi-Fi plans we have enjoyed at home suddenly rack up enormous roaming fees, and we encounter high price “session islands” like these hotels. Most of the time you don’t need access for long periods of time: just a quick sync of email, a VoIP call to the office or home, or wrangling with your flight operator’s website for non existent upgrades. To pay $10, $20, or $30 for that privilege is just plain maddening.

Recently Devicescape started a field trial of a new service we’re calling Devicescape One. It allows you to get access at a wide range of commercial Wi-Fi networks and pay by the minute. Devicescape One isn’t meant to replace your existing subscriptions or change your belief that Wi-Fi should be free. It’s there as a complement and an alternate to buying expensive session passes that are more than you need.

I had the chance to use Devicescape One on my last trip across Europe and a week later in Asia. It gave me access to several large networks which weren’t handled by roaming arrangements with my home Wi-Fi subscriptions. Even better I avoided using cellular data, where you pay by the KB instead of by the minute (one Outlook sync contained a 7MB Powerpoint presentation but it transferred in less than a minute!) For me, the minute by minute approach has broad appeal.

We’re running this Devicescape One field trial to check out the technology and assess the usage patterns and interest. There’s no guarantee that we’ll actually turn this into a real live service that costs our members anything, but it seems clear that this kind of scheme has its place and a partner of ours may like to use the capability.

Right now, we’re offering the trial to a limited set of Devicescape members. When you sign up we give you up to 120 minutes of Wi-Fi time. There is ZERO cost involved and no obligation. If you’re interested in joining the trial, you can sign up here. Note: you need to be an existing Devicescape member first.