Thursday, January 17, 2008

Expensive commodities

Today I’ve had the privilege of spending 8 hours at Washington Dulles Airport, instead of the scheduled 2 hours. The various causes were a snowstorm, airline snafus and general bad luck. At some point I was itching for Wi-Fi service, so I checked it out. Three different carriers — all expensive and some (maybe all) lousy:

  • AT&T (WayPort). (SSID: ATTWIFI) The price seems right: $6 for a 2-hour session. However, last time I was in Dulles, I made the mistake of paying AT&T: they had a severely messed up SMTP policy that prevented even authenticated SMTP. No thanks.

  • T-Mobile: (SSID: tmobile) They list a $6/hour plan (which I used to use) but give you no way to use it, instead pushing $10/day. And, in fact, try to upsell you to a monthly plan that most people won't use.

  • Sprint (NNU): (SSID: pcswifi) I have no experience, but didn't want to pay them $10 for 30 minutes either. They claim to give you free airport and flight status info, but it doesn’t work.

I suspect this says something about the hotspot business, but I’m not sure what. Is it because there’s a small niche of price insensitive customers, and then almost nobody else who will add it if it’s cheaper? Sounds identical to AirFone®, the capacity limited, overpriced airline satellite phone that eventually went out of business.

Almost makes the iPhone mandatory data plan look cheap by comparison.

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