With MWC just about a week away, it’s time now to get your personal communications plan sorted. I asked Christian Gunning, Director of Corporate Communications at Boingo Wireless for his suggestions.
Over to you Christian:
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Attending Mobile World Congress is a bit like weathering the perfect storm for wireless power users. Attendees bring their massive collections of cool devices, and the local networks get overwhelmed with usage, all the while driving increased ARPU opportunities for their mobile provider with international phone and data usage. Here are some helpful tips to stay productive without accruing hundreds or thousands of dollars in roaming fees.
The first rule of any major conference is this: if you’re not moving, plug in. Find an electrical outlet and connect as many of your electronics devices as you can. If there’s room in your bag, consider including a small power strip that allows you to plug in 4 to 6 devices. You’ll make lots of friends by making more plugs available instead of hoarding them all for yourself.
Get Ahead of the Game
For those traveling to Barcelona from destinations unknown, make the most of your time in-transit to ensure you’re on top of your inbox and task list. Whether you’re sitting at the gate with time to spare before boarding or stuck for hours due to delays or layovers, log in to the airport Wi-Fi to maximize productivity while you’re waiting. Once you get to Barcelona, your connection options at the show will be fewer and more frustrating, so take advantage of quality connections when you can.
NOTE: This also includes inflight Wi-Fi, and if you paid attention to the first rule (Juice Up!) when you were sitting in the airport terminal, you’ll have a full battery for the flight.
Disable Data Roaming
The best way to avoid astronomical roaming fees is to shut down your data roaming altogether when outside your home country. You might as well do this as soon as you board your flight; there’s no such thing as cost-effective international data roaming on your mobile. And as an industrious power user, you’re going to figure out how to use Wi-Fi for all your data needs. This setting is usually buried in your phone’s administrative options, but it’s worth figuring out where it hides and how to turn it off.
Get a local SIM
First, make sure your phone is unlocked. If your carrier has restricted the phone to use only your home network, local SIMs won’t do you any good. For unlocked phones, you can usually buy local SIMs at news kiosks or drug stores around town. It’s a cheap way to ensure local calling connectivity. Calls back home don’t get cheaper on a local SIM, so we’ll deal with those later.
Get an Über-number
Services like Google Voice allow you to link one über-number to many phones, and also centralize your voicemail while converting them to emails or texts for your convenience. Once you have your local SIM card, configure your über-number service to ring to that local number. Now, anyone who calls your Google Voice number from home will ring your Barcelona cellphone number, and you’ll both save on roaming fees.
Make Calls Via VoIP
When a Wi-Fi network is available, international VoIP providers – such as Skype or Google Voice – are your most cost-effective options for calling mobile phones or landlines, including conference calls. Skype also has an option to connect via video conferencing, which is nice for staying in touch with the family back home without ridiculous data roaming fees.
Plan for Wireless Oases
Connections at the show itself have historically been slow or completely unusable; it’s an unfortunate side effect of filling an enormous facility with wireless power users. Their need for connectivity will ultimately bring the networks to their knees. Instead of hoping for access and spending your day frustrated, expect that it will be bad and plan around it. Make sure you have a full download and sync before you leave your hotel in the morning. Plan your lunch at a café with Wi-Fi that is near enough to the Fira de Barcelona that you can walk, but far enough away that everyone else didn’t do the same. If your hotel is close enough to take a mid-day break for uploads/downloads, that may be your best “pit stop” of the day. Otherwise, consider bailing on the show early enough to do a quick data dump at the hotel before heading out for the evening’s activities.
Take Maps Offline
We usually forget that those handy map and navigation apps on our phones pull down a lot of data when they’re in use. If you’re trying to avoid data roaming costs, but need to know where you are and where to go, you need an offline map. Here is one example from last year. You can activate GPS – it’s free – without having data roaming active.
Get a Wi-Fi Roaming Account
There’s a lot of Wi-Fi in the list above, and depending on where you’re flying from and through on the way to Barcelona, you’re going to run into several different network operators. In Barcelona alone, there are at least six major hotspot providers you might need to connect to. A Wi-Fi roaming provider like Boingo can give you a cost-effective way to use Wi-Fi from myriad network operators as part of a monthly unlimited plan. Boingo Europe Plus covers the major airports around Europe, as well as 300 hotspots in Barcelona – from hotels, to coffee shops to the Fira de Barcelona, itself. If you download the Boingo Wi-Finder app beforehand, logging in to the hotspots takes a single click, and the hotspot finder will help you figure out how to map out the Oases for future use.
We’ve become so acclimated to staying connected and working on the go in our everyday lives, that the lack of reliable connectivity at Mobile World Congress and exorbitant cellular roaming fees create extra hazards on the road to productivity nirvana. Without wanting to add insult to injury, there is also a looming transportation strike in Barcelona that will create more headaches. Take the advice offered above for what it is – helpful tips to minimize headaches and maximize productivity without breaking the bank – and connectivity will be the least of your concerns. (Just make sure you pack really, really good walking shoes, in case the buses and metro aren’t running.)
Christian Gunning is director of corporate communications at Boingo Wireless who has been trying to stay connected on the road since his 386 laptop had a 2400 baud modem.
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Good policy on MWC, Christian
Thank you for taking the time to send in these tips Christian — I very much appreciate it. I’ve been a long term customer of Boingo and I’ll certainly be looking to make use of my account this year.