I’m in the hands of Aisha at the Ministry of Information


I called up the Ministry of Information this morning. Somebody answered! I was put through to a lady who then put me through to Aisha, who listened to my issue.

“It really doesn’t take a week!” she replied, after I explained that I was waiting for Customs to contact her Ministry.

“Ah really?” I said, allowing myself to feel a slight feeling of hope.

The centrepiece of the Desert Island Challenge was Teleware’s Private Mobile Network unit. It’s a yellow ruggedised box about the size of a small hamper. Open it up and you’ll find a cord inside. It’s got a ton of battery power, but you can also plug that cord into a power source. Switch it on and you have an instant mobile network, 500m squared. The units are typically deployed in disaster zones or — literally in the middle of nowhere. Think, for example, an oil exploratory team in the middle of Siberia. Of course, the technology can be deployed in more conventional settings too.

Everyone I’ve spoken to has reacted with some surprise and excitement at the possibility of seeing just how one of these things works. We all know, don’t we? We all ‘get it’. Plug it in and woosh, yeah, small mobile network. No biggie.

But it’s seeing it work. I had some pretty smart experiments and tests planned. The PMN (“Private Mobile Network”) test unit comes with four JCB ToughPhones (made by Sonim) so I was going to see if I could get some of the staff here to each take one and see if we could call each other via our very own mobile network. I planned video. I planned audio. I planned lots of photos and some wicked editorial.

In fact, I was hoping to place the unit in the business centre of the Conrad Rangali Island Hotel where I’m based for this feature. If you plug the PMN unit into an IP connection, bish bash bosh, it will connect back to the Teleware service in London and… theoretically, I’d be able to make calls to the UK — to anywhere — via my JCB ToughPhone connected to my own mobile network. Neat.

All this scenarios are eminently possible. We know they are. I just wanted to prove it. To document it, to show it working.

Circle back then, about one and a half weeks. My PNM unit was held by Customs at Male airport and the management here at the hotel have been jumping through various hoops to try and see if I can get the unit released to test.

I tell you, a photo of the PMN unit sat in a bit of sand surrounded by palm trees.. I’d have been brilliant.

Aisha at the Maldives Ministry of Information reckoned that she might be able to speed things up. She needed a fax with the details. Interesting that they’re still in fax mode. I think if I was having this kind of issue in the UK, we’d probably be doing it by email. I got on the phone to Elvis, the PR manager for the resort here. He was out on a photoshoot — there are, understandably, a lot of publications coming to the Conrad here now and again for shoots. I reckoned all Aisha would need was a copy of the fax we’d previously sent to the Customs Service. Elvis agreed. I phoned Rena in the hotel office who sent off the fax and called Aisha to confirm she received it.

Now we wait.

Tomorrow — Friday — is the holy day in the Maldives. Saturday also comprises the weekend. Things start once again on Sunday and Monday.

My challenge? IF Aisha is able to triumph and the Customs Service are able to release the unit, it’s not all good news yet. Male Airport is a 30 minute flight by seaplane. Round the corner, it ain’t. So the next trauma will be getting the unit here.

We shall see.

(The photo above: My Iridium Sat Phone – more on that soon)

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