A couple of months back there were articles about mobile phone roaming charges and I feel the best way to prevent such a problem is to just use a local SIM card. So on my short trip to Melbourne, a couple of months back, I was lucky to have my brother’s Optus prepaid SIM which he had used the Optus $2 Days Prepaid plan which offers:
Unlimited National Voice Calls
Unlimited Standard SMS/MMS
Unlimited Mobile Internet Browsing
This trifecta makes is perfect for practically anybody! The last time I was in Melbourne, I tried Vodafone and the data prices were horrendous (most prepaid plans seem pretty expensive in Australia), so I was very surprised to see unlimited data for $2/day. I’ve tried M1’s and Singtel’s offerings in Singapore and both only offered data: no voice or text.
As with all mobile data, coverage is important: there is no use having unlimited data if there is no reception! Check out any coverage maps to ensure that the place you go indeed has 3G reception (Optus coverage map). Also if there network is congested and saturated with people, it can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, this was not the case with Optus in the CBD area, where I was most of the time.I manged to get consistent 6Mbps download speeds while downloading my podcasts.
Also do remember to read the fine print when signing up for these plans so that you don’t get charge unexpectedly (by wrongly assuming something is free or counted in the deal when it is not). Sadly when you do read the Optus fine print in the Terms & Conditions it says the $2 charges exclude "mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices" which I made sure I didn’t do just in case. Also their Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies to your usage which is basically guarding against ‘excessive usage’ which would probably be detrimental to the general network (i.e. causes congestion for other users)
All in all, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to use my phone without worrying about any caps or running out of credit. I would highly recommend this plan for all those data hungry Twitter / Facebook / Foursquare / Instagram / WhatsApp / Viber / other text alternative apps / general web addicted people out there. Heck if you need a SIM card before you go, I (or you) could ask my brother to borrow the SIM card.
Daily usage fee is $2 and includes unlimited standard national calls, SMS & MMS to Australian GSM mobiles (excluding Pivotel); standard national calls to Australian fixed lines; voicemail retrieval and mobile internet browsing on your handset within Australia. Includes free voicemail deposits within Australia.
Excludes premium SMS and content, international and satellite calling and text, international roaming charges, Zoo content usage charges, video calling, 966 calls, mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices. Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies.
Timing is based on AEST (the time in Sydney, NSW) regardless of your location. Please adjust your usage to allow for time differences.
The usage fee is charged on the first outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS or mobile internet access each day after 12.00.00am AEST. Usage fee is not charged on days when no outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS, voicemail or mobile internet access is made.
Unlimited standard national daily calls maximum duration is 24 hours.
International calls are charged in increments of up to 10 minutes.
Daily usage fee inclusions expire on the earlier of: 1. 11:59:59pm AEST each day; or 2. the time on which you select another offer.
If you change from $2 Days to another offer after you have paid your daily usage fee, you will forfeit the benefits available under the Dollar Days offer.
Me2U is not available with these offers.
Recharge voucher expiry : $10 is 10 days, $15 is 15 days, $20 is 20 days, $30 is 30 days, $40 is 40 days and $50 is 50 days, $70 is 70 days and $100 is 100 days
Unused credit rolls over when your next recharge is before your credit expiry.
Options for $5, $10, $15 & $20 top-ups are not available. Some handsets are set to seek data automatically (eg email or other apps). This will use the internet and, in some cases, charges will apply.
Mobile Internet access requires a compatible handset. Optus may in the future require customers to change their Internet connection settings to be able to access the Internet while on the Dollar Days offers.
^Rollover credit: You must recharge a minimum of 24 hours before your credit expires for rollover to apply.
This is the first version of my podcasting setup that I’m relatively happy with as it is clean without too much things going on. I’ve used this for Corner Geeks and some Tech Talk Coffee Shop episodes.
An alternative to LineIn is Audacity (enable “Software Playthrough” in the Transport menu and click “Start Monitoring” in the input device) or LadioCast but LineIn is the simplest method for this setup. For Windows and Linux users, the Audacity method should work just fine.
So a couple of weeks back we had the honour of live streaming of Ran8adidas (the 8th year anniversary celebrations of Ranoadidas.com) at the International Convention Center (ICC). We share with you how we managed to get mobile video in the field with the ability to add overlays and mix the audio source with any audio source while at the same time live streaming and recording it.
MacBook Pro line-in port to receive sound from the mixer
A USB sound card to be used as audio out for monitoring
Soundflower was used as extra audio devices to aid the transfer of audio from audio sources to audio outputs
LadioCast (free) for audio mixer/switching between mixer and iOS device audio
uStream.tv (free) to stream and record the live video and audio
The video quality wasn’t great and it was a trade-off between faster frame rates vs better image quality and resolution which were limited factors of the WebCamera application (192×144 vs 480×360, but I’m not sure to measure the frame rate). We decided on better image quality as it would be made worse by the spotty 3G connection
We tried using uStream Producer (free) but it was inconsistent as it dropped after 30 seconds. I wonder if this could be due to the 3G reception.
If you have an Android device you can use IP WebCam (free) to stream the video and audio from the device to a computer. I used 2 different instances of VLC (free) to play the video and audio. The video could then be captured using CamTwist and the audio controlled with LadioCast
We experimented with PocketCam for iOS ($4.99) paried together with the PocketControl (free) client software but the delay in video and audio was too great, ~10 seconds.
So the few weeks/months back I saw that the Samsung Galaxy Tab was going for AU$299 and there were a few things I wanted to know about the device before I got it:
Could they ship it overseas?
Was it locked? if so what is the unlocking fee
Will it work here in Brunei?
Sadly in the process of finding my answers to these 2 simple questions, it sadly went out of stock but I did learn some important information with regards to mobile phone frequency bands and also of the ‘quality’ of phones on the market. This is something I’ve never really took into account when buying a phone because I bought phones and they worked, but since I was buying this from overseas I had to make sure. Stumbled upon this comment stating that there are typically to different UMTS/HSDPA frequency band chips: 850/1900/2100 for the US market and 900/1900/2100 for everyone else.
So turn research mode on to see I found out from the Mobile Network Code Wikipedia page that Brunei uses UMTS 2100 for 3G on both carriers b-mobile and DSTCom (DSTCom also supports GSM 900). Data-wise, UMTS is basically 3G or mobile broadband while GSM is the slower GPRS/EDGE mobile Internet. Now just because a carrier has multiple frequencies that it broadcasts on, it doesn’t mean that it will always work with any device as the tower may communicate at a frequency the device does not support e.g. device supports 900/2100, carrier supports 850/2100 but the tower in range communicates on 850MHz. From Wikipedia “The 850 MHz and 900 MHz bands provide greater coverage compared to equivalent 1700/1900/2100 MHz networks, and are best suited to regional areas where greater distances separate subscriber and base station” so I would think telcos would most likely use 850MHz towers to save costs and it seems that is the case with Telstra’s Next G Network for the exact same reason (Telstra’s Mobile Networks)
I’ve compiled some data on phones and tablets from different companies that are currently on the market. I only noted UMTS support as GSM is generally all the same. The results are as follows (full listing of data used at the end of this post).
Nokia: penta-band supported on their high end devices. cheaper phones support tri-band
Apple / Samsung: quad-band support on their latest/higher end devices, previous generation / other devices : tri-band
Sony Ericsson: all models have quad and dual-band models, but not sure which is more common
Motorola: tri-band supported but Xoom only has single-band (possible error?)
Huawei & LG: tri-band support for higher end, the rest dual-band
HTC: mostly dual band with only the Sensation 4G and Flyer having tri-band
So it seems logical that most quad band phones leave out 1700 as it has the least entries and that most (if not all) phones support 2100. I think it’s rather sad that HTC has the worst band support considering they make a lot of phones and they are the very mainstream. At the end of the day the multiple band support is only important for frequent travelers and if you want faster 3G speeds. If your device doesn’t support the appropriate UMTS band, as long as it supports GSM band of the carrier you will still get reception to text and make calls but you will be hindered by slower mobile Internet via GPRS / EDGE. So for the quest for faster data speeds and usability anywhere and everywhere do take note of this when you choose your next phone.
====================== Data Compiled and Used
Full Listing of devices with information taken from GSM Arena. Link to the compiled data (Google Docs). This only shows UMTS / HSDPA support as GSM support is similar.
So during my travels I found out about prepaid broadband SIM cards that let you have unlimited mobile broadband (e.g. 3G) while on the go. The ones that I’ve used are fromM1 (Singapore) and Digi (Malaysia). I stumbled upon this poster advertising Zoom! (bmobile’s mobile broadband) while visiting Telbru. This is a perfect opportunity for people to test Zoom! to see how well it works in their area: remember it is a shared Internet connection so it can be slow if the area is saturated. Speed also depends on the modem you are using.
Days of Unlimited Usage
Note: Just realised my titled was wrong. I forgot to put the word ‘Unlimited’. This is important as DST Go! and bmobile Zoom! already have prepaid options but they are not unlimited. This new unlimited option is a great option for tourist who are here for a short period of time and need not worry about the amount of data they use.
Basically they have 2 phones that should be coming to the market in the coming months (estimated at 4-6 weeks). These phones are the LC203 and the LC303 are have basic features. Both phones are 2G and the LC303 has extra features such as a camera. These 2 phones are not running Android but a custom OS from their partners. They have prototypes that are running Android and Windows Mobile but those phones will only be seen in the future.
Aiming at the B$400-B$600 price point they could make a market for themselves as typical Android handsets are targeting the more premium market at the moment. Looking at QQeStores Android phone listing there is only the Samsung Galaxy Spica I5700 and LG GW620 in this price range. My only concerns would be support for firmware updates to an Android phone. The HTC Hero has yet still get any 2.0+ firmware here in Asia and I wonder if this could be an issue with a new manufacturer. The prototype is running Donut (Android 1.6) but as it is not coming out any time soon, they may be running a newer version of Android so nothing much to comment yet.
Zahid, the managing director of BDFone, informed me that they have partnerships with Alcatel, Motorola and Nokia; and that they are targeting low cost but functional phones. I’m not too sure about lower end feature/dumb phones as I think Nokia has pretty functional phones at the low end but aiming for the lower end of Android may be beneficial. There is a void here as almost all Android phones are trying to be an iPhone killer and fetches top dollar. I’m thinking a non-touch Android phone with a keypad (1-9) would be an interesting form factor like the Nokia E52. Either way I wish them all the best and will try update on any developments on this Brunei phone.
Ever since I had the opportunity of using bmobile‘s 3.5G modem to get mobile broadband (via Zoom!) I was curious to see whether it would work in Linux. After much testing, I did manage to get it to work but it wasn’t consistent (it only seemed to work when the modem was tied to /dev/ttyUSB0, so I kepted plugging it in and out and redialed to see if it worked).
The modem is identified an Alcatel One Touch X020 / X030 / MDB-100HU / Nuton 3.5G (lsusb will show ) so search usb_modeswitch.conf and uncomment the section for DefaultVendor, DefaultProduct, TargetVendor, TargetProduct and MessageContent
# Alcatel One Touch X020 (aka OT-X020, aka MBD-100HU, aka Nuton 3.5G), works with Emobile D11LC
# Alcatel One Touch X030 (aka OT-X030, aka Nuton NT36HD)
# Contributor: Aleksandar Samardzic, Marcelo Fernandez
# only for reference and 0.x versions
Do the actual mode switch for the modem to change the device from USB storage to modem mode: sudo usb_modeswitch
Create the USB serial device for dial up: sudo modprobe usbserial vendor=0x1c9e product=0x6061
This step created 3 devices (/dev/ttyUSB0, /dev/ttyUSB1, /dev/ttyUSB2) on my system.
Use the Network Manager Applet to configure a new broadband modem connection with the B-Mobile configuration (APN: bmobilewap)
As mentioned this does not work consistently, so if it doesn’t seem to connection try plugging the USB modem out and back in and retry. I will try find a way to get this more consistent, but hopefully this will help those who are trying to get it to work