Last week I was at a conference in Madrid. As soon as I got on the plane and I had to switch off my phone it felt like I’d stepped back in time several years. Since mobile data costs a fortune while abroad, obviously I had that turned off on my phone. It turns out that my hotel had no free WiFi, and that even the paid-for WiFi was next to useless in my room (which thankfully I discovered before paying for it). There was free WiFi in the conference venue, and that worked surprisingly well considering I was sharing it with about 10,000 other people, but still there were times when I couldn’t get a working connection. Overall, getting online was more than a little frustrating.

In years gone by, that wouldn’t have bothered me too much, but today so much of what I do just assumes I always have access to an internet connection. I had planned to use Skype or Facetime to keep in touch with the family at home, but I could only make that work at the conference venue early in the mornings when the network was lightly loaded. I had planned to use evenings at the hotel to work on blogs about the conference, and to try and keep up with everything I have in Google Reader. Neither of those happened. And, of course, I do enjoy tweeting just a little, and conferences abroad are perfect for twitter, instagram, and other social media activities. More than that, since many of the other conference attendees were big twitter users it was the perfect medium for co-ordinating after-conference activities. Except I couldn’t. I did resort to posting the odd tweet via SMS, but that’s read-only, obviously, and doesn’t come cheap either.

As soon as my plane landed back at Heathrow at the end of the week I couldn’t wait to turn my phone back on, switch on mobile data, and get back to the 21st century:-)

If only mobile data wasn’t so expensive while roaming. Now that smartphones are so wide-spread, and that so many people are making so much use of social media in their everyday lives, isn’t it time that roaming data prices became much more realistic?

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