Since last week, O2 Germany is officially selling their latest product, the O2 Surf@home UMTS/W-LAN access point and since Friday I have one for testing at home or better at home of my girlfriend also. Maybe you remember that I was looking for a W-LAN modem back in 2003 and I found a Bluetooth modem from Acer. As good as the Acer modem (after I got it replaced with a newer version) works, it's pretty slow since it is an analogue 56K modem only.
Since my girlfriend isn't a daily (home)-Internet user but is accessing the web every two or three days only, a DSL connection doesn't makes too much sense in terms of the costs (especially because normally my girlfriend would prefer not having any PSTN connection at home because she is using O2 Germany's Genion/Homezone service anyway).
Therefore I've installed the Surf@home box at her home (also because I for myself have DSL at home anyway and I don't need a fallback solution yet) in the kitchen:
As explained earlier, O2's Surf@home concept is a Router/Access Point combination which includes a IEEE 802.11g Wi-Fi interface, a 100 MBit/s LAN and a UMTS/3G radio-module.
With a Notebook or PC you connect with the Surf@home box (either wireless or by cable) and the box connects with O2's 3G/UMTS network. Done, you are connected!
Administrating Surf@home is a piece of cake because all you need is a web browser. As soon as you are connected with the box, it either recognize that you are connected with the UMTS/3G network or not. If you are not connected yet, it's redirecting every URL to the administration interface where you have to enter the SIM PIN first. Then you can simply press the "connect" button and the box connects with O2's UMTS network - done again. From now you can use every Internet service - from WWW to FTP to E-Mail to what ever.
According to Bandwidth Place I'm reaching around 217 kilobits per second which is in fact a fantastic value because it means I can have a 1 MB download within 39 seconds!
And that's the idea behind Surf@home: it's addressing customer which expects high bandwidth if he/she is online while he/she isn't a daily Internet user. Somebody like my girlfriend, my father or my sister in law. All of them using the Internet but they are bored by the long loading times of websites - with their modem- or ISDN-connections. But they are not using the Internet that heavy that they have the need for a real broadband connection since they go online a few times a week only.
The feedback from my girlfriend was more then positive because it is a) faster then her old modem connection and b) in her experience it's even faster then her Internet connection at work! :-)
Also I used the Surf@home connection on Saturday and Sunday to finalize the site relaunch including Remote Desktop Connection to my Web server (which worked fantastic too).
Well done O2! While most carriers don't have a clue today what to do with their UMTS networks (video telephony is nice but will never make a UMTS business case working), O2 Germany found another niche (after their Genion launch back in 1999) and Surf@home supplements Genion (for voice) perfectly, if you are not an "all-time-online" geek like me. ;-)
Unfortunately Surf@home isn't working nation-wide yet and it's only working within O2's UMTS network, not with O2's national roaming partner network T-Mobile. Otherwise Surf@home could be an interesting alternative for users who lives out of DSL coverage. Also I would like to see a kind of Surf@office version which allows me to take the box with me. Right now, the box is locked down to work in a dedicated area only, so you can not take it with you from, let's say - Munich to Frankfurt. But for me as a consultant this would be an interesting option to bring my own Internet connection to my customers to get access there as well a creating my own LAN. O2, maybe you should think about this option too! ;-)
Cheers ~ Arne