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Neil Gregory is a 28-year-old recruitment consultant who works for a construction consultancy, TH Associates. He finds himself out of the office a lot of the time and, therefore, a heavy user of mobile communications.
“At the prompting of a T-Mobile customer services representative, I changed my tariff and phone to a more flexible contract,” he explains. “I am quite IT-curious, so the idea of the web’n’walk service I was offered sounded interesting. On the other hand, I did not expect that much from it because I had already found Wap services to be rather poor.”
Web’n’walk is an internet access package available on a mobile phone and laptop. It enables users to check e-mails on the train and access the web without having to plug into a fixed phone line.
“Very quickly, I found I was using it when I was out of the office, to check where I was going on a map or to find out phone numbers that I otherwise didn’t have with me,” Mr Gregory explains. “I can use a webmail service to check e-mails, too. It proved itself useful if you are on the spot, providing a quick response without having to bother others.”
In his work, Mr Gregory is often dealing with decision-makers involved in multimillion pound deals, so professionalism is paramount. “Of course, I have briefs to digest before going into meetings, and I prepare on the train. However, with the best will in the world, a brief can sometimes leave gaps. I wouldn’t use it in a meeting but in these situations, before I arrive, web’n’walk is not only convenient but completes any blind spots.”
If web’n’walk proved itself to Mr Gregory in his professional life, it has shown itself to be handy in his private life, too. It is easy to use for finding out anything from answers to pub quiz questions and the latest football scores, to the last train home.
Web’n’walk has also contributed to a better work-life balance. While Mr Gregory recognises the risks of constant access to e-mail, he does not think this service in itself compounds them. He has a partner and two step-daughters, and web’n’walk has helped him to organise his life better and keep in touch – as well as making more time for the things that really matter in life. The idea seems to be that while the boundaries between work and life are not always clear, there is an advantage to being able to clear up a few work issues in his own time – when commuting or at home. This “tidying-up” leaves him free to then enjoy the bulk of his time away from work on leisure activities.
“The connectivity is reliable, though I live and work in areas that have good 3G coverage,” Mr Gregory says. “The problem with Wap was partly the coverage but more, it was the fact that it was text only. The graphics in web’n’walk certainly add something. You have to get used to the vertical presentation of sites: things that would appear across a screen on a PC appear in columns. However, it does mean that you can access the same websites you are used to on a laptop.”
In terms of cost, the fact that the service offers unlimited browsing time with no data rates, means that it is virtually a no-brainer. Mr Gregory’s hesitation at the start was more to do with his questions about the quality of the service than what it might cost, and those questions have now been put to rest. “I would say to anyone who travels for business to give it a go,” he adds. “It has enabled me to be more professional, and provides a kind of comfort blanket, accessible anytime, anywhere, the value of which people who are out of the office a lot will understand.”
Mr Gregory also points out that it is convenient to use: it does not require waiting for a PC to boot up, or for a dial-up connection to be established. “I would say it is the sort of service that once you’ve tried it out, you will soon miss if it is not there,” he concludes.