New Android app will Be Bound to annoy hotel chains that overcharge for Internet access whilst making ripped-off guests very happy.

Nov 26, 2013

Remember when greedy hotels routinely ripped-off their customers by banging immense margins on to the price of making a phone call from the room? It got so bad that hotel phone charges became the biggest bone of contention across the entire global hotel industry with millions of 'guests' routinely and bitterly complaining about excessive costs and incorrect bills.

Then came mobiles and hotel room phone price scam went the way of the dodo. Hotels lost huge sums as guests shunned in-room handsets and used their own phones to make calls. Hotel rooms still feature a phone handset or two (or three; one by the bed, one on the desk and - bizarrely - one next to the lavatory bowl - the handset placed there presumably in the expectation that someone will need to make a pricey telephone call whilst simultaneously answering a call of nature) but these days they are hardly ever used except for free room-to-room and local calls.

However, when one milch cow stops providing the search for another to replace it swings into action and now the rip-off that causes the most anger is the cost of Internet access and in-room wi-fi. It is an international scandal with some hotels providing web access for free while others, usually the big chains, charging huge daily amounts for basic service.

Now, it's fair enough to make a small charge for a wired or wireless connection in a hotel room - there is after all the cost if deploying the kit in the first place, its convenience for guests, the cost of maintenance etc., plus a reasonable mark-up, but it is not fair enough to make Internet access an over-priced monopoly service.

The inconsistencies surrounding the pricing of web access in hotel rooms are now so striking, and the price anomalies so extreme, that for many individuals and corporations the decision to stay at a particular hotel is often now determined by the additional costs of internet access.

In the 21st Century just about everyone needs to be able to get onto the web and to be able to receive and sent emails, it's as simple and basic as that. The hotels know it and some (far too many) hark back to the good old days (for them) of overcharging for services that cost them very little.

But, there are ways round the corporate extortion. Guests can pop out to a coffee shop or a bar or even log on to the web via low-cost or even free wi-fi networks in the street, parks etc. and now there is a new app that lets users access the Internet anywhere for less than the cost of a text message and without needing a dedicated data connection.

Be Bound is an Android app that doesn't require a Wi-Fi signal, 3G or 4G to work. Be Bound uses the good old 2G network almost anywhere in the world to move signals around the network. What's more, it works with any carrier.

Here's how: Be Bound stores compressed web data on cloud servers. That data is transmitted to Be Bound app users over a 2G network on low bandwidth SMS spectrum. If there is a dedicated data channel use of the app is free, it there isn't there is a small charge that is paid via so-called "Be-Miles". The current Be-Miles conversion rate is one SMS of web information per Be-Mile and 80 Be-Miles (the basic unit) cost £4.30. What's more the app comes already loaded with weather reports, new headlines, stocks and shares quotes,a geolocation service, Twitter and email.

Be Bound is headquartered in Paris, France and has been available in Europe for more than a month. The company's CEO, Albert Szulman says, "We started from the simple observation that everybody has faced connection issues, even in covered areas like trains, subways, inside buildings or any other areas with poor or limited connectivity. We aim to connect the world. Be-Bound’s app requires no infrastructure investment and will work with every phone carrier in the world. Customers don't need a contract or a tariff plan - they buy credits and use them."

Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, some users have complained that once the app is downloaded they have been overwhelmed by such a deluge of junk emails that they have been forced within a few hours hours to delete the app just to get some peace and quiet. Others complain that the app is very, very slow and that buying a local SIM in the country of destination and using 'tethering' is a much better and faster solution to the problem Be Bound claims to solve,

All probably true, all probably relevant. As usual it's a matter of horses for courses but any app that can be used to confound the money-grubbers running some of the world's (allegedly) best and most customer-responsive hotel chains must surely be worth a try and given a chance - and Be Bound could be of particular use and value in digitally-deprived regions and emerging economies.

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