HOWTO: Lose €1bn

A couple of years ago I noticed a curious box with antennas on the lamp post just outside my front door - what could it be? WiFi? WLL? A competitor wiring up residential zones without wanting to lay cables all the way to the door?
 
Every once in a while I would ask a friend or a colleague who is into telecommunications, but to no avail. Until I recently came across a telecoms technician in the street, who was kind enough to take a couple of minutes to explain it to me.
 
 
Like municipal WiFi.
 
 
It was Telecom Italia's scheme to create municipality-wide DECT networks codenamed FIDO: customers could take their home phone with them, and be reachable on the move. It was intended for people who didn't want to make the jump to a real cell phone. AND as an alternative to GSM networks.
 
 
I am not a cellphone.
 
 
But that isn't all: even though the DECT standard was drafted with such an application in mind, the system performed poorly, especially indoors. Plus you had to pay for incoming calls. Nevertheless, FIDO was deployed in thirty Italian cities.
 
What a braindead idea: take a technology and massively deploy it in a field in which it hasn't been thoroughly tested before.
 
Or to put it in the words of Massimo Sarmi, FIDO Product Manager, one month after the launch: "It is too early to conclude anything about the profitability of the service or even its faultless operation."
 
FIDO went live in January 1998, and was decommissioned in 2001. Over the course of its 4 1/2 years of operation it cost between Lit. 1'000'000'000'000 and Lit. 1'500'000'000'000 (€640m - €1bn in 2009 terms).
 
 
Lamp post now only used by real Fido.
 
 
Every time you see one of those boxes with the two antennas sticking out of it, take a moment to think about the sheer stupidity people can come up with when having lots of money and a limited understanding of technology at their hands.

"...take a moment to think about the sheer stupidi...

"...take a moment to think about the sheer stupidity people can come up with when having lots of money and a limited understanding of technology at their hands" - and no economically minded shareholders who are able to exercise control...