Orange Internet Max – The Port 25 Trap

Here’s a blog entry about something that leaves me quite speechless: A couple of months ago, Orange France started to offer mobile Internet access via their prepaid Mobicarte SIMs. For 9 euros a month, Orange says they grant full access to the Internet (no, not the Web, the Internet!) from mobile phones with their Internet Max offer. The fine print says may limit the speed after 500 MB a month. Further they say that eMail via SMTP, IMAP and POP3 is limited to 10 MB per month. And finally they say that VoIP, Peer to Peer and Newsgroups are not allowed. Tethering to PCs is also not allowed and will be billed separately. No word about how much is charged separately or what happens after the 10 MB per month eMail limitation. 

So I activated the option on my prepaid SIM and have used it for a couple of weeks now. As per the description, all the services I use on my mobile phone such as web browsing with OperaMini, the default web browser, eMail (POP3 and SMTP), A-GPS ephemeris lookup, etc. work well.

Then recently, I discovered that every now and then my prepaid account seems to leak a few cents. But why? After experimenting a bit I found out that every time I send an eMail via SMTP some cents vanish. To verify I repeatedly sent eMails over the course of several days, deactivated and activated TLS encryption, but each time the result was the same. Sending an eMail with a 200 kb file attachment resulted in a charge of 3.50 euros!!!? Did I pass that 10 MB boundary? Unlikely, since I only sent and received few eMails from activation time until I first noticed the behavior. And even if that is the reason, why did the system not send an SMS to warn me? It can bill me but it can’t send me a warning?

This sort of service behavior is one of the reasons that keep users from using the Internet on their phones. Imagine I had used a post paid SIM with the offer and would only have discovered this behavior a month later.

Hello dear readers at Orange France! If you read this and have any idea why this is happening I’d be very interested to hear from you. Or maybe this is an issue of the billing system? In that case I am sure there is someone who could fix it. Could I also get reimbursed please?

4 thoughts on “Orange Internet Max – The Port 25 Trap”

  1. It looks like there is Deep Packet Inspection of the traffic on the Gi and there is some misconfiguration of the SMTP filter(s). I suppose that once you warn Orange France, they will fix this shortly.


  2. But there are also positive examples like 3UK’s 10 pounds for a gigabyte per month on prepaid and no questions asked 🙂


  3. This case, in my opinion is a bit more complex. Is not just a DPI into Gi but also some event-billing that might not be an accident.
    Operators wants to avoid bit-pipe business, and become man-in-the-middle for revenue flow.
    This is more obvious for FMC operators, with the experience of the fixed network, in which finally only moves bits from internet to user and viceversa.

    It’s very clear, anyway that charging in per event or per piece with no previous announcement is not good (or even legal) habit.

  4. I have been using “internet through mobile phone” features in the same way you are for several years. I, too, am sometimes disgusted to find that I have been billed for something that was clearly, unambiguously included. I can add that the “rules” change all the time without notice. Once, they changed, without warning, in the middle of the one-month validity period typical of these offers.

    I especially have no idea what the point is to create these offers for large or “unlimited” (read “large”) amounts of data and then try to limit usage by arbitrary, ever-changing, hard-to-enforce restrictions on the kind of connections allowed. The cost to them is by the byte, why can’t they just drop the “unlimited” gimmick and allow tethered and mail connections? Life would be good if any French operator had an offer such as that described by Erwan.

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