The Mobile Internet In Spain With A Yoigo Prepaid SIM

Looks like new entrant Yoigo (TeliaSonera) in the Spanish wireless market wants to shake things up a bit by offering competitive prices for phone calls and GPRS/UMTS web browsing via their prepaid SIM card. Dennis over at Wap Review reports about his experiences while on vacation.

Price per megabyte is €1.20. Not the cheapest prepaid data offer I have seen so far except for the interesting twist described below. but it will do for many purposes. Denis also lists the required settings to access the Internet with the SIM. Unfortunately he doesn’t mention if all traffic has to go via the WAP 2.0 Proxy or if other services such as POP3 and SMTP for eMail also work. As they cap their daily price at €1.20 for data and they refer in their offer to ‘navigating’ I kind of doubt it. If someone has more info, please let me know.

Vodafone WebSessions Tested At HSDPA Speeds

A couple of weeks ago, Vodafone Germany announced during the CeBit that they will launch/lower their data roaming prices for their WebSession offer. On both prepaid and post paid Vodafone Germany SIM cards, WebSessions can be bought for €14.95 for a 24 hour period while roaming in many countries (for a list see below). While unlimited for now, Vodafone’s fine print says that a web session will be limited to 50 MB of data traffic starting in Seprember 2007. Definitely not on the cheap side for private travelers, the price will work for many business travelers when abroad for a couple of days. As I am one of those it was time to get a Voda prepaid SIM and give it a try.

How To Get A SIM

Apart from being very flexible with a prepaid SIM and not having to pay a monthly fee or being bound for a certain period a prepaid SIM additionally offers assurance that I will not come home one day to find a €3000.- invoice because I mis-configured my kit. This is not unheard of… As Vodafone Germany wanted €20.- for a prepaid starter kit, I decided to give eBay a try and got one for €2.-. The SIM card included €10.- worth of calls and Internet access, enough for a first test. Important note: As far as I know only German Vodafone SIM cards support WebSessions.

How to Connect

The most important thing with the WebSession offer is to use the correct Access Point Name (APN) when connecting. For this offer it is "". If a different APN is used other fees will apply for the connection so be careful. After establishing the connection any web page access is redirected to the WebSessions portal page of Vodafone. Here, one can either select to begin a new session or browse the page for free. Unlike advertised, the only payment option I had was to deduct the price for the WebSession from the prepaid account.

Once opening the web session is confirmed on the portal page the connection is put into transparent mode and full Internet access is possible. Before being forwarded to the initially selected page the portal tries to open a popup window to show the remaining online time. This fails in both Firefox and the Internet Explorer with standard pop-up blocker options enabled. No harm done, the Internet connection works anyway. However, it might be useful to have this information. To allow the pop-up window to open, the pop-up prevention can be manually deactivated in the browsers settings for the portal URL only.


For my tests I used the HSDPA notebook card I already used for my HSDPA tests in Italy. As in the Italien TIM network, HSDPA performance in the German Vodafone network were superb with maximum data rates of 180 kBytes/s, which is around 1.6 MBit/s. This is the maximum speed supported by the card. Round trip delay times were at around 100 ms and I had the same 2 seconds delay after some time of inactivity, just as in Italy. So it’s likely that TIM and Vodafone Germany use the same radio network manufacturer, who is most likely Ericsson. The maximum uplink speed was a remarkable 384 kbit/s.

While talking about performance I’d also like to note that my desk is about 300 meters and two concrete walls away from the 3G base station. Therefore my reception conditions were excellent and unlike in Italy with slightly less favorable reception conditions, changes in antenna orientation had no big impact on throughput speed.

I also used the WebSession with an N93 connected to the PC and also quickly connected to the Swiss UMTS network which is available when I am on my penthouse veranda. All worked as it should, I am very satisfied!

Logging In and Out, eMail, VoIP and IPSec

A WebSession can be left and entered again as often as one likes while the clock is ticking. I connected and disconnected several times to check this feature one out and it works flawlessly as well. After every login, the portal page is shortly visited for the pop-up box to open up to show the remaining online time. Afterwards, the browser is immediately redirected to the requested page. EMail SMTP and POP3 works as well over the connection and my IPSec connection establishment to my company was working. Even Skype calls worked without a glitch despite Vodafone stating in their fine print that VoIP calls are blocked.

Automatic Web Page and Picture Compression

The only thing that I don’t like is the automatic picture compression on web pages Vodafone performs. While it helps to reduce the total transfer volume it’s not required to improve page download times over HSDPA. After all, the HSDPA connection is much faster than my ADSL line. I heard that it’s possible to deactivate the automatic picture compression with the Vodafone software that comes with their branded HSDPA cards. As I don’t use any Vodafone software or hardware I can’t change the setting. However, I can deactivate split tunneling in my IPSec client. Afterwards all data traffic is sent through the encrypted tunnel to the corporate network. This prevents the transparent web proxy in the Vodafone core network to touch the pages and pictures and things look as they should. Not a perfect solution to the problem but it works for me.

Supported Roaming Countries

Belgium (Proximus), Denmark (TDK), Finland (Elisa), France (SFR), Greece (Vodafone), U.K.  (Vodafone), Ireland  (Vodafone), Italy (Vodafone), Lichtenstein (Mobilkom), The Netherlands (Vodafone), Austria (Mobilkom), Portugal (Vodafone), Switzerland (Swisscom), Spain  (Vodafone) and Germany (Vodafone).


For me, WebSessions are a great way to stay connected while traveling in other countries especially now that another program I previously used abroad has expired. It would be nice if the price comes down a bit more to also make it attractive for non-business travelers and if there was an easier way to deactivate picture compression. However, I can live with both drawbacks for the moment. I also used a WebSession with the built in applications of my Nokia N93. You can read about this in the next blog entry.

Mobile Roaming Strategies Conference in Barcelona, Spain

Next week, Barcelona will see a small but maybe quite influential conference on Mobile Roaming Strategies. From the 16th to the 19th of April, operators from around the world will discuss everything about GSM and UMTS voice and data roaming. Topics from the home page of the event:

  • "Develop innovative strategies to recoup lost roaming revenues due to regulatory pressures". My comment: Gee, there is a lot of explosive potential in that one…
  • "Build attractive voice and data pricing models which encourage roaming mobile usage". My comment: Hello, I can see the word ‘data’ in that sentence! Good!
  • "Focus on your VAS strategy to reduce roaming revenue leakage and increase usage". My comment: I wonder what ‘roaming revenue leakage‘ is. Anyone?
  • "Examining techniques to Increase take-up of roaming data services". My comment: Tip: Affordable prices would help tremendously. No need for discussion, just do it! Vodafone Germany has gone ahead and done a positive step with their WebSessions roaming offer. Let’s have some competition here!

It’s not only operators giving presentations, however. It looks like Stephen Banable, working for the Information Society and Media DG of the EU Comission will hold a presentation as well. Into the lion’s den Stepehen…

I’d really like to see the presentation material distributed at this event, especially for the first and second bullet points above. Anybody reporting from this event?

  • Vodafone Data Roaming With Websessions

    It’s CeBIT time and wireless operators in Germany have been keen these days to announce new price plans for mobile data. One of the most exciting announcements for me is Vodafone Germany’s announcement of lowering the price for their WebSessions data price plan while roaming. So far, they were charging 30 euros a day for Internet access to roaming customers in one of their partner networks. Now, they’ve lowered the price to 15 euros. While still too expensive for private use, it will help business travelers a lot.

    And the cream on top: WebSessions also work with Vodafone Germany prepaid cards and a 24 hour web session can be bought either via the monthly phone bill (post paid), via the prepaid account or via credit card. Credit card payment is especially useful for business travelers needing a receipt for their company.

    A WebSession is started by establishing an Internet connection via the "" apn. Afterwards, web access is redirected to a portal page on which the payment method can be selected. The fine print: The session duration is 24 hours and there is no limit on the number of reconnects during that time. The data volume, however, is limited to 50 megabytes after which access is blocked. For most people, that should be more than enough. More on the technical details when I had a chance to try it in practice.

    I had a quick look at the web site of Vodafone U.K. (the mother ship…) to see if they have similar offers. I came up empty handed!? So it looks like the national divisions have quite some power when it comes to price plans. Let’s hope other Voda subsidiaries follow the good example.

    “European” 3G Phones Now Also Usable In South Korea

    Until recently, European travelers to South Korea could not use their mobile phones due to incompatible wireless standards. Recently, however, KTF and SK Telecom have chosen to change standards and are now deploying UMTS/HSDPA networks (see here and here).

    To use these networks with "European" UMTS phones, two other things need to be in place. First, these networks must be deployed in the 2.1 GHz frequency band, which is the band supported by European UMTS phones. Second, the home operator must have a roaming agreement with at least one of the operators that are deploying HSDPA networks.

    Looks like all three things came together for a colleague of mine who traveled to South Korea recently. He’s a subscriber with T-Mobile Germany and was able to use KTF’s UMTS/HSDPA network without any trouble with his Nokia E-60 3G phone. Funnily enough, T-Mobile lists KTF still as CDMA network in their roaming data base.

    Similarly in Japan, foreign visitors from Europe can now also use their 3G phones since NTT-DoCoMo and Softbank (former Vodafone K.K.) both operate UMTS/HSDPA networks in the 2.1 GHz band. Not many places on earth now anymore with a wireless network in range where a GSM/UMTS phone can not be used. For a world wide overview of GSM/UMTS coverage, take a look here.

    German Media Keeps Asking About EU Data Roaming Prices

    Back in November, I was delighted to read that "Der Spiegel", one of Germany’s high profile political magazines reported that EU commissioner for information society and media Viviane Reding is also looking into pricing for data roaming in Europe. Now, "Focus", another high profile political magazine published an article in which Ms. Reding is reported to say that she is very worried about the extremely high prices for SMS and data services ("Ich bin sehr besorgt über die sehr hohen Preise"). "Tagesschau", a popular German TV new show followed suite.

    I’d really welcome some action to get realistic and affordable data roaming prices. In the U.S. for example people roam from east coast to west coast never thinking about roaming costs. European travelers on the other hand are constantly impacted by high roaming fees and thus limit their communication when in other parts of Europe to the absolute minimum. Most people’s communication behavior at home and abroad is thus completely different. It’s not only a lifestyle question but a major competitive disadvantage as well.

    How is the media treating this topic in other EU countries? Please leave a comment. Thanks!

    Pre-3GSM: Prepaid 3G Data – Tested

    Last week a number of German Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)announced that they would slash prices for mobile Internet access to 0.24 Euros per megabyte. The news almost sounded to good to be true. Thus, I decided to test one of the new prepaid offers myself while on the way to the 3GSM Congress.

    I decided to go for the ‘Aldi Talk’ offer for two reasons. First, Aldi is the only MVNO currently offering SIM cards that are not only allowed to use the GSM network of E-Plus but also their UMTS network. Second, getting a SIM card is straight forward. Aldi is a big supermarket chain in Germany and their offer is available in all of their stores. The SIM card costs 15 euros and includes 10 Euros worth of voice calls (14 cents a minute to all networks, 4 cents between Aldi’s customers) or data traffic. Activating the SIM is straight forward and can be done for example via the web. Within half an hour my SIM was usable. Access to the Internet with my notebook via the UMTS network of E-Plus worked immediately and without any difficulties, as I looked up the required GPRS access point name (APN) before, which is Also noteworthy: It seems Nokia has done a lot of homework as my N93 automatically added the necessary configuration for on device browsing and MMS when I first inserted the new SIM card. Well done, Nokia!

    I surfed the net for a while with my notebook and checked the traffic counter before hanging up. I used about two megabytes and right after the session my balance was reduced by about half a euro, just as expected. The remaining balance on the prepaid account can be checked at any time by sending *100# to the network and so users have full control of how much they spend.

    Aldi Talk, or E-Plus in general, seems to use a transparent proxy for web requests which compresses pictures on web pages to improve page download times. While not really necessary while being in the UMTS network, this is a very nice feature while surfing the net via the slower GPRS network. Unfortunately, the compression can not be turned on or off and a lot of people are thus quite unhappy about this functinonality. However, there is a way around this as further discussed below.

    The Aldi talk offer is not restricted to web surfing. I also sent and received some eMails via SMTP and POP3, sent a picture to Flickr via Shozu and used my IPsec client to establish a secure tunnel to my company. All applications worked just as they should. Very well indeed!

    I can also set my IPsec client to send all packets through the encrypted tunnel instead of only those destined to the company intranet. This has the added benefit that pictures on web pages can not be compressed by the E-Plus web proxy. The same effect can be reached by other means as well. Many DSL routers at home these days can act as a PPTP (Point to Point Tunelling Protocol) server and if the Windows XP built in PPTP client is configured to be used as default gateway, all packets can be made to traverse the encrypted PPTP tunnel to the DSL router and from there to the Internet. This, however, should only be done if the DSL uplink has a higher capacity than the UMTS downlink in order not to slow down the connection.

    To me, the new prepaid mobile data offer holds what it promisses. I have full access to the Internet at a reasonable price for the data volume generated by my applications. On top, I get very competitive prices for voice calls as well, so I am one step closer to using a single mobile phone for both voice and data again. The next step would now of course be to offer affordable international data roamig as well. Hutchison’s Three networks have made the brave first step in this direction and I hope others will follow the good example.

    Affordable Prepaid Mobile Internet Access In Germany And Other Countries

    Just back in October I’ve been writing how Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO’s) have revolutionized the mobile telephony market in Germany. Now it looks like they’ve discovered mobile Internet access as an attractive market and have started to offer very competitive prices. Over at m-trends, I’ve been discussing the far reaching implications of this move. While I think German MVNO’s have done the biggest step yet, operators in a number of other countries have also introduced interesting prepaid data offers in the past months.


    Currently, E-PLUS MVNO’s Alditalk, Simyo and Blau are offering mobile Internet access for 24 cents per megabyte. Access is charged in 10 to 50 kBytes blocks depending on the operator. This article on Teltarif mentions that Alditalk customers can use the UMTS network with the offer, while Simyo and Blau customers for the moment seem to be restricted to the slower GPRS network.


    ‘Three’ offers prepaid Internet access as part of the 3Reload Data option. Price per megabyte is 80 cents.


    Italian operator ‘Wind’ offers Internet access for prepaid users in three different packages. 100 MB for 8 euros a month (Mega 300), 1 GB for 20 euros and month (Mega No Limit) and 5 GB a month (Mega 15000) for 30 euros. The hurdle to use Internet applications with a prepaid card are a bit higher due to the package system vs. the pay per kilobyte in Germany and Austria but the price per mega byte is a lot cheaper.

    Other countries

    If you have heard of other operators in these or other countries to offer prepaid Internet access for reasonable prices (i.e. 1MB < 1 Euro) please leave a note below. It is offers like these and others like ‘Three’s recent announcement to get rid of international roaming charges for voice and data that pave the way for the mobile killer environment!

    The Move Of The Year: Free Data Roaming With 3: A Dream Come True!

    I could hardly believe my eyes today when I read in the press that 3, a mobile network operator in a number of countries, will no longer charge hyper-exorbitant roaming fees for UMTS data usage in their sister networks abroad. Their new offer is called "3 Like Home".

    Never quite believing the press I went to the UK home page and verified it myself. Here’s the link. A similar story for 3 in Austria. It’s really true! Unbelievable! Great! Super! Exhilarating! I’ve been waiting for this for years now as I am a frequent traveler. Exorbitant roaming charges for both voice and data have so far prevented me from using the networks as I am used to at home and has made my life more difficult then it could have been.

    I would run to 3 with flying colors to sign a contract if they operated a network in Germany and France, two countries I often travel to (aha, so there is a catch…). So for the moment I still have to wait for another operator who is active in these parts of Europe to make an equal move. But there is hope now and light at the end of the tunnel!

    3 is transforming at an incredible pace. Not too long ago, 3 in the U.K. was still looking the other way. One of the last operators in Europe firmly evangelizing the walled garden strategy (unfortunately there are still a few others) has made a 180 degrees turn within the past 12 months. After tearing down their walls with their X-Series program, they’ve just recently announced partnerships with Internet companies such as Skype and thus opened the doors for wireless innovation. Other wireless operators have hardly caught up with this move and 3 has once again has leaped a light year ahed.