Yesss – 50 Euros For One Year of Prepaid 3G Internet Access

2007 is definitely the year Prepaid Mobile Internet Access took off in Europe. In many countries especially, tourists, business travelers and most importantly local young people and students can now get affordable wireless 3G access to the Internet with prepaid SIM cards. Mobile Virtual Network Operator Yesss in Austria now takes the concept to the next level.

For 50 euros they are selling prepaid SIMs in supermarkets which come with 3GB worth of data volume to be used over ONE’s HSDPA network within 12 months. A 1GB extension afterwards, again valid for up to 12 months, costs 20 Euros. The data rate is ‘limited’ to 1 MBit/s but quite frankly that’s a limit that is not too difficult to live with.

Need an HSDPA data card with it? No problem, they’ll give you a Option 1.8 MBit/s HSDPA PCMCIA card for 39 Euros or a Huawei E220 USB modem for 149 Euros. The offer seems to be a rampant success, their online shop is currently sold out. In ‘Hofer’ supermarkets, and there seems to be one around every corner in Austria, the SIM cards are still available but they also have run short on the hardware.

Since I am in Austria every now and then I recently got myself a SIM card from one of the Hofer shops. Plug and play, no registration, nothing. Just buy the card, put it into your UMTS or HSDPA mobile/modem and off you go.

As always there is at least one catch 🙂 The SIM can only be used for Internet access, no voice or SMS allowed. As a consequence the SIM is only good for Internet access with Notebooks and other ‘non voice’ devices (Note: The SIM works fine in a mobile phone used as a modem for the notebook but voice calls are rejected). Makes sense from an operator point of view I guess. Otherwise nobody would buy pocket Internet access offers for 10 euros a month for a couple of megabytes anymore.

The other slight catch is that the ONE network used by Yesss does not have EDGE in areas where they have no 3G coverage. Therefore it’s kind of all or nothing.

For the details check out the Prepaid Wireless Internet Access Wiki.

Prepaid Mobile Internet Access In Austria

I am in Austria for a couple of days again and finally had the chance to get hold of a 3 Prepaid SIM card for Internet access. The price 3 charges per megabyte is 80 cents. It’s a bit too expensive to be used with a notebook but o.k. to check eMails and surf the web via the mobile phone.

The SIM card is €19,90 with an already included balance of 5 euros. When buying the SIM card make sure packet data services are activated for the SIM card in the shop. The access point name (APN) for web, eMail (POP3, SMTP), etc. is "". For easy access and bookmarking I’ve put the information on the Prepaid SIM Internet Access Wiki as well.

Happy surfing!

P.S.: For Internet access with a notebook while roaming in Austria, Vodafone Germany’s Websession offer is still the best choice.

Incredible! France Telecom Has A Prepaid SIM 3G/GPRS Internet Access Offer

Sometimes I can’t believe the power of web 2.0. A couple of weeks ago I have set up a Wiki dedicated to information about prepaid SIM wireless Internet access. I’ve put all my information there which I have gathered over time on offers in different countries and invited the community to put their info into the Wiki as well. It has worked more than well for me as somebody has put information about a prepaid SIM Internet access offer in France.

Incredible, in the country that can certainly be found amongst the least competitive GSM/3G markets of all in Europe, France Telecom / Orange has silently started to offer transparent access to the Internet via their Mobicarte prepaid SIMs! 10 MB are to be had for 6 euros a month. The offer doesn’t mention what happens after the 10 MB are used up but the included data volume is enough for mobile eMail and limited mobile browsing. I wouldn’t, however, use it for connecting my PC to the Internet.

Also, one should be aware that all French operators have a minimum usage fee for prepaid cards per month. A €35.- top up card for example is valid for 3 months, i.e. the monthly minimum usage is €11,66. So be prepared to use the SIM for some phone calls as well.

So I rushed into the next Orange shop to get myself a prepaid SIM to test the offer myself. The SIM card cost 19.90 euros with a credit of 4.50 euros already on the SIM. To have more than 6 euros on the prepaid account I also bought and additional top up card for 10 euros. So my startup investment was 30 euros. All that is required to get the prepaid SIM card is a valid passport of any country and an address in France. I am sure a hotel address will do, they probably appreciate the incoming advertisement…

The card is activated by calling any number or sending an SMS. Afterwards I used my 10 euros credit to to up the prepaid account. Afterwards, I called the automatic service hotline to activate the 6 euro Internet access feature. A bit of French is required to navigate through the menu. Once confirmed the 6 euros are immediately taken from the balance and the option can be used.

Luckily, my N93 automatically created the configuration necessary when it detected the SIM card of Orange. I’ve set my mobile browser and my eMail application for manual access point selection and the list already contained an entry for Orange. Very well done, Nokia, congratulations!

So I’ve been using the option for a couple of days now and my balance has remained stable, i.e. the data traffic is taken from the option and not from the balance. Very nice. Suddenly I don’t feel completely disconnected anymore in France once I leave my Wifi cloud at home. Welcome, France, to the mobile connected world!

For the details on the offer and how to activate it take a look at this Prepaid Wireless Internet Access Wiki Page.

How To Get An Unlocked USB HSDPA Adapter

These days most 3G operators offer 3G or HSDPA data cards or USB modems that come bundled with a 24 month subscription. In some countries they also sell them without a subscription but in most cases the data cards are still locked to SIM cards of the operator. As I travel a lot this a somewhat unfortunate situation as some countries have started to offer data on prepaid SIMs. I needed to find a different solution.

So here’s a simple solution: Instead of buying a dedicated PCMCIA or USB HSDPA adapter it’s also possible to use a number of recent phones as HSDPA adapters for a notebook. Prices for most of them are even lower than prices for the data cards. I’ve taken a look at the following 3.5G phone models currently available in Italy:

  • Samsung Z560
  • Samsung Z620
  • Samsung Z630
  • Motorola RAZR V3xx

I decided to go for the V3xx as the price of €245.- was acceptable and in the range, if not even lower, than dedicated HSDPA adapters. It’s slightly TIM (Italy) branded but unlocked. Also, it charges over the USB data cable so no need to carry an extra charger while traveling. And the cream on the top: It’s a category 6 device, i.e. capable of HSDPA speeds of up to 3.6 MBit/s.

I’ve tested it so far in three of the four Italian networks in Rome and additionally in SFR’s 3.5G network in Paris. They all worked well except for the TIM network which would just not work with the mobile for data connections. Very very strange as the mobile is TIM branded. And no, I am not stupid the configuration parameters were correct, I double checked with my SierraWireless HSDPA PCMCIA card.

Another advantage of a USB HSDPA device compared to a PCMCIA or ExpressCard device is that it can be put in a spot where network coverage is better than at the location of the notebook. As shown here, good network coverage makes a huge difference with HSDPA.

For more on "HSDPA" click on the right of the date below.

Mobile Data Roaming Charges On The EU Watchlist

Dean Bubley over at "Disruptive Wireless" reports from the Mobile Broadband Congress in London that a policy maker from the European Commission said in his keynote speech that wireless operators should not only think about voice roaming prices, which will soon be regulated, but they should also start thinking about consumer friendly data roaming prices if they want to keep the EU from repeating the regulation exercise:

"He pointedly remarked that the new regulations task national regulators
with "monitoring" both voice and data roaming, and that everything
would be reassessed in 18 months’ time."

18 months is a long time from a consumer point of view (i.e. ME) but let’s hope operators start that "thinking process" rather sooner than later.

For the moment, only few usable offers exist for international data roaming:

Vodafone Germany’s WebSessions for 15 Euros a day work quite well for business travelers but the offer is way too expensive for the average consumer or for only checking eMails and news every now and then on the mobile phone while in another country.

A great alternative and good example for other operators is "3", if you happen to live in a country with a Hutchison "3" network and travel to other countries with a "3" network. Basically they have scraped roaming charges for both voice and data altogether. Just too bad they are only present in a few countries.

When traveling to countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria, the U.K. and Spain, prepaid SIMs are also a good alternative. Here’s a list of countries and operators that offer mobile Internet access via prepaid SIMs.

Mobile Internet Advertisment in Austria

When it comes to mobile technology, Austria is usually the place where things happen first. Not surprising therefore, that Mobile Internet offers are not only on the front page of most mobile operators web sites but also being marketed out in the open now. Take a look at the picture on the left. When I was in Austria recently, there was an advertisement of ONE for their H.U.I. mobile Internet access offer at almost every bus stop I passed. T-Mobile is also putting large advertising banners in cities to market their latest offer of €0.- basic charge and 10 cents per Megabyte of HSDPA traffic (post paid).

A reason for promoting the mobile Internet so fiercely these days might be that the operators don’t have have much to advertise for anymore in the voice domain since Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO’s) have caused a landslide in prices for voice minutes.

One of the things still missing in Austria is Internet access via prepaid SIMs. Let’s hope that will follow soon as well. Some German MVNO’s have set a good example.

U.K. Operators Now Offer Mobile Access To The Internet With Prepaid SIMs

The Times ran an interesting article this week about new data tariffs introduced by mobile operators. While mostly highlighting prices for contracts, they also mention at the end of the article that Orange and T-Mobile U.K. are also offering web access via their prepaid pay as you go SIMs.

That’s great news for three reasons: First, prices are now low enough and the terms and conditions are now easy enough to understand for allowing people to experiment with mobile Internet access. Second, especially young people are often on pay-as-you-go SIMs and were so far not permitted access at all or only at ridiculously high cost. And third, mobile access to the Internet via prepaid cards now also offers international travelers the opportunity to connect whenever and wherever they are in the U.K.

T-Mobile U.K.

Pay-As-You-Go Web’n’Walk: 0.73 pence per kB capped at 1 pound a day. The fine print here says that the transfer volume should not regularly exceed an average of 40 MB per day. That should be good enough for most purposes. They do not mention port blocking or other restrictions such as a restriction on IM and VoIP.

Orange U.K.:

According to the Times article the prepaid offer is called "Internet snacks". The price is 40p for 15 mins with daily cap of £2
or a daily £1 bundle. I tried to find the details on the Orange U.K. page but they have hidden the offer very well. I searched for 10 minutes but could not find anything so I have no idea what the restrictions of the offer are.

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.

Talkline Launches Try And Buy Offer for Mobile Internet Access

Recently, a number of German MVNOs have slashed prices for prepaid mobile Internet access. Now, mobile network reseller Talkline has launched a 60 day try and buy offer for mobile Internet connectivity for people with a usage that makes a contract more attractive than prepaid. During this time the two year contract can be canceled at any time.

Other offers by the competition, except for the prepaid data mentioned above, always bind customers two a two year contract without the possibility to cancel the contract for reasons such as lacking coverage at the places of use.

Included in the offer is a free PCMCIA or USB 1.8 MBit/s HSDPA modem. A 27 Euro activation fee is charged when signing up (which is probably not refundable) and a monthly basic charge of 8 Euros applies for the duration of the contract. The first six months, however, are free. On top of the basic charge, users can select a data offer either based on volume or time:

  • 200MB: €20.-
  • 400MB: €35.-
  • 5GB: €50.-

The SIM card can also be used to make voice calls, but prices are not attractive with 39 cents a minute to the national fixed line network and 69 cents to other national mobile phone networks.

There Are Those Operators Living In Denial and Those Embracing Their Customers

I’d like to finish my day with a positive story so here we go: In Austria, there are quite a few mobile operators embracing their customers instead of keeping them from using the mobile Internet with unaffordable or even non existent rates. Today, ONE has announced the launch of H.U.I (which would translate into "wow" in English) which stands for "Höllenschnelles Ultra-einfaches Internet" ("devilishly fast ultra simple Internet").

H.U.I comes in three packages: 250 MB a month for 10 euros, 1 GB for 20 euros or 20 GB for 50 euros. The HSDPA PCMCIA card or USB modem is free for the 1GB and 20 GB offer and 99 euros for the smallest package with a 24 month contract. No activation charge, no additional fees, no additional voice package required, no additional taxes. Once the included data volume is exceeded, the maximum speed is reduced to 56 kbit/s. Great, so no more accidental charges when overstepping an invisible boundary. In case the boundary is hit, customers can pay 5 euros to move the boundary by the amount of the initial offer. If the users oversteps the 1 GB boundary for example, 5 euros unlock another gigabyte. Very good! Takes the fear out of the equation.

I don’t really know what else to say, the offer speaks for itself. Wow!