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.

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 Top-Up A Vodafone Prepaid SIM for Websessions

A final piece of information for users of Vodafone Germany Prepaid SIMs for Websessions has so far been missing: How to top-up without scratch cards that can only be bought in Germany!?

Here’s a link to an online service here that allows to top-up German prepaid SIM cards. The pages itself are in German but pretty easy to figure out for non natives as well. To top-up a Vodafone SIM card, select "Vodafone CallNow", create an account by typing in your eMail address, specifiy the SIM card’s phone number, select the amount to top-up and enter your credit card details. After a minute the selected amount is on the SIM card and can then be used for WebSessions. All quite straight forward and works well.

Deactivating the Vodfone Websession Compression Proxy

I am quite happy with Vodafone Germany’s Web Session offer that gives me fast 3G Internet access in most European countries and in some countries overseas. I’ve reported about this extensively here. One of the things that bothered me, however, was the automatic compression of pictures in web pages. This reduces the amount of data to be transmitted but in the times of HSDPA that’s not necessary anymore. When buying a PCMCIA card and the required software from Vodafone for the service there is an option in the software to deactivate the compression. If you buy a standalone prepaid SIM card however, things are a big more tricky.

One way to get around the compression is to use a VPN software that tunnels all traffic and thus Vodafone’s transparent HTTP proxy can not touch the pictures. In some circumstances, such a solution is not practicable or not even available to all users. So I searched a bit on the web to see if there are ways to deactivate the proxy without the Vodafone software. And indeed, there is! Here and here are two links to the original German articles that describe how the proxy can be instructed not to compress the picture. In essence this is done by including extra HTTP header lines in each page request which are picked up by the proxy and tell it not to compress the images. According to one article, this works for  Vodafone Germany and also for E-Plus, another German operator.

Header_modify_configuration_2To get these extra header lines into a request, an add-on called "Modify Headers" is required for Firefox. The add-on can be installed into the browser right from the Mozilla Add-On Web Page. Once installed, a new menu entry called "Modify Headers" is available in the "Tools" menu of Firefox. In the configuration tab, select "Always On: Enable Modify Headers when this window is closed". Afterwards, two new header fields have to be added manually. In the "Headers" tab, one new header called "Cache-Control" has to be created and another one called "Pragma". Both headers have to be set to contain "no-cache". That’s it!

Restart Firefox and the nasty compression is gone. If you go to pages that have previously been loaded, they are probably still in the local cache and thus still look ugly. In that case, press "STRG" or "SHIFT" together with the reload button of Firefox and the images are refreshed to their non compressed state. Below are two screen shots of HTTP request packets traced with Wireshark that show how HTTP headers look before the tool is switched on and afterwards when they include the two additional header lines.


Wireless Internet Access: Consumer Theory and Reality

Due to my recent reports on high speed wireless Internet access via prepaid SIMs in Italy (like here, here and here) I recently got an eMail from somebody who will go there for some time asking for my advice. At first, I wanted to write a short and crisp reply saying “no problem”. Once I started typing, however, I realized there are actually more than just a few things to consider. So here’s my response:


The Theory

You know I’d really like to give you the following answer: Yes, no problem, go ahead, buy the HSDPA card, go to Rome, pick up a prepaid SIM and you are all set. Or even better, just take your notebook to Rome, visit a TIM shop and they’ll sell you a prepaid SIM, a data card for a reasonable price, and install it on your notebook while you are in the shop. Reality, however, is a bit more complex. Not because it has to be but because of a less than ideal way of how things are handled by the parties involved.

The Reality

Buying a Mobile Phone or PC Card

Buying an HSDPA Express card in the US and bringing it to Italy should work. Before you buy however, make sure of two things: For once, the card must not be locked to a specific network it must be open to all. Therefore, buying an HSDPA card from a network operator will not work as they are usually locked. […] Second, you should make sure the card supports the European UMTS band, which is 2100 MHz. The US uses different frequency bands so if the card is limited to them it won’t work in Europe. Third, you should also make sure you can get software updates via the web page of the manufacturer. It’s not uncommon that cards get pushed out the door with an unstable software version at the beginning so being able to update it is important.

Getting a SIM and Activating Mobile Internet Access

So let’s say you have a card and you’ve arrived in Italy. TIM definitely has the best HSDPA network for your purpose so I advise you to go for one of their prepaid SIM cards. Try to find a TIM shop with a helpful and friendly shop assistant and buy a prepaid SIM. Once you’ve got it, put it into a normal GSM phone and make a phone call which gets connected. This way the card is activated and only after that is it possible to put some more money on the account in order to enable the data option. Note: Just calling another party which does not pick up does not work, the call needs to be connected. Don’t ask me why. To top up, buy a top up card and be prepared to read the Italian instructions. In the TIM network you can top up your prepaid SIM by buying a scratch card and sending the secret digits via SMS to the network. Some shops also offer top ups by giving them the telephone number of the line. Works nice as well. Once there is enough money on the prepaid SIM you can activate the data offer. I think the offer is called WEB FACILE 500 MB so ask the shop attendant in the TIM store how to activate this option. Afterwards, happy surfing.

House Keeping

I don’t think TIM warns you when you are close to having used up the 500 MB or when the 4 weeks for which it is valid expire. God only knows why. So you have to check every now and then how much is left on your card by calling the TIM voice server and go to menu 3. If you are close to your limit, put some more money on the SIM card and extend the option. I am not sure how to do this as I tried as described and it didn’t work. An Italian friend of mine then called the TIM hotline and after 20 minutes of heated discussion in Italian they did it manually.

Another option is to buy a prepaid SIM card of WIND. They also seem to have an HSDPA network in Rome now. Their network performance is not as good as TIM’s when I was there but it probably also will do the job. However, you’ll get more bits for your buck  🙂  Their offer is called WIND MEGA NO LIMIT 15000.

In Building Coverage

As long as you have a window in the room and are not underground it should be all right. It’s still a bit of a gamble but you should be fine, Rome is well covered.

Misc Stuff

Other options: In case you can’t find an unlocked HSDPA card to buy in the US you can buy an HSDPA capable card or phone in Italy. If you buy a card it’s probably locked to the operator. USB adapters are another interesting alternative because you can place them in a good spot without moving the notebook if coverage is less than ideal. Phones can be bought unlocked, you might have seen that I choose to do this when I was there and bought a Motorola V3xx with a branding from TIM. As it turned out it worked fine in all networks except for TIM’s. Again, completely beyond me.

So I hope I haven’t discouraged you from going ahead with your plan. It can be done and if you have an Italian friend who knows a thing or two about computers and maybe also something about how to connect wirelessly to the Internet you should get it working without too much trouble.

Looking at it from the bright side I think one could say that there is lots of room for improvement. All it takes is the will and a bit of work from network operators…

Hope this helps,

So to me, how things could be (an not unrealistically so) sounds a lot nicer than how things actually are. As I said, there’s a lot of room for improvement…

Two Additional UMTS Prepaid Internet Access Offers In Germany

I like it when competition works! A couple of months ago, three German Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO’s) of E-Plus (KPN) lowered their prepaid mobile Internet access prices to 24 cents per megabyte. At the time, AldiTalk was the clear winner since it was the only one that did not only allow the use of E-Plus’ GPRS network but also of it’s UMTS network. Today Teltarif announced that Blau and Simyo customers can now also UMTS. Existing customers need to exchange their SIM cards.

Teltarif further reports that T-Mobile Germany MVNO "klarmobile" will also launch a prepaid wireless Internet access offer soon. I am curiously waiting for the details.

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.

List of Countries With UMTS Prepaid Internet Access

In the past few months the list of countries in which mobile access to the Internet is now available via UMTS/HSDPA networks with prepaid pay-as-you-go SIM cards has grown considerable and I’ve been reporting about it quite a bit. Time for an overview with links to the corresponding blog entries:


  • AldiTalk (0.23 euros per MB)
  • Vodafone (WebSessions: 1.95 euros / 15 min, 9.95 euros / 2h and 14.95 euros / 24h)


  • TIM (volume bases, 500 MB / 30 days for 20 Euros)
  • Wind (volume based, 1 GB / 30 days for 20 Euros)
  • Vodafone (time based, 1.5 euros per 15 minutes)


  • Yoigo (capped at € 1.20 a day)


  • Drei (0.8 euros per MB)


Reports from people commenting:


  • Plusgsm (Simdata (Plus GSM): prepaid, 0.03PLN/100KB = 0.30 PLN/MB = 0.08 EUR/MB.)



And for those countries in which Prepaid Internet Access via UMTS networks is not yet available, the German Vodafone WebSession offer with a German Vodafone prepaid SIM might help.

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.