11 August 2008

Pre-paid Mobile Internet Surfing in Austria

The offer seems quite compelling: pre-paid Mobile Internet surfing, using an anonymous card which you can buy in a supermarket.

But does it work?

Here's the link to the offer: http://www.yesss.at/diskont-surfen/angebote.php

It's sold in Austria through a chain of German supermarkets, which go by the name of Hofer. They take cash, so anonymity is assured.

They sell an unlocked modem (the Huawei E220, with HSDPA/UMTS/GPRS/GSM compatibility) for €69.99, and a pre-paid SIM card with (allegedly) 2 GB of data for 20 Euros -- with optional bonus cards selling additional blocks of 2 GB for the same rate.

I then struggled to make it work. Frankly, it was a real pain. Plugging it in to my Windows XP laptop, I saw the E:\ drive with all necessary files appear momentarily -- then disappear a few seconds later. Maybe it's a problem with some security software on my laptop, but I simply couldn't make it install under Windows. The support web site offers a Windows Vista download, but no files for XP -- you're meant to install direct from the USB connection.

So, I then tried my MacBook Pro. The software for this is on their Web site -- but once again, it was a bust. I was able to download and install the software, but couldn't configure it -- it failed each time I tried to add the APN information.

Finally, I got out my trusty Asus eee PC, running the standard Xandros distribution. I plugged it in, was prompted for the PIN, then configured the APN (which for this network in Austria is web.yesss.at), and clicked connect... and it worked perfectly.

So, here we have a system which struggles with Windows XP and OSX 10.5, yet works like a charm with Linux. Of course, I intended all along to use it with my eee PC, so I am quite pleased it works, but am still a little frustrated I couldn't get it working with the other systems.

Update: looking into the tariff options is interesting. Basically, they have two tariffs, one for light occasional use, and the other for heavy users. Both tariffs cost 20 Euros -- but for a heavy user, that 20 Euros buys 2 GB of data, while for an occasional user, it buys only 1 GB of data. The difference? As a heavy user, you must consume all of your 2 GB in one month, while occasional users get a year to consume the credit.