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Mobile Internet is affordable in Germany

Last thursday and friday, I spent around eleven hours in the InterCity Express (ICE) of Deutsche Bahn. I was online, using Simyo GPRS, during this entire time. Thanks to the cellular network repeaters in ICE's coach 3 and 23, this has worked reasonably well and has cost me EUR 5,27 - in a tariff with no basic charge and no commitment.

I really like that, because this usage of the mobile cellular network would have cost about fifty times more just a year ago. Thanks, Simyo, E Plus and the other E Plus resellers who have made the first step to reducing the cost of mobile Internet in Germany.

A few technical notes:

  • The repeaters in the ICE coaches do only repeat GSM and thus GPRS, but not UMTS. It is advised to lock the UMTS card to GPRS when using Internet from inside the ICE, since the card will otherwise move back and forth between UMTS and GPRS millions of times, which will always result in more than just a few seconds outage. It is much better to live with GPRS' abysmally large latency.
  • I took the opportunity to empty my still-active, old, GPRS only, Simyo SIM which still holds like fifteen Euros. I suspect that I'll need two more trips of this magnitude to successfully get rid of the amount on that prepaid card.
  • I need an external antenna for my UMTS card - it worked really really bad in my mom's apartment right in the middle of Hamburg.
  • There seem to be a number of independent issues in Debian sid (the reason why I am blogging this in English): The connection occasionally hangs (a couple of times an hour) and does not come back by itself. Often, poff/pon is enough, but sometimes it is necessary to pull the UMTS card (an Option 3G PC-Card Datacard) and to re-insert it since there was no answer any more on ttyUSB0. Very annoying.
  • The Option 3G Datacard behaves differently depending on the SIM that is inserted. With my older, GPRS-only Simyo SIM, the response to AT+CPIN? is "SIM PUK2" after sending the PIN to the card, while it is "SIM PIN2" in the same situation with the newer UMTS-enabled Simyo SIM.
  • chat(8) sucks badly, because it doesn't seem to elegantly handle this case - no regexps, no if/then, every command sent needs to generate exactly one answer from the card, everything else is an error after timeout.
  • When I do this more often, one of the now available flat rates (or, for starters, a 5 GB commitment tariff) for like 20 Euros becomes attractive.


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Jonas on :

the puks are pins that are used if you tried too often to enter a wrong pin

Marc 'Zugschlus' Haber on :

I know that. That does not explain that one SIM emits a different answer to AT+CPIN? than the other - both have never seen a wrongly entered PIN.

Faidon Liambotis on :

You do use the "option" kernel module instead of e.g. "usbserial", right?

Pharao on :

currently I use a Vodafone D2 UMTS and have to say: even the flatrates you get are okay if you look at the price and if you need it regularly for business.

DM on :

Hi Marc,

I read your post with interest and found it searching Google for cheaper GPRS connections in Germany, where I will be going on holiday soon.

My UK provider, T-mobile will charge me £7.50 per megabyte for GPRS use over there and I really like the idea of using Simyo and being charged far less!

Could you tell me please, how easy it would be to buy one of these simyo sim cards and get it set up in my phone? Can you purchase them with credit already and just put them in your phone? I speak next to no German by the way (but am trying to learn atm).

Any help or advice would be appreciated.



Marc 'Zugschlus' Haber on :

AFAIK, Simyo SIMs can only be bought online at It looks like they do not offer an English version of their Web site, and they only ship to addresses in Germany. They're shipping pretty fast, however. When you order a Simyo SIM, be sure to enter my number 0157 715 621 54 as your friend's number, and we both get some Euros credit then ;-)

Setting up is easy as long as your phone is not SIM locked. A Simyo SIM is 19 Euros with 10 Euros credit on them, and you can "charge" them online with a credit card (or automatically when the credit amount goes below some limit).

Most of the other E-Plus discounters offer the same data tariffs, and their SIMs might be more easily obtainable for a foreigner. For example, ALDI Talk also sells its SIMs in the ALDI stores, and they have the same tariff. ALDI SIMs are somewhat harder to "charge", since you need to buy credit vouchers at ALDI.

Lilly on :

Hi Marc, I too came across your post on Google whilst searching for mobile internet possibilities. You seem to really know your stuff so I hope you don't mind answering a few questions of mine...

I'm moving to Germany for 3 months and know that my lodging won't have internet nor will my company pay for it to be installed etc whilst I'm there. Last time I was there I was able to pick up a very weak wireless signal but for a multitude of reasons (security, reliability, ease of use etc) I want to get internet of my own.

When you talk of mobile internet, above, is this on your phone or are you using your phone connected to your computer as a modem? Do you have 3g dongles in Germany that give you wireless internet and are any of these on pay as you go basis or are they all contract?

In England I have a web package on my phone contract and use it as a modem so I am open to that as a possibility though I can't imagine how I will set it up in German!! Also I now have a Mac (on OS X) rather than PC, so would this still work??

I'm sorry for the bombardment of questions...I'm fairly tech-aware on certain things but beyond my comfort zone I'm lost!



Timo Zimmermann on :

We got 3G - it's called UMTS.

I only know of contracts that are affordable (flatrate: 25-35€ / month, 24 month contract)

If you really want a prepaid provider Simyo is one of the cheapest I know (24cent / MB)

The 3G dongles should support OSX (I had 2 that work without problems).

If you take a look at contracts I suggest T-Mobile. I have really bad experiences with Vodafone and the other two big companies (O2 and E-Plus) didn't prove to be reliable in smaller cities, so you should first check if they work in your new home. Just take a look at the homepages of the providers - they all provide a online check if 3G is available.

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