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.