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.