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Internet anywhere in Greece with laptop, netbook or PDA
Thursday, 07 May 2009
Internet in Greece for travellers is mainly found in Internet Cafe’s or the occasional Wi-Fi connection as we discovered in may 2009. It seems not much has changed since 2006. The big mobile network operators in Greece mainly target Greeks or foreign residents with wireless internet subscriptions for a minimum of 1 year or more. However, after exploring the internet landscape in Greece there’s 1 mobile network operator offering prepaid wireless internet bundles. Here’s our story.

The big 4 mobile network operators in Greece

Greece has 4 big mobile network operators with nationwide coverage; OTE (state), Vodafone, Cosmote and Wind. All have English websites however only partially translated from Greek and not always up to date. It’s a bit peculiar for a country which is pretty popular among tourists all year round. Many visitors are aware of expensive roaming costs and buying a local prepaid SIM card is the obvious solution. For Europeans the recently announced price-caps for voice, sms and data roaming will at least prevent excessively high phone bills from mid 2009 and onwards. But still voice, sms or data roaming will be an expensive affair for many tourists.

We explored the Greek mobile operator websites from Turkey using a Turkcell GPRS/EDGE connection. It wasn’t so easy to find the right information – specially when it’s is only half available or outdated. Next to that one needs experience with the terminology used for distinguishing postpaid (subscription) and prepaid services.

OTE and Vodafone A-La-Carte

OTE’s website was far from complete in English, their mobile services are seemingly only targeted on the local Greek market. Vodafone has the best info and offered a 30Mb “Surf & Email 30” bundle for € 3,50 valid for 1 month with their Prepaid “a-la-carte” package. With a cell / mobile phone EDGE connection and a laptop, 30 Mb is gone in a few hours of surfing. The charge above 30 Mb is way too expensive to even consider using it. The more interesting internet bundles of 1 Gb and more are only available with a yearly subscription and for specific handsets only. That disqualified Vodafone pretty quickly as an option.

Cosmote Cosmokarta and Internet on the Go

Cosmote’s website was a bit hard to comprehend. After quite a while it became clear that the COSMOKARTA is the prepaid mobile service. Unfortunately no mention of prepaid internet data bundles. A separate section mentioned  “Internet of the Go”. Looking at the same section in Greek showed a lot more info.  After some digging using the Google Translate service also Cosmote offers the better internet bundles as a yearly subscription. Nothing useable here also.

Wind Hellas F2G

WIND Prepaid internet with GPRS EDGE
WIND Prepaid internet with GPRS EDGE
Wind Hellas was the last website we looked at. Their ADSM service (gprs / edge / 3G) is available for prepaid use – so that looked pretty promising. Wind offers 2 or 7 days of non-stop ADSM internet for € 5 and € 15 to be paid through the prepaid balance. The daily limit is 1 Gb based on a fair-use policy. The Wind coverage map showed gprs / edge in the whole country and 3G in and around the bigger cities. The F2G (Free 2 Go) SIM card costs € 5. On the scale of Turkey, Pakistan, Oman or India it’s a bit expensive but a whole lot cheaper than Vodafone in Greece. (BTW: ADSM is a term from Wind only)

The Wind F2G prepaid SIM card

WIND GPRS EDGE settings for internet anywhere in Greece
WIND GPRS EDGE settings for internet anywhere in Greece
In a Wind Store in Alexandroupolis the F2G SIM card was bought for € 5 with € 30,- balance. Surprisingly, the shopkeeper was not familiar with the prepaid 2 and 7 day non-stop internet bundles. After looking in the 2008 brochure the Wind crew was amazed a foreigner came to tell them about it. But again, it’s probably quite unusual to have a foreigner in the Wind shop asking for a GPRS/EDGE based prepaid internet connection.

They did try to sell the yearly subscription based 3G internet connection through either a USB, PCMCIA or ExpressCard modem. This is high speed wireless UMTS based internet – which according to the Wind coverage map only works in and around the bigger cities. That’s pretty futile to offer this to a foreigner with no residency in Greece.

Wind GPRS/EDGE Internet settings

The F2G prepaid SIM card worked off the shelf. WAP and MMS settings were sent to the handset through a helpdesk call (dial 1260) – no pin code needed here to save WAP and MMS settings. The helpdesk is not free of charge btw – but costs are fixed and reasonable and the operators speak good english.

A separate helpdesk call was required to obtain the Access Point name for using the mobile / cell phone with a laptop. The AP for Wind internet through a laptop is “” for WAP usage it’s “’. The dial-in number to connect to the internet through Wind is *90#.

Wind Prepaid Internet charges

WIND XP settings for internet anywhere in Greece
WIND XP settings for internet anywhere in Greece
The internet connection through the laptop worked instantly. Without the 2 or 7 day ADSM internet bundle the charge for internet is about € 0,01/Kb which is a whopping € 10,24 per Mb. That’s painful and something to be careful with. As already experienced in Oman (Nawras) and Turkey (Turkcell), bundle expiration is silent and eats away any remaining balance pretty quickly.

The 2 day non-stop internet package was started by sending “NS 2” to number 19595.
That’s € 2,5 per 24 hrs for a maximum of 1 Gb of surfing. With an EDGE based connection we never came further than about 0,5 Gb / day. With a G3 – UMTS connection the 1 Gb limit is without doubt necessary to protect the wireless network from excessive internet use.

Internet package expiry

About 5 hours before expiry of the 2 or 7 day non-stop Internet Package Wind sends an SMS to announce the active package will expire at 12 midnight. Expiry itself is silent! Meaning using the Internet round midnight uses the remaining balance after package expiry. So be warned, because Wind F2G will continue upto a negative balance of minus € 8,-. Outside the Non Stop Internet package that's done with a few Mbs of data traffic.  The plus side is a 2 day package is actually more than 2 days of use. Our 2 day internet package expired after 2 days and about 12 hours. Also stay well clear of the expiration time of 12am midnight. Even 15 minutes before 12 am midnight, the Non-Stop Internet package was already expired (check your time!) and chewed away a few Euro's from the prepaid balance. Thank you Wind!

WAP Internet charges for WIND F2G

WAP usage within a Non-Stop internet package are still charged against the prepaid balance. So browsing the internet on a mobile phone will eat away the prepaid balance slowly. Although we couldn't find this in writing, it's what we noticed on several occasions. So the Wind F2G Internet package only makes sense with either a laptop / netbook / PDA using a mobile phone as Internet modem.

GPRS/EDGE coverage in Northern / Central Greece

Unfortunately in most part of Northern & Central Greece the Wind GSM network was not upgraded (yet) to faster EDGE service. Only near Thessaloníki, Lamias and Patras our Nokia 3110 Classic showed the “E” of EDGE. The faster EDGE connection service is an extension on GPRS and doesn’t require extra settings. The same applied for the competition Vodafone - which also showed a GPRS connection each time we looked.

Wind balance inquiries

In may 2009, balance inquiries through 1269 (press 2 for English) not always resulted in the correct balance. In several cases after phone calls or SMS / Text message usage the Wind Balance was not updated directly. Sometimes it took 10-15 minutes or more to announce the right updated balance. Rather confusing because it seems like there are 'spook' charges not related to recent usage of Wind services. 
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