To keep in touch with family and friends and to put our blogs online, we need internet and mobile phone coverage on the boat. Thus, we have had to have our own mobile Internet devices.
At this stage we now have four dongles – one for Germany, two for France and one for Ireland plus four phones with a collection of Irish, French and German Sim cards. So far we have spent €930. Even at this, we have lost coverage on numerous occasions and I have been in many Orange, SFR and Vodafone shops. It’s being an expensive nightmare!
In France, we have two French Sim cards from Virgin, organised by my Son-in-Law, Josselin. They have worked well and have given us good phone connections, that is once we bought a new phone in a Virgin store (another €50) and we managed to get an iPhone (given to us by Michael Eustace) unblocked and working with French or German Sim cards.
For Internet we have used wireless dongles. Technology wise they are a good idea, they take in the signal and retransmit it around the boat so that you can connect up to 5 devices. I tried out the system in Ireland before I left and it worked well once there was good mobile signal. But in France and Germany the cost of the service, strength of the signal and ability to buy more credit on line varies from company to company and can be poor.
When I arrived in France with “The Dover Delivery Team”, I went into the first phone company shop I saw, which happened to be Orange and tried to get a Sim card in my Irish dongles. I was told it was not possible. So on the spot, I bought a new dongle and € 20 credit. Total cost €70. Back to the boat and I figured out how to set up, the passwords and then the crew all connected up their mobile phones. Happy ship, not a word said as all busy sending texts and emails telling everybody they were alive after crossing the English Channel.
Suddenly three hours later the signal was lost- “what’s wrong Captain says the crew?” Captain tries everything but can only get into Orange web site but cannot get it to work again. Back to Orange shop next day to discover we have used up all the credit in 3 hours! Captain asks why could he not buy more credit on line like they told him but was then told the website does not work and you have to come to the shop and buy the credit. Captain shells out another €40 for credit and put crew on very limited rations of Internet time like water on life raft stuck in middle of Atlantic Ocean! Crew not happy but at least Internet working. Captain keeps topping up credit every time he finds a shop.
Finding good signal becomes an art form and the Captain gets very good at figuring out where to put the dongle on the boat for reception. (Sometimes this involves him climbing onto Radio Mast to get the dongle to the highest point on the boat, other times hanging it out a window on a wire) – risking life and limb but all for the sake of keeping his readers, crew and family happy.
Then Nuala arrives in Douai and bang goes the Internet again. Back to a shop again – there should be lots of credit so why was this happening? “Ah!” says the assistant “have you being using Facebook?” All look at Nuala who says “maybe a bit”. The assistant advises not to use Facebook as it uses up credit too fast. Captain says why did someone not advise about the poor web site and that you cannot use Facebook before I spent all this money with Orange? Assistant gives Gallic shrug and says “that’s the way it is!” Captain says sod this and takes his business to SFR ( competitor company) but has to start all over again and buy new dongle and credit – another €80 but at least coverage is better and credit seems to last longer. So Internet wise in France settles down.
Then we move to Germany! So I decide to go to Vodafone this time as we know them from Ireland. I spend €150 in Worms on buying German phone cards and dongle cards. Internet back up but goes again in two days. Won’t bore you with further details as we were sold the wrong type of cards etc. So after further visits to Vodafone shops in Mainz and Berlin Internet is working again. So next time you see no blog as no internet notice you will understand!
Since I saw you in Douai, where Vodafone were refusing to unlock a new smartphone that I had already paid for in England, I managed to get it unlocked by Motorola and I have a Joe mobile sim with 3G data allowance which has been getting me Internet connection everywhere (only 2 stops no signal) and I use it to create a wifi hotspot on the boat for IPad etc and it replaces my dongle for my desktop. €20 per month and can add extra data at press of a phone button – I usually need another €6 worth. Now you can use this same sim in other parts of Europe for €2 a day. I haven’t used my vodafone sim since – although I can still slot it into the phone if I want to use my vodafone allowance but it costs an extra £3 a day.
So all you need is just one sim and the right smartphone!
Do you remember Rog telling you about 0044? You get your French dongle delivered to you whilst still in England, and it costs about £40 a month. I use facebook several times a day and upload up to 10 photos a day to it. Never run out of credit. That’s all with Orange. Sometimes, of course, in the middle of nowhere, there is no signal. Too late for you, this information, but for anyone else wanting to tour France and have wifi, I recommend 0044. The website is 0044 followed by co dot uk (I spelt it out in case links weren’t allowed by WordPress 🙂