If, like me, you hate long-term mobile phone subscriptions, you will be pleased to hear that a French mobile operator, SFR (a subsidiary of Vivendi), is allowing customers to purchase data plans on a prepaid basis. If you live in France, you do not have to sign up for one- or two-year contracts.
SFR has begun offering a subscription-free pack with a 3G+ USB key and a SimCard for €69 with no subscription obligation (SFR will reimburse €30 after a certain period of time). Once connected to a computer, the key is automatically activated. The user can buy different levels of credits, starting at €3 for 20 minutes in a 24h period. Other plans are: 1 hour of connection over a 15 day period for €7; 3 hours of connection over a 15 day period for €16; 8 hours of connection over a 15 day period for €26. You can also buy a full 24 hour connection credit for one day only for €9 – not bad! The credits can be bought either by phone or on the Web.
SFR has also adjusted its monthly tariffs for subscription based connections with the 3G+ Mobile Pack based on 24 months. A subscription for 3 hours per month now costs €10 per month. It costs €20 per month for 6 hours and €30 for 12 hours per month. The extra minute is €0.15 once the limit has been reached.
SFR was the first in France to launch a 3G key in July 2007 allowing laptop users to access Internet anywhere. SFR mobile subscribers are able to connect their laptops to the SFR 3G cellular network through a USB key to surf the web. On December 2008, SFR had sold 140,000 of these 3G+ USB keys. Orange-France Télécom and Bouygues have followed SFR in making similar offers. The tariffs are fairly expensive because they are set up on an hourly basis and all the operators have capped the amount of content downloaded to prevent overload of their networks. They also block VoIP calls. All three operators also subsidize the USB key for a 12 or 24 month contracts. It is nothing more that putting a SimCard in a cellular modem for 3G+ access at 3.6 Mbps maximum, in theory. The real bandwidth for download is more often between 0.5 to 1 Mbps.