Bad news in France: The mobile broadband market here is very un-competitive — the French are very behind the times when it comes to 3G. Lame, France.
I’m amazed that telcos are allowed to use the word ‘unlimited’ (or rather, illimité), when the quotas behind the scenes are not only present, but so restrictive. Where are the consumer protection organisations in all this?
I hear that a French address may be required to buy a PAYG sim card, at least with Orange, and possibly with other carriers. Not sure how to get around that one — some people (like this person) have bought SIM cards on eBay.fr first.
I think Auchan have the least worst option, although it is quite poor. Anyway, the options, such as they are:
Auchan offer a mobile internet service, sans engagement: €20 for the SIM card including 5 hrs use/250 Mb) or €30 for a modem too (2 hrs/250 Mb included), then €30 gets you a month of access with a 2 GB quota.
It is unclear on whether VoIP is allowed: There is a notice saying it is prohibited underneath the hourly recharge options (presumably including the time included with the starter kits), but nothing underneath the monthly options. This may be careless copywriting, or VoIP may actually be allowed with the monthly options.
The monthly options are described as ‘un compte bloqué’ (a locked account), which may mean they’re only available when you buy the locked modem. I’m awaiting clarification from their sales team.
Orange offer pre-paid mobile broadband, but the available offers are appalling. Orange limit use by time, and the most one can buy is 4 hours for — wait for it — €20. Ouch.
The only other option I could find is to get a ‘Mobicarte‘ SIM card for €15, then equip it with the ‘Internet Max‘ option which for €12/month gets you “unlimited” Internet access which is really a 500 Mb quota (shaped after), with no email included (they presumably do deep packet inspection, identifying IMAP/POP/SMTP traffic and charging it separately), VoIP prohibited, and use on a computer (with a modem) prohibited. Unlimited indeed. While they offer a slightly less horrendous offer to iPhone users, it apparently isn’t available to Mobicarte customers.
SFR have an ‘SFR La Carte‘ offer, €15 for a SIM card, then customers with an iPhone can recharge with an option which gives ‘unlimited’ Internet access for a certain number of days, e.g. 20 days for €20. The small print says what you actually get is 500 Mb quota (shaped after), no VoIP or modem/computer use.
The only other option with SFR is their Pass Internet 3G+ which, like Orange, offers time-limited ‘passes’, at outrageous prices: €26 for 8 hours, €40 for 15 hours. Wow. This may also require you to buy a modem from them.
Bouygues offer a pre-paid SIM card for €15, then you can select an internet access offer which costs €2 per day for 10 Mb, and €8 for the day if you exceed 10 Mb (lasts until midnight). VoIP and modem use aren’t allowed.