Using a Vodafone GPRS Connection as a Modem

I find that occasionally I am unable to find any other way of connecting to the Internet than using my P900 phone as a modem. It is very expensive but sometimes neccesary. I used various different sources on the Web to get the right set up and this page summarizes my experience in case it is helpful to others. I will amend the page to fill out details as people as for further details.

My set up is:

Step 1: Make sure the Bluetooth connection between laptop and phone is set up correctly and works:

Step 2: Get the PPP (point-to-point protocol) sub-ystem in a fit state:

Step 3: Try it out! I use the command ‘pon rlw-p900-bluetooth-modem’. It is almost certainly a wise move to monitor /var/log/syslog (I use ‘tail -f /var/log/syslog’ is a separate terminal) to check that all the right things are happening. I also have a network monitor applet on my status bar monitoring ppp0.

Step 4: Do stuff with the Internet connection. I ran a traceroute to ensure that packets actually went where they were supposed to.

Step 5: Terminate the connection using poff. Remember not to get too upset about the amount of money you just paid to Vodafone. They charge by the amunt of data transferred not by the connection time which does ameliorate some of the pain.

The biggest problem I had was getting the right number for the phone to dial. I have *99***1#. The 1 is a critical number as it identifies the account on the phone that is used make the connection – there are a number of different accounts on my phone for GSM or GPRS connections and MMS, WAP or Web activity. For me account number 1 is GPRS Web activity which is the account neded to get access to the Internet. I am told on newer phones this account is called ‘Contract Internet’.

If you use the wrong account or your account is not permitted to use Internet conenctions then you can still connect but all your packets get routed to a black hole rather than out onto the Internet. I had a lot of trouble sorting this problem out. When I first started trying to get this working, back in January 2006, I was originally using *99***3# as the phone number which uses the wrong phone account for Internet access. I was connecting fine but all my packets were routed to a black hole. When I phoned technical support, they were very nice and tried to find things out but couldn't. In the end they decided ‘Linux is not a supported operating system, you should switch to Windows or Mac.’ A totally unacceptable response in my view. I was angry. I seethed for a while (4 months) and then went into my local Vodafone store to have a rant. They told me that Vodafone had changed all its technical support so I should try again. I did. They were right, I got a whole new set of people, with a whole new set of ideas about technical support. They still had a problem with Linux not being officially supported but instead of closing the issue, they gave me the number of the people who write the sofware. This was a break through. The breakthrough is that the position in the list of accounts is not the account number as all the documentation says, the account number is determined by the order in which accounts are entered into the phone. Obvious in hindsight but... So I changed 3 to 1 and everything worked.

I am now a more connected (but poorer) person.