3G Pay As You Go Internet in France Spain and Portugal

12 Jan 2010
Posted by Laptop Junction

With 3G internet roaming for post-paid cell phone contracts being horribly expensive in Europe and beyond, the only affordable way to stay connected to the internet in Europe is to resort to local Pay-As-You-Go SIM cards. A bit about the PAYG scene in France, Spain and Portugal.


3G postpaid contracts in Europe - billshock holidays

Check out the cross-border roaming rates for the average postpaid flat-fee 3G internet contract and most likely you’ll find a nasty rate of several Euro’s per Megabyte. Although the price cap set by the European Union on cellular data transfers eases the pain, there’s still a big risk on bill shock specially with 3G equipped mobile phones.

Mobile cellular 3G internet with a Pay As You Go prepaid SIM card
WIFI connection with a village at the seaside  - 3G cellular internet goes way further

For example Vodafone charges € 2,50 per Megabyte as a roaming rate for the average post-paid contract in Europe. With a 3G equipped smart phone like the Nokia N95 or the iPhone, it’s well possible to hit yourself with a whopping charge of € 20-60,- for 15 minutes of high-speed 3G downloads in roaming mode.

Not to mention the horrible data roaming rates outside the Euro zone.

Here's an example of McAfee causing 3G bill shock with huge SecurityCenter updates.

3G Pay-As-You-Go Internet contracts in Europe

The most eye-striking condition in most 3G internet flat-fee contracts is the difference between browsing 3G cellular internet on a phone or on a laptop / notebook / netbook. Even in postpaid mode it’s usually a standard clause – unless one has specifically signed up for a 3G contract for use on a phone or on a laptop / notebook / netbook.

In most cases the cell phone company tries to sell you a (simlocked) 3G USB stick/ pen / adapter with it. The bottom line is, you don’t need one when your smart phone already has a 3G modem – however try to explain that in a foreign language.

  3G Pay-As-You-Go 3G Internet Cellphone Connected To Laptop Notebook Netbook
3G cellular internet connection over USB cable - Nokia N95 8Gb

In some case frantic enforcements are in place to prevent those with a 3G internet contracts for cell phones to connect to 3G internet with a laptop connected to the cell phone. Usually the penalty is an exorbitant deep grab into your wallet at high 3G speeds.

In a PAYG scenario the maximum damage is the loss of the prepaid balance. In postpaid mode it’s up to the watchful eye of the account owner – if not the results can be bill shocking.

More subtle and a just as lethal approach is to exclude POP/SMTP/IMAP traffic from the flat-fee 3G cell phone contract. It means one pays for the Megabyte for e-mail retrieved with mail applications – while surfing on a mobile phone falls with the flat-fee. For many it’s a difference which is hard to grasp till the bill-shock comes.

3G prepaid contracts in France, Spain and Portugal

There’s a lot to say about using 3G PAYG internet networks in France, Spain and Portugal. Here you find 3 real and practical examples how to connect a laptop / notebook / netbook to 3G PAYG / prepaid Internet;


Spain :  Pay-As-You-Go High Speed 3G Internet in Spain

France : PAYG High Speed 3G internet in France
Portugal : Fast 3G Pay-As-You-Go Internet in Portugal


Struggling with weak GSM / UMTS signals? Have a look at

The info for France is extended with techniques how to avoid extreme grabs into your prepaid balance when there are subtle conditions in the 3G PAYG contract.