Mobile phone issues

jacki.molloy Image
10/14/2012 - 14:19

My English smart phone is supposed to give me email access. Despite assurances from Virgin that it will work, it doesn't. I bought an iPad as a back up as I come to Italy quite often. To access free wifi you have to (generally) register. For this you need an Italian phone number - apparently a legal requirement. I went to Vodafone and bought an Italian SIM and put it into my phone. It locked. I am now without phone contact with home until I buy a phone locally or simply stick to emails. Vodafone should have known this. Virgin is rubbish. I am having a rant. Apologies.The upside is that I am in the caffe Martini in Acquasparta logged in with the owners admin and on my 3rd glass of wine. Life could be worse. Ciao Jacki



Because we only come to Bagni  di Lucca twice a year and we stay in Italy for about 1-2 months at any time, we do not have a land line. Up to now, I used to bring my laptop and I purchased a TIM chiavetta or dongle and my friendly TIM dealer used to advise me to purchase the relevant SIM card offer. All this changed when my daughters decided that I had to move with the times and gave me a tablet as a present. The chiavetta was no longer a solution so my friendly and knowledgeable TIM dealer advisede to purchase (or hire) a TIM MODEM 3G WI-FI E5331 HUAWEI Mobile WiFi  and a 5GB SIM card valid 1 month (you can have it for as long as you want) . Damage was as follows: Modem purchase 79€ (the cost of hiring it for 1 month was 20€) plus SIM card 24€ Total 103 €.  Very happy with the purchase as I travel quite a bit. I am currently on the Costiera Amalfitana and using the Modem. 

Jacki, unless you have an unlocked Smartphone it will only work with the network provider you are registered with in the UK, and nothing else (even Vodafone UK will not allow Vodafone IT sim cards). If you have an iPad then you should be able to access your emails through that. Even your Smart phone (or not so smart) should work here with your UK sim on roaming !

It's been said many times before and there are threads for this on this and the old site, look up GPRS & EDGE, however, is a good place to start. What I didnt realise - in my years of battling with the TIM option, is that TIM isnt well supported in my area. 3 is. For years I was only getting 115kbs (slower than ISDN - if you remember that - and not fast enough for you tube). I was told about a local mobile phone shop, visited them, he asked where I lived, and said you need 3. I bought a dongle for €19 which included some air time, and I now pay PAYG €9 a month. I am getting much faster speeds now - so much so I can skype back home - it can be a bit variable - but on the whole it is much faster.  When I am next over - I will check on the speeds. Bottom line - get local knowledge. They know what they are talking about - or if you have the money buy a dongle for every network provider - PAYG and then you can chop and change to suit. One slight hitch, although I am not convinced there are not ways around this, but for ease of use - Think about getting a cheap netbook that can cope with 3G/4G, mine cost £120, and it has been a godsend.

They all say TIM is good (there is a mast in sight of the house) and I have a TIM SIM(!) in a mifi dongle similar to yours Gala, but the download speeds are dire, so have been investigating other options and was interested just to see what came up on this site.  NOTHING!!  I don't want to pay out €30+ a month for ASDL & a phone line, when I don't need a phone & I am not there for half the year, which would appear to be the only option available to get a decent speed.

Maggi what's dire speeds? If you know how, change the settings on your profile to "3g only" instead of "both" (EDGE etc)... The other thing I think I mentioned was the location of the MIFI, ours can be very good in one place and less than a meter away in the same room be useless. Also I've found the Huawei E585 I have works much better plugged in to the USB port, second best with the adaptor plug. I never use the battery. Ok it limits it's use as MIFI, but I'm getting 2MB/S on average most of the time, not great, but then again I don't download too much... If you have to have good access for work, other options would be local WIFI ISP's don't know who you have there, but sure they will be around as here (Abruzzo) there are a number. Cost would be under €20 per month, but perhaps no good if your are back and forward... I'm using WIND PAYG sim at €12 per month for unlimited (small print is 10GB limit), with that you can de-reg and pay €5-10 to sign back up for it if off to the UK or for €12 just let it run...  

I don't have the Huawei, but the similar 'unlocked' ZTE MF60... To be honest, I don't think I used it plugged in directly to the laptop & the last couple of times I have been I have not bothered and just taken the iphone & ipad & used the ZTE battery.  I will have to look at the settings menu now I am home as you suggest, as I can only access these via the laptop.  As usual, I must be doing somethig wrong as I do notice that '2G' comes up on the dongle screen!  I guess I am comparing to the speeds I get at home here, but these arn't great as we are out in the sticks.  I will have to investigate..........  I also take your point re the position of the dongle, thanks. I don't need it for work now.... retired, just use it for emails/ebay/Amazon/Facebook etc, but sometimes I need to go to a web site link & just have to give up as the page won't load.  Also, I am just using what appears to be an ordinary PAYG cell phone sim card with a number...  Is this right?  I tried to explain to a very grumpy lady at a TIM shop what I wanted it for & this was what she gave me...  I have had my doubts ever since... Re local ISPs, I gather I am rather restricted in my hilltop town in Umbria, to Alice, which including line rental would amount to over €30 a month!

Maggi check this, it might help for providers, there are many small wifi providers in Italy... The TIM software (S/W) that came with the dongle has "Tools">>"Options">>"Network" where you can specify the type of connection. I don't know the choices as I only had the s/w whislt sorting a friends access. Yes the SIM is just a bog standard phone type and it sounds like all the TIM staff are the same in Italy (I have a cheap mobile with their  SIM here)....  Umbria is no where near as backward as here... So you should be able to get decent access. I rarely have to wait more than a few seconds for a page, if I do it's normally because the dongle has went 3g instead of HSPA... Strange thing is that a couple of clicks of the on/off switch and it comes back. The other odd thing is when I first bring it back from the UK and after using "Three" there it takes a day or so  to settle back to normal... no idea why... Check out if the village cafe has internet and ask what they are using... Yes Alice is far too expensive... 

Actually bought it in the UK Steve(?) with a couple of "Three" sim cards on offer from Amazon, so I will have used that software to set it up in the UK.  Bought it for when I went to Derbyshire walking as the place I stayed at had no connection... Then lo & behold a week later, up pops a BTOpenzone, so presently only use it for Italy. Why do I get the "2g" appearing?  Is this because my settings are all wrong?  Guess I will need to set the TIM SIM up with the laptop when I next take it to Italy?  All the gizmos seemed to work with the TIM card when I swapped from the Three card, so I haven't bothered to access the original software again. Used computers most of my working life, even built my own & still heavilly into graphics & design, but networking has always been a real 'grey' area for me... can't seem to get my head round it! Village cafe?  Ha!!  You must be joking!  3 shops, 1 bar and a Pharmacy & Post Office open 3-half days a week! Thanks for the advice as usual.....

Here are the results I get from the web site you recommended Steve...  What do you reckon?  Stick with TIM or try another? TIM: Per il comune di parrano esiste copertura:

  • GSM (GPRS e EDGE): si
  • UMTS: no
  • DVB-H: si
  • HSPA: no


ricerca copertura

Copertura GPRS disponibile

ricerca copertura

Copertura UMTS & HSDPA parzialmente disponibile Copertura Nel comune selezionato la rete 3 e' disponibile. Puoi fin d'ora utilizzare tutti i servizi che 3 ti offre e navigare in internet ad alta velocita' grazie alla rete HSDPA.  

Sorry Maggi Bar/Cafe all the same to me... my wrong choice of name this time... Think you live somewhere quite large, out nearest Poste is open Monday morning and that's it! It goes GPRS>>EDGE>>UMTS>>HSDPA if I recall correctly and really you want the latter (well until 4g comes along cheap enough) GPRS is not much better than dial-up. So Tre (Three) are saying they have HSDPA and WIND partly, TIM "No" .... Also sorry about the s/w thing, I assumed you had bought a TIM USB key (dongle) to get the SIM, but guess they might sell them separate.  The s/w that come with the USB key was what I thought you would have... I'm sure both your iphone and ipad must have s/w that lets you dictate how you connect. I'm not an Apple fan, so am afraid I have no knowledge of them... Perhaps someone here knows about them and the network settings... Not surprised you are getting a slow response if your dongle is showing you are only connected at 2g Last time I checked "Tre" had no good deals on their site, might now, so worth a check. WIND I know as I have just swapped from paying them €20/month to €12/month, mind you I did have to buy another USB key (€29) to get the sim, so it will take a few months to see saving from it... Worst thing was getting through to the assistent that I was happy to pay for the Key and just dump it for the sim...  :)

"Tre" appear to have an 'unlimited' sim only deal for €14 per month at the moment, will check out WIND later, then see what is available when I am next there at the end of April.  Is the 2g a settings issue or just a crap service? I seem to have the full quota of signal bars on both the dongle & the TIM mobile I use in Italy and the TIM mast is the nearest one to the village...  "Not an Apple fan"?  How can anyone not be?!!! smileyblush Everything Apple I am afraid, converted years ago...  BUT... I do not want to start an pro-con Apple/PC discussion on here please, especially as we have rather deviated from the original topic as it is!! Thanks again Steve, would be really grateful for a brief response re my 2nd paragraph......

TIM don't seem to do better than 2g in your area from the details you posted, which surprises me for one of the big players in Italy. Looks like you need Tre or WIND, but I would still be looking at what your mobile says is the best available. Even for your normal phone access is a good indicator i.e. what service it picks up roaming... I don't really know why setting your connection to be "3g only" works better than "both" (2g and 3g), but it does,  I suspect it is something to do with strength of signal or multiple tower access.  I'll say no more about Apple... but I do eat them!  

Completely innocently I bought a phone from Phone4U (or is it Fones4U?) in the UK with a contract to orange but because I didn't buy it from Orange directly it's been brilliant because it was unlocked frm the first! I slip my Tim SIM in as soon as I get to Italy and can add internet for the grand sum of 3 euros a week ! I can tether it too to a laptop or tablet. Bargain! On another note I've just bought a high speed Huawei portable modem from EE in the UK fro £49.99 rather than 200 euros in Italy which was unlocked instantly for £1.50 online (even an idiot like me could follow the instructions) and when i start livingin Italy full-time (next week- after 18 months of renovating!!!) I'll be free to try out all providers of data sims and see which works best on my area before committing to a long term plan. The strongest signal seems to change every time I go to the Sabina - anyone else experience this type of inconsistancy of reception? To return to the post, Phones4U are an internet provider too so might be worth a try...or eBay does a great line in unlocked phones!

The strongest signal seems to change every time I go to the Sabina - anyone else experience this type of inconsistancy of reception?  

Yes and I'm sure it's why we get so many network msg on our UK mobile as they seem to do so when the roaming network changes... In our case I believe we are between two masts (miles away and it depends on the strength of signal at the time the mobile checks (which I assume it does every few minutes) and it will accordingly change now and again, sometimes with no signal at all... Consequence is that mobile broadband is similar and is therefore up and down. I do however believe this is improving here in Italy and can only hope it will continue to do so. For those looking for the best mobile ISP for where you are, then it's the one with the most consistent good signal...  

Thank you Rachel. I was thinking at buying an unlocked phone from Amazon. My Huawei MIFI only costed me 79 € last year, not 200. I bought it from the local TIM dealer. Perhaps I would buy a cheap unlocked phone. My problem is that I will have three of them, a black one for SPain, a blue one for the USA and I yhink that I could buy a pink one for Italy....wink