Oh, Fido

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This August I bought a snazzy Sony Ericsson Neo during my trip to Estonia. For my two weeks there (using my local, Estonian number) it was my portable Wi-Fi router and I could access my work computer half a world away while we were doing 100 km/h driving between Tallinn and Tartu. It was my first experience having a self-contained, 24/7, mobile internet workspace and it was pretty cool.

Returning to Toronto, I popped my Fido SIM into the phone and since phones purchased from Estonian mobile operators aren't cruelly locked as they are in Canada, I was off to the races. All I needed to do was add data to my monthly Fido plan and the phone would be just as useful as it was in Estonia. I called Fido, added their cheapest data plan and was told it might take a few minutes before the internet started working on my phone.

After a few minutes...

I re-booted my phone expecting to get online from the kids' playground we happened to be visiting, but my phone said that the internet is unavailable. Well, ok, it was probably wishful thinking it would just work right away. Later at home I checked online and found APN settings for Fido and configured my phone. Nope, that didn't work either. I'd gone this long without having a fully-functioning smartphone so I was in no particular rush and decided to ask my colleagues at work on Monday.

The work week came and I asked around for any tips or tricks. One colleague worried that my Estonian-bought phone may not work on North American cel phone frequencies. Yikes! However, I checked the tech specs and the required 850/1900 frequencies were listed. What the heck could it be? Well, my Fido SIM card was over 11 years old and maybe I needed a new one. I posted my issue on the Fido support forum and bought a new SIM, just in case. No change. I still couldn't connect to the internet.

In the name of troubleshooting

I decided to pop in my Estonian SIM card to see if I could roam and use the internet. Sure enough it worked just fine. (Days later I got my Estonian phone bill and the 350KB of roaming data I used cost me 3 euros!) I then tried my spanking new Fido SIM with a spare Fido phone and the internet still didn't work. Fido, what's going on?

Having done everything I could think of, I called Fido customer support. The Fido rep thought that it should work if it worked with my Estonian SIM and he dug up the Fido APN settings he had "on file". (ie. online search) What he gave me was nothing new so I said thanks and configured my phone's APN settings for the umpteenth time. Of course, no joy.

I let the issue sit for awhile and re-visited yesterday. I remembered that I hadn't checked my posting on the Fido forum for at least a week so I went back there. A couple of moderators had opined that the problem is probably on Fido's end and that I should call customer service and request a "re-send to switch". From what I understand, that is basically asking them to re-register me on the Fido network.

Wait a minute

The customer rep chuckled knowingly when I said that I was told to ask for a "re-send to switch" and then we went through the typical script of getting my name, birth date, postal code etc. The rep was very nice and helpful and was concerned that she can't support my unlocked phone and, wait a minute, your account actually has the internet blocked.

Huh?

Yes, it shows here that internet services for this account were blocked in 2010 and that's probably why you have been having trouble. I'll unblock the internet and then just re-boot your phone and see if it works.

Guess what? After Fido unblocked my internet service it worked!

The original rep who added data to my monthly plan (ie. sold me internet services) didn't notice that there was a block on my internet services. The 2nd rep, when I called complaining that my internet didn't work, didn't notice that there was a block on my internet services. The third rep either had the sense to check or the blind luck to notice that there was a block on my internet services and fixed it. I guess the third time really is the charm.

The moral

So I figure the moral is: No matter what you do, if your f*#$'n mobile operator has your phone's internet services blocked you won't be able to access the internet!

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