no amigo!

¿Quién es tu verdadero amigo?

Recently, I became a Telcel Amigo Plan customer, and one of the reasons was that they offer the ability to purchase packages of Internet service on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I don’t need a full month of service, just occasional use of 3G when I’m away from my WIFI network. So this sounded perfect to me — I could just order the “Internet 1 dia” package to get 24 hours or 100MB of 3G Internet access for just $49.00 MXN pesos. Well, life is only perfect in paradise…

After the 24 hours (or 100MB) was used, I would get a text message from Telcel saying “Tu servicio de Internet Amigo 1 dia ha vencido. Te invitamos a renovarlo para continuar con el servicio.” Translated, this says that the 1 day plan has finished and they invite me to renew in order to continue the service. I just wanted one day of service, so I do not “renew”.
text msgs from Amigo Internet
Mi Amigo is very friendly, right? Well, not so much…

Recently I noticed that my Amigo credit kept draining down to zero, even though I was not making phone calls. I discovered by accident that my iPhone, when out of range of WIFI, was still accessing the Internet somehow (even though the Telcel Amigo Internet 1 day plan had expired.) This ‘behind the scenes’ Internet access by my iPhone (even though I had disabled Push Email AND 3G) was using up all of my Amigo credit!

Telcel’s Secret Profit Machine

The dark secret that Telcel neglects to tell their customers is that after you purchase one of these “Paquetes Internet Amigo” plans, that your phone is ever-after granted access to the Internet at any time, and if you’re not under a plan, they will charge you $0.04 MXN per KB, or $40.96 per MB! This must be a major source of income for Telcel, since user’s will not be aware of it, and it is extremely difficult to get a list of all the charges they make to an Amigo account. Their web portal only shows your current balance (saldo) at any time and does not show any details.

A Telcel rep shared the following text from an internal Telcel document describing these extra charges after an Internet plan expires:

“En caso de que el usuario se encuentre navegando y se cumpla el periodo de suscripción del paquete de navegación contratado, se direccionala (sic) a una pagina Web alterna en donde se le indicara al cliente que a finalizado su suscripción y que si decide seguir navegado se le empezara a cobrar la Tarifa LIBRE Bajo Demanda de $0.04 IVA incluido del 15% y 10% por Kilobyte o fracción de Navegación a Nivel Nacional.”

Telcel should disclose this to their Amigo customers in their “Servicios 3G” brochure, but alas, like many businesses in Mexico, they do not tell the full truth.

So, How Do I Keep Telcel From Stealing My Credit?

The iPhone has a setting to disable 3G, so you would think that would keep it from using the Internet with Telcel, but it does not. Unfortunately, the iPhone will switch to EDGE or GPRS and will continue to use up your Amigo credit.

Since the iPhone has no option to turn off EDGE and GPRS, you will need to disable the Telcel APNs to be certain you won’t be charged for Internet access when you’re away from free WIFI.

In my case, I have the iPhone 3.1.2 firmware with blackra1n and sn0w, and my APNs are editable on the iPhone. When you go to Settings… General… Network… Cellular Data Network…, you will see the following screen. I have added the “XXX” after the APNs and Username fields (for both Data and MMS).

disabled telcel APNs

Changing the APN fields from “internet.itelcel.com” to “internet.itelcel.comXXX” and the Username from “webgprs” to “webgprsXXX” has effectively disabled all GPRS, EDGE and 3G network access. It also allows me to easily revert back to the original settings when I really DO want to use Telcel’s 3G Internet service.

I’m not sure if the Username change is necessary or not, but I did both just to be safe. Hopefully this helps someone else out there who is trying to save their money.

- Iggy