A telecoms rant

You’d think that telecoms (esp in South Africa, where being one is a license to print money) would do everything they could to get you to spend money with them? If only.

Cellphones (at least Vodacom) have always required you to manually enable International phone calls & International roaming, by giving them a call and requesting it. This is a pain, to say the least. And you normally forget until you are already in another country.

But Telkom have taken this to a new level. I got a new phone line last month (which still doesn’t have working DSL, grr!), and just noticed that I can’t make International calls on it. So I phone telkom. Amazingly I didn’t have to wait on hold at all (something never before experienced when calling the beast), and the lady I spoke to told me I have to “Visit a Telkom Shop with my ID”. WTF? How hard are they making it to spend money on them?

Is there any legitimate reason that international calls are blocked? With our pricing, it’s easy to knock up a multi-k-ZAR bill without even thinking about dialling an international number, so they aren’t protecting anyone.

In related news, the reason you can’t have incoming connections on Vodacom 3G (even with “internetvpn”) is because then you’d be liable for the cost of any DOS you received. Isn’t this a problem that hosting providers and ISPs already have to deal with? Why are mobile operators special? We need some Internet Neutrality and Telecoms sense in this country…

Vodacom: internetvpn APN

Update This is no longer available, the internet APN has public IPs.

A quick tip for Vodacom 3G / GPRS / EDGE users in South Africa.

There is a special APN called “internetvpn” for laptop users who connect to corporate VPNs. While this probably doesn’t interest most readers, it is a useful APN to use because:

  • You get a real Public IP address, not a private NATted one.
  • You get lower latency.
  • The cost is the same. (i.e. regular data bundles work fine)

If you use a VPN, this will probably make it more reliable, and if you don’t it will at least make your ssh use more comfortable.

Unfortunately, the following vodacom issues will still be present:

  • No incoming TCP connections (i.e. you can’t serve web pages from or ssh into your laptop)
  • Often you get “martian” DNS servers ( and Either reconnect, or manually set your DNS servers to (SAIX) and (Vodacom).
  • TCP connections are regularly reset. (Overloaded NAT/Firewall hardware?)

How to get it:

  1. Call vodacom customer care (111).
  2. Follow the IVR menu options in the directions of data cards.
  3. Ask them to enable the “internetvpn APN” (you might have to explain it to them)
  4. Reconfigure your phone / chat script / “data card driver” to use “internetvpn” instead of “internet”
  5. Profit! :-)


Here’s a screenshot from the LG Chocolate website:

Screenshot from the LG Chocolate website

Anyone detect a Freudian slip?

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