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Apple iPhone on Airtel India Minus GPRS

Well, I’ve been trying for almost a whole week to get Airtel‘s Unlimited GPRS service (or Mobile Office as it’s called on their site) setup. Unfortunately, all the SMS confirmation messages telling me that it is setup and will cost Rs. 499/month for unlimited usage were all bogus.

I’ve confirmed that even though my iPhone shows the “E” implying an EDGE/GPRS connection, the service isn’t really activated. I’ve used the new Airtel SIM card in my Apple iPhone (which is unsupported by Airtel) and also a Nokia E61 (which is supported). It doesn’t work on either phone. I then even tried to put the SIM into a USB EDGE/GPRS device and configure it on my Mac Mini but still no luck.

I believe Airtel’s setup process for GPRS is a manual one. That’s one of the reasons it will take 4 hours to setup the service. 4 Hours have turned into almost 144 hours and countless phone calls to both 121 (customer service) and 12118 (technical support). 12118 tells me that it’s not active and 121 sometimes tells me that it is active, other times they tell me they’ve put in a request to have it activated, and other times they’ve told me that it is active. The support on Airtel’s mobile desk is fairly horrendous as compared to their excellent service for their DSL and landline products.

In New Delhi, at least, you must send the following SMS to 121 from your Airtel phone:

STARTGPRS

I’ve heard that “AGPRS” also works but in my case, neither SMS messages nor telephone calls have actually gotten the service activated.

Once you receive a confirmation message, you can go into your settings and setup the APN as shown below:

Though, the confirmation messages haven’t helped me, it doesn’t have anything to do with the iPhone. It only has to do with Airtel’s inability to get the service fully activated. The process appears to be a two-part manual process and one service rep let it slip that only the first part has been done, hence, I’m getting the “E” on my iPhone but no actual service.

My only advice is to keep hounding them to get the service activated and, if possible, use an Airtel supported handset while asking them to activate the service. If you tell them you’re using an iPhone, their eyes will glaze over and you’ll get the ole heev-ho.

I’ll post updates as they become available.

Update: 29th April, 2008
Airtel was able to finally get it right. It took them 9 days and countless phone calls plus SMSes and a little bit of strong-arming to get them to put me on the phone with a floor supervisor but the supervisor finally got GPRS (Mobile Office) setup on my account. The access point name (APN) on my iPhone is set to airtelgprs.com. All I had to do was turn the iPhone off and back on to get it to work once the service was activated. I just hope some bonehead over there doesn’t turn the service off again …

Update: 5th May, 2008
Airtel has done it again and “automatically” disconnected my Mobile Office GPRS connection. They couldn’t give me any explanation except “the status is wrong”. Even after pressing the supervisor for an explanation, I got nothing. They’re telling me they will resolve the problem in 24 hours, an unacceptable amount of time for “automatically” disabling my service without any notice. As happy as I’ve been with Airtel’s DSL service, I am immensely disappointed with their mobile service. The incompetence continues ….

Update 2: 5th May, 2008
It took Airtel a little over 6 hours but Mobile Office GPRS is working again….for now.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anubhav June 8, 2008, 10:25 pm

    I have the SAME problem!! I have tried a million times but I dont think the guys in Airtel know too much about the I Phone. everytime I type airtelgprs.com my phones seems to hang!

    any advice?

  • Pankaj June 17, 2008, 8:49 am

    Anubhav,
    Putting in airtelgprs.com hangs your iPhone? Yikes! That’s a problem but it doesn’t sound like an Airtel problem. Have you tried a SIM (with GPRS) from Vodafone or someone else?

    Let me know what happens.
    Pankaj

    P.S. Last time I called, I let it slip that I was using an iPhone and the dude pulled up all the settings so it looks like they’re supporting it now.

  • Pravin July 18, 2008, 9:43 pm

    hi, i have an apple i phone its a china made…can i use airtel live & gprs on it…………if yes plz give me the settings….mail me asap..i will be very gratefull…coz i am trying so hard to get it

  • Pankaj July 18, 2008, 11:48 pm

    Pravin,
    you might want to read the post above that tells you how to setup the iPhone with Airtel.
    Pankaj

  • Vivek August 25, 2008, 2:44 am

    Hi All,

    I'd appreciate if anybody can tell how to configure the settings on my Iphone using a Post Paid Airtel connection. I am in Noida.
    I have been reading various posts on the net on this but all in vain.
    My iphone is of the version 1.1.4 (4A102). My phone is showing that “E” symbol on the top left hand side but, none of the net services are working. And advice plz.
    Thanks.

    Regards,

    Vivek
    mail.sahni@gmail.com
    (m) +919717558555.

    • linosx August 25, 2008, 3:04 am

      Vivek,
      I advise you to read the post again. You are most likely facing the
      same problem I had with Airtel. They kept telling me that Mobile
      Office was active when, in fact, it wasn't. The “E” just means you
      can get to Airtel Live services (completely useless IMHO). Call them,
      yell at them, get frustrated, wait 4 hours, repeat until it works.

      Now that they're selling the iPhone 3G, they will most likely support
      you when you tell them you have an iPhone. Also, you might want to
      consider upgrading to version 2.0 or 2.01 of the firmware. Lotsa
      little goodies in the upgrade and then you can run lots of great apps
      from the Apple iTunes App store.
      Pankaj

  • Sandeep September 11, 2008, 7:58 am

    Hey Pankaj,

    I have updated my new 3G online after I purchased it from Airtel. But yet, those guys at the help centre do not know how to get it working. 12118 is all bogus as my calls just don't do through.

    They asked me to go to network settings and set the “edge” to “on”…but only, I have no “edge” tab!!! There is a VPN configuration tab, a enable 3G tab, and a wi-fi tab. Surprising, Airtel doesn't even know the menus of the 3G!!!

    Any idea on how to set up mine for Airtel services.

    Regards,
    Sandeep

    • linosx September 11, 2008, 8:34 am

      Hi Sandeep,

      The incompetence of the “customer service” reps knows no bounds. The
      EDGE menu used to exist on the older 1.1.4 and lower firmware. The
      2.0 firmware doesn't allow a place to change EDGE settings.

      Ok, a few things,

      1) Make sure you synch your iPhone up with iTunes. I believe iTunes
      will update your handset with the settings required for your carrier.
      This is something that may or may not happen. It's possible your
      settings were updated before the phone shipped from the manufacturer.
      Still, synching with your computer frequently is a good idea.
      2) Once you sync and the settings are updated, turn the off and then
      back on and see if you can connect via EDGE.
      3) If you still can't connect, pick up the phone, and tell Airtel that
      the iPhone service is not active. They need to activate it on their
      end. I believe this is most likely the problem. They haven't fully
      activated the iPhone EDGE service on your account. However, I could
      be wrong.

      If this still fails, you can try a few things:

      1) yell and scream at the customer service reps to speak to a manager,
      then yell at the manager, then send a letter and email to the nodal
      officer for your region and yell at them
      2) Go to an Airtel store, force them to exchange the iPhone for a
      brand new one and have them get it working before you walk out of the
      store
      3) Call Apple and complain, though, I believe they will refer you back
      to Airtel.

      Let us know how it goes. I thought that Apple would have made sure
      Airtel and Vodafone got their act together with the 3G being sold
      directly by them.

      Cheers,
      Pankaj

  • Akash October 6, 2008, 1:52 am

    Is GPRS available on iDEA?…ive got an unlocked i phone 3g

  • Avi November 13, 2008, 11:24 am

    Same frigging issue here. Bought a box packed white iPhone from a local dealer, Rs.39'900 who activated it using a local Airtel cell number (he's not dumb). Been 3 days since my new number is active, still no GPRS. I'm gonna kill the next service rep who tells me give it 4 more hours, iTunes won't update carrier settings (although it did the first time I synced and upgraded firmware to 1.2). Pain in the ass,

    • linosx November 13, 2008, 2:49 pm

      I feel your pain. I really really do. Just be patient and nag the hell out of them. When they finally get it right, it's worth the pain.

    • Karan February 7, 2009, 9:59 am

      Hi folks ,
      Have you got GPRS on your iphone now?

      I am facing the same issue (ie non-activation of GPRS – its nearly 1 week of constant visits to the Airtel srvice center, calls to 12500 etc). They tell me every single time that it will be activated within 3 hours and nothing gets done.

      What the hell is the problem? Why cant they say upfront how long it is going to take? I hope at least one of you finally got GPRS from Airtel, please give us your update and pointers/tips etc.

      Thanks!!

      • Karan February 11, 2009, 4:24 am

        OK, I finally got GPRS on my 3G iphone. Took 10 days of constant badgering. The reason given for the delay — servers were being upgraded.

        I am being billed on a per KB usage basis, now I am trying to get the free data plan promised by Airtel:
        http://www.airtel.in/iphone3g/iphonedataplan.html
        [Free 500 MB of data download/Month for 12 months. Charges after free usage are Re. 0.30 / 50 KB.]

        Lets see how it goes….

  • kaif December 24, 2008, 2:04 am

    o Hello mam or sir i want to be aa gprs setting in my moble is iphone the setting is not support

    • linosx July 16, 2009, 2:29 am

      Your best bet is to read the post and contact Airtel as described.

  • gardz June 8, 2009, 5:16 am

    hi,

    how to configure the MMS and GPRS on my iphone 3g?
    i've been trying it for several times but still i cant use the GPRS and MMS..

    please advise what to do..thanks.

    • linosx July 16, 2009, 2:31 am

      You should update to iPhone 3.0 and after you've done that you can follow the instructions at http://bit.ly/7Sl9C to update the tethering, gprs, and mms settings. Make sure the service is enabled by Airtel as described in the post.

  • linosx July 16, 2009, 6:29 am

    Your best bet is to read the post and contact Airtel as described.

  • linosx July 16, 2009, 6:31 am

    You should update to iPhone 3.0 and after you've done that you can follow the instructions at http://bit.ly/7Sl9C to update the tethering, gprs, and mms settings. Make sure the service is enabled by Airtel as described in the post.