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Airtel Apple Delhi India iPhone

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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