OpenBSD Journal

Ask Undeadly: Someone running GSM/GPRS with OpenBSD?

Contributed by mk/reverse on from the wires-are-for-whimps dept.

Marco Peereboom writes:

I just ran accross this and since it is suddenly affordable I was wondering if anyone uses this regularly and could share their experience.

Being online from everywhere seems to be the hot topic these days, but are there any alternatives which are less costly? What about the non-US citizens, what options do you have? Finally, since this is about mobile computing, are there any options which are better for roamers?

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Marco Peereboom ( on

    As always I actually read the small print and it is not such a flat rate as it seems, from the ATT wireless website: Unlimited service only applies to e-mail, Internet and intranet access on your device; other uses (e.g., tethering, select audio/video content, games or other downloads) are an extra expense. If you use your phone to connect to another device or computer via cable, Bluetooth or infrared, you will be charged $0.001 per KB or approximately $1/MB for data sent to or from your phone and transferred over the AT&T Wireless network. So find another service provider!

    1. By AdJ ( on

      Using ATT GPRS with a Dutch subscribtion turned out to cost
      approx $11 per MB ... A whell ...

      It will work with OpenBSD if OpenBSD knows how to connect to
      your phone (bluetooth) and knows how to sent the correct
      (modem ?) commands.

      1. By jose ( on

        openbsd doesn't speak bluetooth, last time i looked. connecting to you phone using that mechanism just wont work.

        jose nazario, co author, "secure architectures with openbsd".

    2. By click46 ( on

      SprintPCS offers true unlimited Vision for an additional $10/m; it's much faster than the GSM equivalent, too.

    3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      AFAIK t-mobile is the only US provider to offer unlimited GPRS data service. (They use to charge $20/mth tacked on to your voice's up to $30/mth now I think)

  2. By Juanjo ( on

    I've used GSM to connect to the Internet (9600 bps, uh!) with ppp. The mobile phone is a lame Motorola c350 with mini USB port.

    Here (Spain) the cost is like a simple call. With my provider this is about 0.12 EUR the call and 0.12 EUR each minute.

    Oh, well... since obsd 3.5 crashes on my laptop (3.3 worked perfect, but a 3.5 reinstall was a bad idea), now I'm using FreeBSD... but I bet it's the same (according to the man pages).

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      Hrm, in the states it's 9kbit upstream and 33.6downstream. In spain it's 9 both ways ?

      1. By henning ( on

        he was obviously talking about a plain old GSM data connection, i. e. one channel, paid for by time, and not GPRS (multiple channels, bundled on demand, paid by volume)

    2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      "Oh, well... since obsd 3.5 crashes on my laptop (3.3 worked perfect, but a 3.5 reinstall was a bad idea), now I'm using FreeBSD... but I bet it's the same (according to the man pages)."

      don't winge about it here; post a bugreport!


      1. By Juanjo ( on

        grrrr... I did! And other people having the same problem did too!

        The only think I cannot do right now is fix it myself, and since I NEED something working on my laptop, I'm trying FreeBSD 5.x (better than go back OpenBSD 3.3).

        I'll retry with 3.6.

        I was just saying currently I play GSM with FreeBSD, BUT it must work in the same way in OpenBSD.

  3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    The Swedish 3G (UMTS) Operator 3 is currently having an offer for companys to have flatrate access for roughly 50$. Only lasts for a year though

  4. By Tabsels ( @ wouter on

    Before ADSL was possible were I live (a small village in The Netherlands), I used GPRS extensively via a Siemens S45i and O2 (now Telfort). Though I connected from my WinXP laptop (or occasionally my Palm Vx w/PalmOS 4.1), it's simply a PPP connection, so it should work fine with OpenBSD.

    Beware of high costs (Telfort charges E. 1,50 per mbyte) and latencies (round-trip time from 0,6 to 2 or (occasionally) 3 seconds!) though. It's fine for IRC and some casual text-only browsing, but it's probably a bad idea to use it for large downloads.

    1. By maaten ( on

      Vodafone Netherlands has 'unlimited' sort of plans for UMTS and GPRS going at around 80Eur/mnth and KPN has an 'unlimited' UMTS plan for 75Eur/mnth, but you might want to check the blueprint.

      I doubt any of the UMTS/WCDMA cards is supported (I recogn they're all Option cards btw), but you can also fall back to GPRS use, and put the SIM in something OpenBSD does support..

  5. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    Is Nokia DKU-5 cable supported? It connect phone to USB port.

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      I use this method with my Nokia 3588i and Sprint's Wireless Web service for an extra $10/mo. I use it through my WinXP laptop though and haven't connected in a long time. It only gets about 9600bps so it's for emergency use only. I can find a free 802.11x hotspot almost anywhere here in Austin.

  6. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    In italy 2 or 3 mobile operators offers a flat gprs (umts?) plan. At the moment TIM and Vodaphone. The price is 20€/m ca. The quality of the Service is variable.

  7. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    In the UK there are several operators that offer(? or will offer) internet access via UMTS and some even have advetising up for it, namely O2, Voda and Orange. They mainly use the Merlin U5530 data card and im not sure how/if it works with BSD as they all seem to have a windows based login app. They also offer connection via wireless lans around the city, apparently there are ~4000 hotspots available in the UK in cafes etc that you can use to gain access. You can use their app or a manual web interface so be more NIX friendly :P You login by using your mobile phone as an auth system and are billed to it. Im not sure on the pricing but I think the 3G is based on data throughput across their network (be aware not exactly the same as data between you and them due to compression on their end. Connected at 374kbps on the road is pretty cool if you can afford it! I think however the connections over the Wireless lan are based on a subscription fee or time.

  8. By Pete ( on

    I use OpenBSD/i386 laptop with ppp via nokia and rs232 cable for GPRS (AT
    +cgdcont=1,"IP","internet") here in Norway. get around 40kb/s , but with about 800ms RTT.
    With my G4 powerbook, OSX also talks bluetooth to same phone for a similar connection.

    1. By sickness ( on

      Please, can you tell me your exact mobile phone model?
      I'm about to change my jurassik Motorola 8700 and I would like to have a phone wich lets me do 2 simple things:
      1) Connect via a cable (usb or rs232) to a computer with linux or openbsd, and set up an internet connection with gprs.
      2) Download the SMS messages that arrives on the phone.

      The model and the brand does not matter for me, as long as it just works, but I'm not able to find ONE model that works for sure :///

      1. By Wim ( on

        I should have a look, but I think the Nokia 6210 (6310) with the special serial cable will work. I remember it offered an AT interface. Just dial ATD bla bla

        1. By henning ( on

          basically every phone made in the last 4 years has a built-in modem and offers an AT-style interface, and with the serial cable (the usb cables usually just include a uplcom or similar) you use it like a plain old modem. for gprs connections it's basically a "special" number to dial and the phone does all the work then.

          i don't use gprs (too lazy to look up how ;), plain old gsm data connection fine for the few times i use this), but plain gsm data connections I use(d) successfull with several Siemens Sxx phones and SonyEricsson stuff, T68i and P800. should note that I did not even have to change my ppp configuration in all that time.

  9. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    I use T-Mobile's Unlimited GPRS VPN (GPRS with a public IP) plan. Works great. I connect over bluetooth from my laptop. I tend to use it more in WinXP, because bluetooth in XP land requires much less work, but I do have it working in FreeBSD 5.2.1-p9 as well. I don't quite understand all of how to use PPP, so I can't figure out how to properly hang-up. In testing I downloaded many many many files (at least 100MB worth) in FreeBSD, so I know the connection was stable.

    As a side note, I'd use OpenBSD on this laptop, but it won't power down (only way to turn it off is to pull the battery). OpenBSD runs on it better than FreeBSD in every way except for the powerdown issue and we don't yet have a Bluetooth stack. I'd really like to do a bluetooth stack myself, but I am far from a systems programmer. I was hoping somebody would do it in NetBSD first and we could import it (FreeBSD's is netgraph based).

    1. By infol33k ( on

      I also have T-Mobile's unlimited GPRS service. I got it when it was 20USD per month. I have a 3 year old Toshiba Portege 4000. I'm using the bluez bluetooth stack on a Linux 2.6 kernel. After tiring of manually modprobing, hciconfig'ing and pppd'ing, I created a script to bring all of that up and grab the assigned IP address and bring up an isakmpd IPSEC connection. The service is pretty reliable for my daily 2 hour round trip train ride to and from work. GPRS has pretty high latency though, avgeraging about 800ms-1200ms round-trip so you have to alter your typing style for interactive stuff over the connection. I also have OpenBSD 3.4 installed on the laptop but as mentioned elsewhere there's no support for the MiniPCI bluetooth card inside the laptop. I'm using a Sony-Ericsson T610 cellphone.

  10. By Wim ( on


    In most European countries, the GPRS/UMTS solutions offered are those of Vodafone. They use a standard card made by a (Belgian) company called 'Option Wireless Technology' (see

    They have cards, some even combine wifi + GPRS + UMTS.

    For support under unix, see the

    If you plug in the card under OpenBSD (3.6), you get:

    (manufacturer 0x0, product 0x0) "Opti RM861HA" rev 0x10 at cardbus0 dev 0 function 0 not configured
    which tell me I should probably lend out my card to some developer ;)



Copyright © - Daniel Hartmeier. All rights reserved. Articles and comments are copyright their respective authors, submission implies license to publish on this web site. Contents of the archive prior to as well as images and HTML templates were copied from the fabulous original with Jose's and Jim's kind permission. This journal runs as CGI with httpd(8) on OpenBSD, the source code is BSD licensed. undeadly \Un*dead"ly\, a. Not subject to death; immortal. [Obs.]