Prepaid data plans in Finland

I've been researching the topic of how to get prepaid data cards for an upcoming trip to Finland. It is said that Finland is one of the cheapest and most competitive wireless communications markets.

Contrary to most people, I just need a temporary solution to get our iPad working while on the go. While most hotels and cities (i.e. Oulu) do have free wifi, I was looking for an alternative to the outrageous roaming cost of Movistar (from 4 to 10 EUR per megabit).

Saunalahti offers a seven-day 4 Mbps data plan for 6.90 EUR. I thought my problem was solved. But just in case, I asked customer service. I learned two things that were a problem:
  1. In order to activate the card an SMS had to be sent. Unfortunately, sending an SMS is not one of the things Apple decided you're entitled to do with your iPad.
  2. Saunalahti is reserving microSIM cards for contract customers, so if you want pre-paid and microSIM you're out of luck with them. (Apparently you might get lucky in an Elisa shopit, but this is uncertain).
It appears that my best shot is to get a regular SIM and to use this, for cutting the SIM once I've sent the SMS with the card using my cellphone. I've tested the cutting sheet with an old SIM and it seems to work ok.

If you think I'm missing anything, please let me know.

Update: Now that I'm back from Finland I can tell you that almost everything worked as expected (not that I was expecting that parking ticket though):

Saunalahti prepaid worked nicely, but there was a bit of misunderstanding on my side:
  1. SIM cards are not data-only. You can buy the SIM card in R-Kioski in Vantaa airport for 6.70€. This card comes loaded with 4.90€ of credit (you can use them for phone calls, SMS or data service).
  2. There is a weekly data plan for which you'll need to send an SMS. This plan will give you unlimited data for 7 days costing 6.90€. Please note in order to use this you'll need to add credit to your SIM (remember it comes preloaded with onlyt 4.90€). Again, you can easily add credit at any R-Kioski shop (very easy to find anywhere). Minimum credit increase payment is 10€.
  3. Cutting the SIM worked nicely for my iPad. APM=internet, empty username and password.
  4. No need to send any SMS unless you want to select a data plan. It was not point for me as there is a daily limit on the credit decreased each day due to data service of 1.80€. That means that you can have more than 8 days of service for your iPad for just 16.90€. (You can get eleven days of data service for the same money by sending one SMS message, but if you've already cut the SIM it may be difficult to fit it back on your phone unless you have an microSIM adapter).
Coverage was good but not perfect. Sometimes I lost connectivity while on the road, but it was not big deal for me. Having iPad's maps application on the go was great whenever we wanted to find a place to eat or as city map.


Anonymous said…

I was living in Barcelona for 6 years. I have a finnish girlfriend so we would travel to finland every few months. I own an iPhone, so I also looked for a prepaid data plan. I've just recently moved to Finland.

I also chose saunalahti. You can insert the sim card in your mobile phone, send the text message for the weekly subscription, then cut your sim card and insert it in your iPad. I'm positive it'll work. Saunalahti's data speeds are great in Helsinki since they use the Elisa network.

I basically just cut down the sim card with scissors since I own an iPhone 4. it works great.
Anonymous said…
Oh, and by the way, the apn are simple. For data, just put 'internet' as the apn. It should look like this:

apn: internet

Password and username are blank.
Anonymous said…
Wow, thank you very much for all the information. It is very gratifying to know in advance the plan is going to work.

My previous research shown sanunalahti.internret as the APN, but internet is even simpler.

Again, thanks a lot for sharing all that.
Anonymous said…
No worries. It took me some time to look for the correct apn online. At least with my prepaid saunalahti sim, the network that is displayed on the iphone shows Elisa. If it's Elisa, use internet as the apn. If it's saunalahti, use internet.saunalahti.
Miguel Sánchez said…
Once again, thank you very much ;-)
Here is lots of useful information about Pre Paid Credit Card,also you can directly apply for Pre Paid Credit Cards, Prepaid Cards and prepaid debit cards.
Heidi said…
Hi and I was in Finland from the US last summer and wanted to access emails while in countryside on my Lenovo T500. My brother, who lives in Finland, lent me his saunalahti data card to insert in my laptop. No go. I could not get on. We tried everything.
Any advice for me? I am planning on visiting Sippoo again next summer and want to be sure I can connect.
Miguel Sánchez said…
@Heidi: The only thing that comes to my mind is that you need to set the
APN data correct

Other than that maybe Lenovo tech support can help.

I'm assuming there is no SIM lock on your laptop (ie: you did not get it from your cellphone company).

My only trouble with iPad was that micro SIM size was not available for prepaid and some "surgery" was needed.
Anonymous said…
do you have a picture of your sauhalahti micro-sim card???
Miguel Sánchez said…
Sorry if I mislead you but I could only buy a prepaid SIM not microSIM. I had to cut it to obtain a microSIM.
Renee diCherri said…
Hi Miguel! I am headed to Finland next week and I'm trying to work this out.
I would love to have data, but wow- $20 per MB is crazy!

Your link is broken that explained the "cutting" of the card. Would you mind explaining a bit for me? I have an iPad, if I could at least use it I would be happy.
Miguel Sánchez said…
Sorry about the broken link, that I cannot control, but try this other one:
Anonymous said…
Hi everybody. I have iPad mini. I tried your advice to change APN to internet or to internet.saunalahti but none of these worked. Even after turning cellurlar data off and then again on.

On the other hand, I put it to my iPhone and it worked instantly. But the problem is I need it to work only in my iPad. Please help?
Miguel Sánchez said…
It's been a few years and I have not been to Finland recently, so what I said then may no longer work. However, that it is working for your iPhone and not for your iPad it is weird.

The only thing I can think of is to power cycle your iPad after making the APN change (you better copy the APN values that are working for your iPhone).

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