Swisscom Pocket Connect #FAIL

This rant is for the benefit of anyone thinking about hiring a Swisscom Pocket Connect device for WiFi access in Switzerland. Regular readers can probably skip this post. Summary: good idea spoiled by lousy service. I’m just jotting a few notes down here to vent some spleen and to warn anyone else thinking of signing up for Swisscom Pocket Connect (hopefully it will get on the first page of the search results for relevant terms).

I recently went on a family holiday, touring Switzerland by train. I needed to be able to check my emails every day (preferably several times per day). I have a mobile data contract in the UK, but roaming data costs in Europe are prohibitive, and I didn’t want to depend on the vagaries of free hotel WiFi. So I paid to rent a mobile access dongle from Swisscom for the duration of the trip. It sounded great on paper. You pay a fixed fee in advance, pick up the pre-configured dongle from an airport or train station on arrival and then put it in the post when you leave. I could check my emails as often as I wanted. Even on the train. Perfect! In reality it was a shambles.

I paid for 13 days of use. They emailed me a voucher which I printed. I presented the voucher a Geneva train station ticket office. The staff member passed me on to a colleague, who looked a little irritated. Not a good start. It took her some 30 minutes to issue the dongle and she said it was the first one she had done. She assured me that it was for 13 days.

I turned on the dongle and accessed my email. It worked, but Swisscom had sent me an email saying the dongle was activated for 6 days. Damn. Also I was able to access the dongle without the printed WiFi password. So my communications with the dongle were completely unencrypted. Pressing the WPS button made no difference. Double damn.

I went to the Swisscom shop in Geneva, thinking they might be a bit more clued up. After waiting an eternity to be served, they phoned someone at Swisscom and assured me it was activated for 13 days. When I told them about the lack of encryption they said they weren’t involved in pocket connect and that I should call the non-free support number (an expensive proposition with roaming fees). I asked them to call it for me. They refused.

I emailed Swisscom technical support to explain the WPS problem. They (eventually) emailed me to tell me to return it for a replacement. I emailed them to tell them what I thought of their service so far. They didn’t bother to reply.

I used Google to find the instruction manual and worked out that holding the power and WPS button for 3 seconds did a factory reset. I now had encryption, no thanks to Swisscom. Things were looking up.

On day 6 the dongle bricked. I wasn’t sure if it was broken or deactivated by Swisscom. I took it too Chur Train station SBB counter. They obviously didn’t want to know. ‘I just issue tickets’ the man said. The queue was building behind me. He tried to get me to go to a Swisscom shop. After about 30 minutes with me getting increasingly hot under the collar and refusing to back down they eventually issued me another dongle for 7 more days. The encryption worked this time. Everything worked ok for the remaining 7 days.

The first dongle wasn’t correctly configured. The rental period wasn’t set up correctly. The station staff hadn’t had sufficient training. The Swisscom shop staff weren’t interested. The email support was very poor. I spent several hours of my holiday trying to sort all this out. Communication issues further exacerbated problems (my French is poor and my German is non-existent). It was all incredibly frustrating. So much for Swiss efficiency.

** UPDATE **

I posted a link to this article to Swisscom support. Here is the email they sent me back (somewhat faster and more detailed than their responses to my technical problems). I am unconvinced by their attempt to blame some of the problems on their reseller, .

Dear Mr. Brice

We have read your blog entry and we would like to apologize for all the
circumstances. Pocket Connect is a new product which we offer and we constantly
try to improve the service for it.

Because of the credits for only 6 days. We could check it and it had credits for
a total of 13 days on this prepaid card. We can not say now what the error was
that it was not working after that. It could be a network error at the location
you were or another interruption which brought this error.

To the 0800 000 164 Support Hotline we offer. This is a free of charge number if
you call from a Swiss mobilephone or landline. Of course you have roaming
charges if you call from a number of foreign. is only a reseller. If you had reserved/rented it at our
homepage it would all have been easier. 

This should be not a excuse but in our opinion were these three points no
mistake of our side. But of course you became wrong technical informations
regarding the encryption.
As we said in the beginning we are still improve this service. We will take your
feedback very seriously and promise you to take these improvements to our
service in the future.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions.

Yours sincerely
Swisscom Schweiz AG

Service Center Pocket Connect
3050 Bern
Helpdesk 0800 800 164

7 thoughts on “Swisscom Pocket Connect #FAIL

  1. Paul Roberts

    Andy this sounds a complete and utter shambles of poor customer service from pocket connect, hope you have better mobile broadband service here in New Zealand. Hope you a sent a link through of this webpage to pocket connect.

  2. configurator

    Going to Switzerland in two days. I probably wouldn’t have got one of these anyway because I hadn’t heard of it until now, but now I definitely won’t.

    Thanks for the warning.

  3. Jon Matthews

    This is the sort of thing that makes me want a bgan for mobile sat internet. Expensive bulky and high latency but at least you know it’ll work anywhere you can see the sky.

  4. Yves

    I’m a swiss citizen making holidays abroad in the mountains (but still in Switzerland). I will try out the Swisscom Pocket Connect by tomorrow, as it sounds just like what I need for a few days. But after your rant, I will check it thorougly; also, I’m quite tech-Savy and not afraid to bug costumer service, if necessary.
    Sorry for your bad experience, and I’ll keep you updated.

    PS: funny english in the letter you received – think, at Swisscom there should be working some people who know better english, or can at least check the writing…, and yes, I know my english isn’t perfect…

    1. Yves

      So I made a reservation on and picked it up the next day at the Swisscom-Shop. No Problems, but they wanted t know my email-address again, which i gave already while booking. I turned the tiny gear on and it worked right out of the box, the only complication being, that I had to find out what was a zero and what a capital o in the Wifi-Password. The speed is not overwhelming, about 2-4 Mbits, this depends maybe on the location, but I don’t know, if 4G/LTE is possible. So far I get what I paid for and I hope, that your experience was a single one, because the idea and the price is quite alright.

    2. Alan Byrne

      I reserved one on too and picked it up the next day at Basel SBB railway station. Worked right out of the box and the speeds were alright considering it is over 3G. Worked fine for me.

      Just be aware that they speed limit you after you hit 5GB in a single month.

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