The PPTP VPN connection, used to connect to the phone over mobile Internet was not in a working state on this phone. As it turns out, there is a bug in Android 2.1, causing some mischief.
So, to fix this problem, the phone was "rooted", with the intent of flashing a software image with added appropriate tunneling drivers:
Thanks to the modding community, not such a daunting task, but some time was spent finding the right rom with the issue resolved.
The winning combination can be found here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=744026