Traveling Overseas With an iPhone. My Australian Experience

By , Nov 9, 2009

My fiancée and I are currently traveling through Australia. For the purpose of this trip, I unlocked my iPhone and I put my account on hold with AT&T for a few months.

This past weekend, I finally got a chance to find a pay-as-you-go plan for my iPhone and I’d like to share this experience with you.

I found an Optus store and decided to go with them because they have pretty good coverage and decent prices. I was more interested in the data part of the plan than the actual calling time.

For $50, I got an Australian phone number, $300 worth of talk time and 500MB of data that will expire in 30 days.

Coming from an unlimited data plan, I never really had to worry about my Internet usage but things here are different and I now have to watch my usage carefully.

As soon as we got back to our hotel room, I called Optus to activate the SIM card. It took about 5 minutes and 15 minutes later, my account was fully functional.

I placed a phone call as a test. I also tried to open a web page and that’s where the trouble started. It kept giving me an error saying that it Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network: You Are Not Subscribed to a Cellular Data Service.

I had the little 3G logo showing and I knew for sure I was subscribed to a data plan! I tried everything I could think of including resetting the network settings and hard resetting the phone.

After 10 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to fix the problem, I decided to call Optus support. As always in this case, I was transfered from a department to another and finally landed in the iPhone tech support department.

The tech guy asked me to turn wifi off. I asked him if I always had to turn wifi off in order to get 3G and he said yes. I told him I thought it was really strange but that I could deal with it. He also asked for my firmware version. I’m still on 3.0 and I made sure not to tell him it was jailbroken. Then he said he changed some settings on his end and that I should be fine after rebooting my iPhone. Great, I thought!

So I hang up, reboot my iPhone and try to open a web page and I still get this stupid error. I try a hard reset again. Nothing!

I started to lose my patience and gave tech support another call (mind you it cost me 27 cents each call). He put me on hold for a couple minutes and told me the problem was from my handset and not because of Optus.

He suggested that I update to the latest 3.1.2 firmware. I told him that I was not going to do that because I didn’t want to lose my jailbreak an unlock. He said “oh, you jailbroke your iPhone!? Sorry we don’t provide support to jailbroken devices“. Not a big surprise. I hang up and started being really pissed and seriously considered updating my iPhone to 3.1.2 and jailbreak/unlock with BlackRa1n. I’m traveling with a tiny netbook and I really didn’t want to go through the jailbreaking process and having to set my iPhone all over again.

Then the genius in me woke up and started to connect the dots. My iPhone showed that I had 3G but it wouldn’t work. The problem was on my end and it had to do something with some carrier settings I had tweaked in the past.

Bingo! The problem came from the MobileConfigs file I had set up to allow tethering. I tried to delete this profile by going to Settings > General > Profiles but the option was simply not there at all.

Instead of trying to figure out where this profile was, I decided to install a new carrier profile from http://help.BenM.at. From my iPhone over wifi, I navigated to the site and looked for the Optus profile and installed it. I rebooted the phone and I was finally able to get 3G.

The whole process from the time I called Optus to the time I opened a Guiness to celebrate took about 30 minutes. I have very little patience and I was totally furious. My fiancée is awesome for dealing with me during these times. She definitely knows how to handle me.

I guess the moral of the story is that there is always a solution but you have to trace where the problem comes from.

Here are a few things I learned from the Aussie system (if you’re Australian and you think I am mistaking, please feel free to correct me in the comments):

  • Pay-as-you-go plans are more popular here than they are in the States.
  • Unlike in the US, you are not charged for incoming calls or received messages, which I think totally makes sense.
  • You can’t get an unlimited data plan. No carrier offers this service and I suspect this model is going to come to the States sooner rather than later.
  • No carrier sells the iPhone. You have to buy an iPhone from Apple, then buy a plan from one of the national carriers.
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  • Gustavo

    Nice experience, most of the problems lie with the benm.at profile, the same goes to after updating from 3.0, the profile becomes useless unless you install a new one and if you don’t, you wont receive voicemails, update or delete it and you’ll have them back.
    Hope you have a blast in your journey, talk to you later

  • Mitzi

    They are selling the phone as well, you can get the prepaid iPhone from most of carriers here.

  • http://twitter.com/c4pt0n c4pt0n

    watch about the ikee worm while over there, thats were it’s located and probs will spread :)

  • http://twitter.com/c4pt0n c4pt0n

    watch out** for the ikee iphone worm while over there, thats were it’s located and probs will spread :)

  • InOz

    highest optus cap plan comes with iPhone & unlimited data over 24 months BUT u pay out the rear for it lol

  • InOz

    oh and make sure u visit Coffs Harbour, just check the weather forecast first ! :)

  • Deman Risu

    It’s freaking true! A word of advice: never get anything from Dodo, they absolutely rip you off.

  • http://www.pokermachinez.com Gaz

    All the carriers here in Australia sell the iPhone so that part is not true. I got mine on contract through Optus (they were the first to release it). Vodafone followed shortly thereafter now all the providers here offer it.

    Unlimited basically does not exist over here at all – not just for iPhone data usage but for general broadband as well. Everything here has capped limits. Sucks but what can you do

  • GarethDPhillips

    Paying to recieve calls and texts is Extortion ! Luckily in the UK, Like many countrys, we dont have that crazy scheme, and do have unlimited data plans!

  • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

    Thank you guys for correcting me where I was wrong. I asked Optus rep how much the iPhone was and she said that I would have to buy it from Apple. I then concluded (too quickly) that you had to buy an iPhone from Apple and then choose your carrier. My bad.

    Australia is freaking awesome! People are so nice here I can’t believe it. One thing though. AUS is expensive. I live in San Diego California and I thought life was expensive there. Well, it was before I traveled to Australia.

    Haaa good times :)

  • Hans

    In terms of 3G coverage and speed, I think it really depends on where you are. Optus in Melbourne is very inconsistent.

  • Juan

    Sebastian, AT&T’s data plan isn’t unlimited. It’s limited to 5GB. However, most users don’t go over 1GB unless tethering i would guess.

  • David

    Internet is capped here. Even Internet at home is.. Sucks..

  • Polemicist

    Australia is great. I’ve lived in Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and Warnambool (yeah good luck finding that last one). Newcastle great beaches (and beach babes) – Sydney great site seeing – Melbourne great food – Warnambool is on the Great Ocean road which is a damn nice drive just take your time.

    Do treat train stations in every city with care at night if you choose to take public transport. In fact treat them like a dark back street in NY or LA. :) Yeah I have worked on the stations at night for years in Sydney and Melbourne and they can suck.

    Optus is not the greatest for reception in this country but has good prices. Telstra has great service but costs a fortune… All of them won’t talk to you if you are jail broken. Sucks but ya get used to it…

    Oz Weather (the iPhone App) is my daily checked app cause this place gets hot.

    Some people rave about TomTom but I have it and I use Google Earth more when I go site seeing as it has pretty pictures… :) I like pretty pictures.

    Enjoy Australia. I sure do. :D

    • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

      @Polemicist
      Thanks for your comment :)

  • http://linewire1.com/ Line_wire

    Hy

    Nice information, can i use your article on my site?

    Thx

  • http://warren.morgans.cc/blog Warren

    I am glad you had a good Aus experience, it’s not all bad, except for banks and the phone companies, I think they suck the same world over. I also think tech support sucks all-round, I don’t get much joy trying to talk to them from ISP hosters in the US, my ISP call centre and india or the tech at mobile carriers, they are looking for a chance to handball you or drop your support (jailbroken, must be you,m bye).
    Aus aint (isn’t) that expensive, and I bet you got a good exchange rate from the US to AU buck on the visit, it’s like most countries though, the tourist traps get you unless you know the regular places and the ways to live cheaper when your there.
    Come back some time, i’ll lend you a phone and you pay for the calls you make, and never for receiving them. :-)

    • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Thanks Warren. I’m still in the country. Loving it, except that there is no surf so far…

  • Dylan

    sounds like your having a blast. my fren mite trevel to AUS. he just got an iphone. ill let him no. thx

  • Amy

    I came across your article as I am about to move to Australia after the beginning of the year. I am desperate to find a way to get my iphone to work in AU. I would sell it and just buy a new one except I inherited it from my brother who passed away in October and I don’t want to sell something he carried around with him everywhere. Did you use the autoiphone unlocker at the bottom of the article? I know NOTHING about all of this…so I am trying to research it so I don’t end up messing the phone up. Once it is unlocked, do you need to get a different SIM card, or can you just use the one you previously had?
    What steps should I take to successfully get my iphone turned on in AU?

  • Polemicist

    @Sebastien. Surf is good in Newcastle and a few of the mid north coast beaches. Some good sets are on the Melbourne coastline but they can be cold and dangerous if you aren’t a strong surfer.

    @Amy. Jailbreak your phone. Instructions are on this website. :) you will be surprised how easy it is an it is 100% FREE so if someone trys to charge you to Jailbreak your iPhone walk away quickly and take your money with you. You can’t mess your phone up. Worst thing you can do is stuff up the software and have to restore your phone using iTunes. You aren’t adjusting the hardware you are only adjusting the software. :)

    • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

      @Polemicist Thanks for the tip, mate :)

  • Charlene

    i’m moving from San Jose, CA to Sydney for Vet school (5 years) and I totally appreciate this article because I have a jail broken 3G iPhone and plan to use it over there.

    I’m not tech savvy so hopefully I can figure out what to do to get mine to work. Unless you suggest buying one over there?

    • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

      You can always buy one there but that wouldn’t be very useful if you already own an iPhone. You just need to jailbreak and unlock and get a sim card in Australia, just like I did.