Data is insanely expensive in Australia, especially compared to Singapore and China. Just an Apples to Oranges comparison:
Australia(Prepaid): ~ AUD $10 /150 MB for Mobile Internet | AUD$30 / 2GB for Mobile Broadband
Singapore(Postpay): ~ SGD$30 / 12GB for Mobile Internet | SGD $15 / 30GB for Mobile Broadband
China(Prepaid): ~ SGD$2 / 60MB
#Disclaimer: Prepaid Data in Singapore is also insane. China had their hotel wired up to provide free internet. Australia, sadly, has nothing.
Despite the cost, the need to get internet connectivity out of office network was required, as I needed to VPN to SG and China to get some stuff done. Of course, having a phone that depends on the cloud meant that without the cloud, the phone is pretty much junk.
To feed my data addiction, I started to research on the various providers even before I came.
I already have an unlocked modem from Singtel (all mobile devices in Singapore are unlocked anyway), so it doesn’t make sense to spend $80 bucks to get a new locked one here. However, only Optus and 3 seem to have BYO modem options.
3 is one of the smaller players, and they seems to be pretty helpful and upfront about what they do, for example, they have such helpful information easily available on their website, to assist those who intend to take the BYO option.
I first went to an Optus Store along Elizabeth Street, where I was basically put off by the high rates they offered ($30 / GB prepaid). I hopped over to the 3 store next door, and the rates were almost halved. When the guy at the store heard that I was going for the BYO option, he was like “I’m not sure what setup you have, and some people do have problems setting up their devices on 3, and we do not necessary have the knowledge to support them. However, if you wanna try it out first before buying anything, I could lend you a SIM to test things out to make sure they work”.
Cool! I popped the SIM card he passed me into my broadband modem, hit the connect button, and it’s connected, and on HSDPA!
Next, I swapped in the SIM onto my Nexus One. Hmm… full signal, no 3G. I poked into the APN setting and it’s empty. Guess I need to set it up manually… I tried to follow the setting from some reference material I previously pulled from the web, but Nexus refuses to accept an empty MCC / MNC, and regardless of the settings I entered, nothing seems to save. After numerous swapping of the SIM between the Nexus and Modem, trying various unsuccessful configurations, I decided to hit the “Reset to default” button from the APN menu.
2 APNs appeared. Selecting the 3netaccess one put me on 3G. Yay! Got Nexus One working on 3.
Jumping over all these hoops took close to 30 mins, and that guy was cool to let me mess with his SIM. I bought the SIM from him, and a 50 bucks recharge (4GB worth).
Well, the thing about broadband is you shouldn’t have to worry when you use it, and I know my usage will be under 4 GB each month (I had previously done a load test on my 3G usage back in Singapore)
Before I left, I was informed that it will take up to 4 hours to come up after activation (not the 24 as indicated in the accompanying manuals).
With that done, it was time to open the kit.
The Prepaid SIM is nicely designed, and breaks apart to yield the SIM, the holder (with necessary activation serials), and a keycard containing useful information such as your own phone number (very useful), as well as key recharge information. A very nice and classy touch.
Activation via the web was very smooth, and the website is very polished and snappy. Of course, the bonus of 200MB free data as a result of online activation was a welcomed surprise. I’ll recharge only after I’m done with these 200MB.
The 4 hours came and went by as I alternated between work and clicking the connect button for my modem, but it was still no connecting. It struck me that back at the shop, I was probably testing on a postpaid SIM and the settings had to be tweaked. Switching the APN Name from ‘3netaccess’ to ‘3services’ on both the modem and the Nexus One allowed me to successfully connect to the Internet.
The SIM will be resident on my Nexus while I test the signal in and around the CBD area, and so far I’m happy to report that along the entire length of Collins Street, I have constant 3G coverage, and snappy internet access and IM connection. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquares, etc all work flawlessly. I even get good VOIP connection over 3G via Sipdroid.
And as I’m typing this, I’m connected to my Nexus charging happily in a corner, while serving as a WIFI hotspot for the laptop.
I’ll post more of my adventure with these as things develop.
P.S. Although their fine print and customer service (yes, I emailed to check when I was still back in SG) said VPN is not supported on their network, it works nonetheless.