Unlocking Your USB Broadband Modem
Recently Crazy John's reduced the price of their prepaid mobile broadband starter kit to just $24.50. That is the cheapest I have ever seen it. Now it didn't last very long but it was certainly interesting to note how low it can go. My expectation and I have written this a few ti,e s already is that I actually expect it to get to ZERO.
A $25 USB drive sounds very appealing but there is always a catch. The catch isn't directly related to Crazy Johns, it applies to every internet service provider in the market. If all you ever wanted to do was use Crazy Johns as your service provider that would be fine. However if you are likely to want to move around a little and find a better deal (and still use the Crazy Johns USB) then the catch is very relevant.
What this price doesn't tell you is that you can only unlock the USB (in order to use it with another providers sim card) if you recharge $100.
This isn't deceptive in any way and you can't blame carriers or internet service providers from expecting you the spend a minimum amount with them before you can unlock the USB stick. When I first started prepaidplans.com.au, USB sticks where around the $200 mark each. For them to come down to under $25 is testament to the demand in Australia and the willingness of ISPs to chase market share.
At $25 however, you do need to consider what you are buying and whether it is worth spending maybe $25 or even $50 more to get a better quality unit that will deliver better reception. Obviously if your usage is very occasional then it probably doesn't matter.
Another thing to consider is whether it is worth waiting for a 4G unit. VividWireless has launched their 4G offer and is slowly rolling it out Australia wide, the first of its kind in Australia. Telstra is also readying itself for a 4G launch. I don't think the market is educated enough at the moment to understand the difference between 3G and 4G in order to wait or upgrade to it.
Information is king, and to assist you in making your decision about which ISP's USB stick you should buy, below are the costs of unlocking the various prepaid USB modems available today?
- Virgin - unlocks when you spend $80.
- Vodafone - to unlock within 6mths of activation, cost over the phone is $100 or web $75. After 6mths over the phone is $75 and on the web is $50.
- Optus - unlocks after 12mths or when you spend $100.
- 3 Mobile - unlocks when you spend $99.
- Telstra - unlocking fees of up to $150.
- Boost - unlocks after 12mths or when you spend $100.
- Crazy Johns - unlocks for $100 if within 6mths of activation.
With the average price being around $50, there is very little reason why most people shouldn't have a spare USB modem at home. But how easy is it to use another provider's prepaid sim card (and prepaid data plan) on your USB? And what does unlocking actually mean and why would you do it?
A USB stick is like a mobile phone, it gives you wireless reception and connection to the internet. Theoretically you should be able to stick anyone's prepaid internet sim card in your USB modem and use it, much the same way you swap mobile phone providers. You buy a sim, port your mobile number and begin using your new provider's service.
The flexibility this provides means that you can try Telstra and see if you like the reception and pricing. If not move to Optus and keep moving until you find the plan that works for you. It might be prepaid, it might be month to month, but it's your choice.
All the providers I spoke to said it would work, but could not guarantee it (I think this is just a standard disclaimer). I suggest visiting your local store with your laptop and testing it. Alternatively, the cost of a starter BYO sim card (couple of dollars) is so cheap these days that the risk is really negligible.
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See the video below on how to get started with your Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband pack. It is pretty easy and this video is very useful.
Telstra Prepaid Broadband
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