Going Mobile in Australia

Optus Prepaid Deal

What’s it like using a smartphone in the county with the world’s fastest LTE networks? Despite having hardware with incompatible bands of LTE, there were no complaints from my girlfriend and I during our vacation in Australia these past two weeks.

Back in the spring I wrote about an OpenSignal report naming Australia as the country with the fastest LTE speeds overall, an average of 24.5 Mbps for download. Maybe that doesn’t sound so fast, but remember that it’s an average of four carriers. Based on price (and convenience) we went with two prepaid SIMs from the country’s number two carrier in terms of speed. Here’s how we got on…

Optus

It was a rough exit from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport—this after a combined thirty hours of flying and layovers. It took an additional two hours from disembarking the plane to getting onto a bus into the city, mostly due to a ridiculously long lineup for immigration that seemed to back right up to the gate where we arrived.

So it was a big relief to walk out of baggage claim and be greeted by an Optus store almost directly in front of us. They had a pretty good deal, too: $2 AUD per day for 500 MB of LTE data—or in our case, HSPA+. For a monthly user that works out to $60 for 15 GB, a better deal than the 12 GB you can currently get from Bell in Thunder Bay! For those who are not a monthly users there’s a small caveat; you can only top-up your SIM in $10 increments. But as we were in Australia for exactly 10 days it was perfect for us; we had data right up until take-off for the flight home.

Optus Speed Tests

Here are some random speed test results from various locations in Melbourne and Brisbane; like I said, we had no complaints about the service. Some other observations…

WiFi Everywhere

Lone Pine WiFi

It seemed to me that an average Australian could almost get by without a data plan, as free WiFi networks seemed to be almost everywhere. In Melbourne you can get it at David Jones and Myer, the big department stores on Bourke Street. And in Brisbane the entire Queen Street Pedestrian Mall was blanketed with free WiFi.

It was even available at the relatively remote Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, as seen above.

Windows Phone

Windows Phone - Beautifully Connected

I noticed more Windows Phone users in Australia—particularly Brisbane—than I have anywhere else, including Hong Kong, Malaysia andJapan… Granted the number was in the single digits, but I’ve only ever seen one Windows Phone in the wild on the mean streets of Toronto.

YA Mobile Wallet Fail

PayPal Fail

By sheer coincidence the girlfriend and I sat down for a nice lunch beside the Brisbane River at a restaurant that offered mobile payments via PayPal. Of course it didn’t work…

Mobiles at The Post Office

Post Office Mobiles

This was entirely unexpected. I popped into a Post Office in the seaside town of St. Kilda to look at stamps for someone back home and came face to face with this wall of SIMs, recharge cards and unlocked devices. Near as I could tell, devices in carrier shops are also sold unlocked. They’re available in the major department stores, as well.

So that’s my wrap-up of mobile-related insight in the land down-under. If there are any actual Australians reading this, please enlighten as to anything I’ve missed, and/or correct anything I got wrong.