Data hungry tourist in Australia? Optus $2 Days to the rescue

A couple of months back there were articles about mobile phone roaming charges and I feel the best way to prevent such a problem is to just use a local SIM card. So on my short trip to Melbourne, a couple of months back, I was lucky to have my brother’s Optus prepaid SIM which he had used the Optus $2 Days Prepaid plan which offers:

  • Unlimited National Voice Calls
  • Unlimited Standard SMS/MMS
  • Unlimited Mobile Internet Browsing

This trifecta makes is perfect for practically anybody! The last time I was in Melbourne, I tried Vodafone and the data prices were horrendous (most prepaid plans seem pretty expensive in Australia), so I was very surprised to see unlimited data for $2/day. I’ve tried M1′s and Singtel’s offerings in Singapore and both only offered data: no voice or text.

As with all mobile data, coverage is important: there is no use having unlimited data if there is no reception! Check out any coverage maps to ensure that the place you go indeed has 3G reception (Optus coverage map). Also if there network is congested and saturated with people, it can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, this was not the case with Optus in the CBD area, where I was most of the time.I manged to get consistent 6Mbps download speeds while downloading my podcasts.

Also do remember to read the fine print when signing up for these plans so that you don’t get charge unexpectedly (by wrongly assuming something is free or counted in the deal when it is not). Sadly when you do read the Optus fine print in the Terms & Conditions it says the $2 charges exclude "mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices" which I made sure I didn’t do just in case. Also their Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies to your usage which is basically guarding against ‘excessive usage’ which would probably be detrimental to the general network (i.e. causes congestion for other users)

All in all, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to use my phone without worrying about any caps or running out of credit. I would highly recommend this plan for all those data hungry Twitter / Facebook / Foursquare / Instagram / WhatsApp / Viber / other text alternative apps / general web addicted people out there. Heck if you need a SIM card before you go, I (or you) could ask my brother to borrow the SIM card.

Terms & Conditions of Optus $2 Days (via Optus website)

  • Daily usage fee is $2 and includes unlimited standard national calls, SMS & MMS to Australian GSM mobiles (excluding Pivotel); standard national calls to Australian fixed lines; voicemail retrieval and mobile internet browsing on your handset within Australia. Includes free voicemail deposits within Australia.
  • Excludes premium SMS and content, international and satellite calling and text, international roaming charges, Zoo content usage charges, video calling, 966 calls, mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices. Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies.
  • Timing is based on AEST (the time in Sydney, NSW) regardless of your location. Please adjust your usage to allow for time differences.
  • The usage fee is charged on the first outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS or mobile internet access each day after 12.00.00am AEST. Usage fee is not charged on days when no outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS, voicemail or mobile internet access is made.
  • Unlimited standard national daily calls maximum duration is 24 hours.
  • International calls are charged in increments of up to 10 minutes.
  • Daily usage fee inclusions expire on the earlier of: 1. 11:59:59pm AEST each day; or 2. the time on which you select another offer.
  • If you change from $2 Days to another offer after you have paid your daily usage fee, you will forfeit the benefits available under the Dollar Days offer.
  • Me2U is not available with these offers.
  • Recharge voucher expiry : $10 is 10 days, $15 is 15 days, $20 is 20 days, $30 is 30 days, $40 is 40 days and $50 is 50 days, $70 is 70 days and $100 is 100 days
  • Unused credit rolls over when your next recharge is before your credit expiry.
  • Options for $5, $10, $15 & $20 top-ups are not available. Some handsets are set to seek data automatically (eg email or other apps). This will use the internet and, in some cases, charges will apply.
  • Mobile Internet access requires a compatible handset. Optus may in the future require customers to change their Internet connection settings to be able to access the Internet while on the Dollar Days offers.
  • ^Rollover credit: You must recharge a minimum of 24 hours before your credit expires for rollover to apply.

B-Mobile Launches ‘Multi-SIM’ Service

It has finally happened, we have a Multi-SIM service here in Brunei thanks to B-Mobile (Read the Borneo Bulletin article at Brudirect). Multi-SIM basically allows you to clone your SIM card to put in another device. This is great for people with 3G enabled devices: e.g. iPad 3G, Galaxy Tab, etc and want to be able to make calls / use data on those devices without having to sign up for another phone number or resorting to the tedious task of switching SIM cards.

There is a monthly subscription fee of $8 per SIM card and there are 3 configurations of the service:

  1. Multi IMSI i.e. primary SIM rings only;
  2. Simultaneously i.e. both primary and secondary SIMS ring at the same time; and,
  3. Orderly i.e. primary rings first. If rejected, busy, switched off or not answered, then the secondary will ring.

Multi-SIM is applicable for the following plans:

Sadly multi-SIM is not applicable for plans with unlimited data (e.g. Postpaid ZOOM $60 Unlimited & Post-paid Smart plan $65). There is no mention of OMNI users but since it’s an unlimited plan, I presume that it will not be supported either. I guess B-Mobile is worried that people will subscribe to the multi-SIM service and use the SIMs in an unlimited data fashion and thus would congest the network.

As an a subscriber to OMNI, I hope B-Mobile could consider another plan for users with unlimited data plans: single SIM get you unlimited data, multi-SIM gets a cap (of perhaps 200GB free beyond which they will pay per amount used as the non-unlimited data plans pay). This would at least give users with unlimited data plans an option to subscribe to this multi-SIM service and not be left out with the convenience that it brings.

So now with B-Mobile supporting this, I wonder if DST will follow

Mobile Phone UMTS Frequency Bands

So the few weeks/months back I saw that the Samsung Galaxy Tab was going for AU$299 and there were a few things I wanted to know about the device before I got it:

  • Could they ship it overseas?
  • Was it locked? if so what is the unlocking fee
  • Will it work here in Brunei?

Sadly in the process of finding my answers to these 2 simple questions, it sadly went out of stock but I did learn some important information with regards to mobile phone frequency bands and also of the ‘quality’ of phones on the market. This is something I’ve never really took into account when buying a phone because I bought phones and they worked, but since I was buying this from overseas I had to make sure. Stumbled upon this comment stating that there are typically to different UMTS/HSDPA frequency band chips: 850/1900/2100 for the US market and 900/1900/2100 for everyone else.

So turn research mode on to see I found out from the Mobile Network Code Wikipedia page that Brunei uses UMTS 2100 for 3G on both carriers b-mobile and DSTCom (DSTCom also supports GSM 900). Data-wise, UMTS is basically 3G or mobile broadband while GSM is the slower GPRS/EDGE mobile Internet. Now just because a carrier has multiple frequencies that it broadcasts on, it doesn’t mean that it will always work with any device as the tower may communicate at a frequency the device does not support e.g. device supports 900/2100, carrier supports 850/2100 but the tower in range communicates on 850MHz. From Wikipedia “The 850 MHz and 900 MHz bands provide greater coverage compared to equivalent 1700/1900/2100 MHz networks, and are best suited to regional areas where greater distances separate subscriber and base station” so I would think telcos would most likely use 850MHz towers to save costs and it seems that is the case with Telstra’s Next G Network for the exact same reason (Telstra’s Mobile Networks)

I’ve compiled some data on phones and tablets from different companies that are currently on the market. I only noted UMTS support as GSM is generally all the same. The results are as follows (full listing of data used at the end of this post).

Results

  1. Nokia: penta-band supported on their high end devices. cheaper phones support tri-band
  2. Apple / Samsung: quad-band support on their latest/higher end devices, previous generation / other devices : tri-band
  3. Sony Ericsson: all models have quad and dual-band models, but not sure which is more common
  4. Motorola: tri-band supported but Xoom only has single-band (possible error?)
  5. Huawei & LG: tri-band support for higher end, the rest dual-band
  6. HTC: mostly dual band with only the Sensation 4G and Flyer having tri-band

Based on the Mobile Network Code Wikipedia page I did a quick search (using the Find tool in Chrome) to find the number of entries that each UMTS band has

  • UMTS 850: 56 entries
  • UMTS 900: 26 entries
  • UMTS 1700: 10 entries
  • UMTS 1900: 35 entries
  • UMTS 2100: 344 entries

So it seems logical that most quad band phones leave out 1700 as it has the least entries and that most (if not all) phones support 2100. I think it’s rather sad that HTC has the worst band support considering they make a lot of phones and they are the very mainstream. At the end of the day the multiple band support is only important for frequent travelers and if you want faster 3G speeds. If your device doesn’t support the appropriate UMTS band, as long as it supports GSM band of the carrier you will still get reception to text and make calls but you will be hindered by slower mobile Internet via GPRS / EDGE. So for the quest for faster data speeds and usability anywhere and everywhere do take note of this when you choose your next phone.

======================
Data Compiled and Used
======================
Full Listing of devices with information taken from GSM Arena. Link to the compiled data (Google Docs). This only shows UMTS / HSDPA support as GSM support is similar.

Apple

Samsung

HTC

Sony Ericsson

Huawei

LG

Motorola

Nokia

Brunei Finally has Unlimited Prepaid 3G/Mobile Broadband catering for Tourists

So during my travels I found out about prepaid broadband SIM cards that let you have unlimited mobile broadband (e.g. 3G) while on the go. The ones that I’ve used are fromM1 (Singapore) and Digi (Malaysia). I stumbled upon this poster advertising Zoom! (bmobile’s mobile broadband) while visiting Telbru. This is a perfect opportunity for people to test Zoom! to see how well it works in their area: remember it is a shared Internet connection so it can be slow if the area is saturated. Speed also depends on the modem you are using.

Amount Days of Unlimited Usage
$4 1 day
$8 3 days
$20 9 days
$35 18 days

Note: Just realised my titled was wrong. I forgot to put the word ‘Unlimited’. This is important as DST Go! and bmobile Zoom! already have prepaid options but they are not unlimited. This new unlimited option is a great option for tourist who are here for a short period of time and need not worry about the amount of data they use.

Prepaid Zoom Broadband Poster

Prepaid Zoom Broadband Poster

Mobile Internet (DST) in Ubuntu with a Nokia E51

I heard about Ubuntu’s 3G support quite a while back, but yesterday was the first time I actually tried it out. This was done using a Nokia E51 connected via USB with a DST Easi card with Ubuntu 9.04. Please note of the importable troubleshooting note below

  1. Connect the phone and set connectivity mode to “PC Suite”
  2. A configuration wizard should pop up as shown below:

    New Mobile Broadband Connection - Welcome screen 

    If the wizard does not show, start it manually by following these steps:

    1. Go to the Ubuntu Menu: System > Preferences > Network Connections
    2. Go to the “Mobile Broadband” tab and click the “Add” button
      Network Connections - Add a new Mobile Broadband Connection
  3. Select the any setting as they will be manually edited later. For this example I chose Albania and Vodafone as the country and provider respectively as it has minimal configuration changes
    New Mobile Broadband Connection - Select Service Provider
  4. Give the connection a name: “dst.internet”
    New Mobile Broadband Connection - Name it / Summary
  5. Go to Network connections (System > Preferences > Network Connections) and edit the newly created connection
    Network Connections - Edit new connection
  6. Ensure the configuration is as follows:
    • Number: *99#
    • APN: dst.internet
    • Username and password can be left blank
    • If the Albania > Vodafone settings were used, only the APN needs to be changed

    Edit connection - Mobile Broadband Tab

    Edit connection - PPP Settings Tab

    Edit connection - PPP Settings Tab - Configure Methods...

    Edit connection - IPv4 Settings Tab

    Edit connection - IPv4 Settings Tab - Routes 

  7. Left click the network manager applet and connect to the newly created “dst.internet” connection

    Connect to dst.internet via Network Manager applet

  8. Enjoy your mobile broadband =)
    Connection Information 

Now I wonder if this works for the DST Go! and bmobile Zoom! modems….

Troubleshooting Note

If you have a problem connecting please note this bug that causes the connection to timeout if there is a shell running as root. So close all terminals open. It took me 2 hours to figure this out so I hope you won’t have to suffer the same.

DST 3G speed tests

While I did get a DST GO! SIM card quite a while back just to see how it is, I am reluctant to call these GO! speed tests as they were done on my phone with a 3G Easi SIM card, not a GO! SIM card. Basically all mobile phone customers of DSTCom (Prima or Easi) can enjoy the fast speeds of GO! without having to spend anything extra, so long as you have the following

  • 3G / 3.5G phone
  • 3G SIM card

Note: Not all 3G/3.5G phones are created equally and each have a maximum 3G speed that it can obtain. These details can be obtained online from places such as GSMArena.com. E.g. Nokia 6680 max 3G speed of 384 kbps, Nokia E51: max speed of 3.6 Mbps.

Jalan Kebangsaan Lama

 

UBD: Institute of Medicine