Will my cell phone work in Australia?

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Sadly, if you live in the US ... probably not. If your phone is working fine on local networks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it'll also work on Australian networks. So, if you're planning a trip down under, be sure to check if your phone will function on Aussie networks beforehand.

Generally, phones work on certain frequencies ... the most important frequencies to look out for are: 700MHz, 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz. In Australia, mobile phones use the 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM bands. Before you land in Australia, check that your phone will work on these bands. Look for your device specifications, and for any other information you can check out the manufacturer’s website.

Most North America mobile phones are CDMA band phones only, and will definitely not work in Australia. But, if your phone is a "GSM", "tri-band" or "quad-band" there’s a good chance that your phone might work.

[Also Read : Gadgets That Deserve To Go Along For A Trip To Australia]

If your phone does work on these bands, then for making and receiving calls in Australia, you have a couple of options :

  •  Using your existing SIM card : The only thing you need to check is, if international roaming has been enabled by your service provider. This will allow you to use the networks in Australia with your SIM card. However, be aware that international roaming can 'burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket'.
  • Buying a new SIM card once you get to Australia : To buy a new SIM card in Australia, your phone must be "unlocked." A local mobile phone shop or your phone manufacturer can do this for you, most of the time free-of-charge.

You can buy SIM cards from service operators like Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile and they'll cost around $20-30. Check carefully which regions the service operator covers, before buying a new SIM card. For example, Vodafone SIM cards do not provide coverage in rural areas of Western Australia. In this region, Telstra provides better coverage.

If your phone will NOT work in Australia, you can rent or buy a mobile phone. If you want to purchase a mobile 'phone when you get to Australia, there are many options. The main service operators have phone and SIM card packs to buy for as little as $59. This will get you a basic phone and around $10 in phone credit which you can top-up at any time. You can also rent a mobile phone on arrival from providers including RebelFone, Vodafone Rental, Landwide and Cellhire.  In general, it's less expensive to rent a phone for short stays. There are other solutions on the market as well. You can purchase a prepaid (or pay-as-you-go) phone or SIM for longer stays from providers such as  SIMsmart prepaid. Some telecom providers, such as TravelSim, provide an unlocked mobile phone when you order a prepaid SIM card. The card can be used also when you leave the continent. The provider should be able assist you in making the correct choice.

Note: In Australia, if you call a mobile phone you have to pay for the airtime. Although, receiving calls on a mobile phone in Australia is free.

Here are some other frequently asked questions:

1.       How easy is it to switch between carriers?

It's very easy to move from one provider to another in Australia. Cross-compatibility should not be an issue in the majority of cases as all carriers use the same basic technologies. On month-to-month plans, or prepaid plans, you can switch any time you like. However, unless you are willing to pay an early termination fee, you may need to finish long-term contracts before switching carriers.

2.       Can I keep my number?

For phones from overseas, a new phone number will be allocated for you if you sign up to an Australian telco. Otherwise, you can activate international roaming facility in your existing number.

3.       Is there an easy way to check if my phone will work?

The easiest way is to check the device specifications on your phone manufacturer's website. Make sure to research on an Australian website, as it is common to release models with different hardware in different regions.

4.       What is the cheapest plan option?

To go with an MVNO, is usually the cheapest option. MVNOs are the small providers who buy access to the larger networks at wholesale prices and re-sell it to customers at a discounted rate.

5.       How do I check if my phone is locked?

Calling and asking directly is usually the best option, but you can also check the website. 

For Android phones and iPhones brought from overseas, you will need to ask your carrier. The rules regarding phones and carrier locking differs by country. 

Jonathan Campbell

Aussie Trip Advisor, 12H Nob Hill, Roseland NJ 07068

Aussie Trip Advisor hand-craft Australian itineraries on a fee-for-service basis