- Network locking is rare these days, especially for contract phones
- Cheap prepaid phones are the most likely to be locked
- There may be fees involved to unlock your device if you have been using your phone for less than 2 years
If you own a mobile phone (and let's face it, most of us do) then the chances are pretty good that it's not locked to a specific mobile carrier. There was a time when locking phones to a carrier was commonplace, but these days all phones sold on contract are provided unlocked. You've already signed up to pay for a two year contract, so if you chose to go to another carrier with the handset, you're on the hook for costs anyway.
The exception to this rule is if you've purchased a phone for use on a prepaid plan, and especially if you purchased it directly from your carrier. In that case, a proportion of its purchase price is generally absorbed by your carrier, on the assumption that it will make up for it in prepaid fees. In that case, the phone is locked to the carrier's network, and if you throw in a competitor's SIM into it, it will refuse to function properly.
That's when you need to unlock it for use on all networks, which thankfully isn't too tricky. Here's what you need to do to get a phone locked to the Telstra mobile network unlocked:
How to unlock a Telstra prepaid phone in 4 easy steps
- Find your IMEI: The International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) is your phone's unique identifier, and you need it for Telstra to identify your phone. The easiest way to find it is to dial *#06# (Asterix - Hash - Zero - Six - Hash) from your phone. You should see a 17 digit code displayed - write it down.
- Contact Telstra: You can unlock your phone online from Telstra over the phone by dialling 13 22 00 and following the vocal prompts to go through the process of unlocking your handset.
- Pay the unlocking fee: Telstra's charging scheme for unlocking prepaid phones varies a little depending on how long you've been using the phone on its network. If you've been using the phone for more than 2 years there's no unlocking fee. For phones in use on Telstra's network for between 6 months and 2 years there's a $25 unlocking fee, and if it's been in use for 6 months, or you've never activated it on the Telstra network, an $80 fee is charged. This can be paid for by credit card or from your main prepaid credit balance, but not your bonus credit.
- Wait: It can take a little time for Telstra to send the unlocking instructions for your handset. Once that's sent through and applied, you should be good to switch to another carrier network at will.
The process is ever so slightly different for iPhone users if you happen to have purchased an iPhone from Telstra on a prepaid basis.
How to unlock a Telstra prepaid iPhone
- Find your IMEI: Finding the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) on an iPhone is a little easier, because you can locate it simply by heading to Settings>General>About from any iPhone handset.
- Contact Telstra: For iPhone customers, Telstra you can unlock by dialling 13 22 00 and specifically requesting an iPhone unlock, or by using Telstra's online iPhone/iPad unlocking page.
- Wait: As with other handsets, iPhone unlocking won't always be instantaneous. Once Telstra's sent through the relevant instructions, it should then be plain sailing for using any other SIM card in your iPhone.
What do I do if things go wrong?
If you hit a snag, or your phone won't seem to unlock, or it all just seems too hard, one particular benefit to being a Telstra customer is that it does operate a large number of retail outlets. If you're in trouble, head into a Telstra store, and they should be able to smooth out the unlocking process for you.
Unlocking your handset gives you the flexibility to switch carriers, and that's one of the key benefits of a prepaid plan in the first place. It's obviously ideal if you wanted to switch to another carrier network such as Optus or Vodafone, but equally valid for matters such as international roaming.
If you don't mind changing numbers while overseas, you can drop a local provider SIM into an unlocked phone and pay local rates while you travel, but not if your phone is entirely locked down.
The one obvious caveat here is that for any reasonably new prepaid phone that was already quite cheap to begin with, that $80 unlocking fee may not be the best financial step. With many Android handsets now regularly dipping below $100, it may make more sense to simply pick up a new handset, but remember to responsibly recycle or re-gift your unwanted handset if you do.
More guides on Finder
Telstra Essential Smart 2 review
The Telstra Essential Smart 2 is almost insanely cheap, and that's the point.
Telstra Tough Max 3 review
Telstra's latest update to its "tradie" phone provides a decent level of durability, but its performance is just mediocre.
Telstra will have Australia’s first 5G mobile phones
At CES 2019, Telstra's CEO dubbed 2019 the "year of 5G".
Telstra Superior review: Plans | Pricing | Specs
The Telstra Superior isn't really superior to all that many phones, but at its price point, it does offer superior value.
Telstra Essential Plus review: Plans | Pricing | Specs
The Telstra Essentials Plus covers the essentials and not much more, but at its asking price it's undeniably good value.
Telstra Signature 2: Plans | Pricing | Specs
Telstra's twist on the LG K10 stands out among budget smartphones thanks to its fingerprint sensor, 13MP camera and long-legged removable battery.
Telstra Tough Max 2 review: Plans | Pricing | Specs
The Telstra Tough Max 2 isn't a particularly fast or high-end handset, but it is tough.
Telstra’s Tough Max 2 is built to take knocks
Telstra's latest own-branded phone is one for the tradies, or just the terminally clumsy.
Compare the best Blue Tick Telstra phones for the bush
If you’re after a phone on the Telstra network to use in Australia’s more remote territories, what you need is a Blue Tick certified device.
Ask an Expert