After quitting my full-time work career and starting as an independent consultant in May/2007, I started telecommuting on customer engagements. I got a chance to work in my own private space flexibly, in cafes, libraries, Starbucks, sometimes in shopping malls. During the initial days, I had to depend on free Wi-Fi for internet connectivity in my laptop. I slowly started feeling the need of having an internet connection that I could use anywhere I like. Thus began the crusade…
I joined Vodafone Australia in January 2008 on a A$39/month post-paid mobile broadband contract for 24 months. In those days, the Huawei E220 USB dongle (branded Vodafone) felt like a luxury item! Vodafone had a generous 5Gb per month data allowance which was more than sufficient for me over the two years. I was on a direct debit plan on my VISA credit card and everything went well flawlessly for the billing. I did have teething issues with coverage during the two years. Vodafone was working hard to build their own 3G infrastructure in the Sydney Metro area and I acknowledged it by tolerating frequent dropouts, several hours of no connectivity in CBD areas in Sydney, and so on.
In January 2010, the contract expired. I continued using the Huawei E220 and Vodafone kept billing me every month. End of March 2010, I got a call from Vodafone, offering me a 6Gb/month plan at the same price with a new Vodaone K3765 modem on a 24 month contract. While I didn’t really shop around for cheaper/better mobile broadband plans, I had my eye on Telstra’s 3Gb/month mobile broadband plan. While on the phone, I was somehow sold this new contract with the assurance that I do not need to call anyone at Vodafone since I have given the authority to record the conversation which is as good as signing a document. I was told that existing billing details will be ‘carried over’ to the new contract and everything will progress smoothly after I activate the new SIM which will be shipped with a K3765 modem. I received the SIM and the new modem, activated & started using the new connection from April 15. Until the latest VISA credit card bill, I could see Vodafone charging me $39 every month for the mobile broadband service. Yesterday, 9/July, when I tried to connect to internet after plugging in the modem, I got an error popup and Internet Explorer was trying to open an URL – ipc.vodafone.com.au/insufficient_funds.
I called Vodafone customer service, tried my best to get rid of the “friendly” IVR prompts and managed to talk to someone within the first 10 minutes – thats’ a win, I thought. After completing the identification formalities, I was told that my account has been suspended due to non-payment of charges! I was shocked. The account history showed that I haven’t paid Vodafone since April 15 when I started using the account. I spoke 5 different customer service agents in the 1hr20mins I was on the phone – I got Vodafone to cancel the accounts. Vodafone accepted the fault and advised that $11.60 that I am owed will be credited back to my VISA credit card.
Next, I wanted to check if the E220 modem (which I can use since the contract was over and I have already paid for it) and the K3765 modem will work with another prepaid SIM (I am considering Virgin since they use the Optus network). I started searching on the internet for help with testing whether the modems are locked/unlocked and how to unlock them if they are locked. Through the Whirlpool Australia forums, I found a link to the GSM forums where one could post their IMEI and get an unlock code. A kind soul sent me the unlock code for the K3765, however, I was advised that the E220 can not be unlocked by inserting a unlock code. I did find this link to unlock the E220, but, I was keen to unlock the K3765. I then downloaded the “dc unlocker client” version & installed it in my Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit Macbook Pro laptop. I have VMC Lite version 126.96.36.19984 installed when I setup the K3765. I plugged in my E220 I shut down the “MobileConect” and “VMC” services through the task manager and fired up the dc unlocker. dc unlocker detected the E220 and returned – “SIM Lock status : unlocked”. Next, I inserted the K3765 and repeated the process, this time, I saw a “SIM Lock status : Locked (Card Lock)”. With the unlock code for the K3765 ready for use, I started looking for a program to use the unlock code with the K3765. I found this pack from a forum post here. I used the “code.exe” to add the code (after asking it to detect the K3765 in a COM port) and unlock the K3765. Next, I ran dc unlocker and it reported “SIM Lock status : unlocked”. HURRAY!
Next on – I plan to get a Virgin pre-paid SIM card and use with one of the two unlocked modems, preferably the K3765. I hope by following the steps in this post, I will be able to use one of the two modems and have mobile broadband for my laptop. I’ll post an update on my attempt to use Virgin with the modems.