As I explained before, Telstra should be the first choice provider when it comes to cellular data connection in Australia by virtue of the fact they actually have coverage. Optus, the second biggest provider who service my iPhone, lack 3G access in too many places to be relied upon. The problem is, Telstra does not seem to want to sell prepaid cellular data access.
Telstra’s line-up of cellular data is made of three elements: USB cellular modems, mobile phone data, and iPad 3G data. Noticeable in this list is the absence of a solution one can use on a wi-fi hotspot device, namely “a data SIM” (especially when other cellular providers have no problems supplying you with one).
The first time I went to the Telstra shop to ask questions (as reported here) they told me I could buy an iPad micro SIM and have it converted on the spot to a regular SIM that I can stick in my wi-fi hotspot. Great; I went and spent almost $300 on a Netcomm MyZone wi-fi hotspot device.
The trouble started when I came back to the Telstra shop, now armed with my new toy, and asked to buy an iPad SIM and have it converted. I was pulled to the side by the shop manager who explained to me such a conversion would be impossible because it would be a breach of Telstra’s contract with Apple, an agreement through which iPad users can enjoy cheaper data access rates than Telstra’s regular cell phone users.
I did what I normally do in such scenarios: I told the esteemed manager what I think of such restrictions and I went to another Telstra shop. Sadly, I got the exact same attitude there, too, which annoyed the hell out of me: I went out and spent $300 based on Telstra’s own advice, and now they change their minds on me?
Returning home for some research surfing it became clear my problem was no problem at all. For a few dollars one can get a piece of plastic that converts an iPad micro SIM into a proper SIM. The next day I went to the Telstra shop again, got an iPad micro SIM, went to another shop fifty meters away, got a convertor, did some Lego work with the SIM, and had myself a fully working wi-fi hotspot.
Indeed, fully working it is: my visiting friend used it for his Internet connection at his hotel room, where (amongst others) he used the connection to call home via Skype. Later on, we used the same Internet connection to book ourselves a cheap hotel room in Sydney while visiting the middle of nowhere place of Mallacoota, a privilege impossible to fulfil over my Optus phone. I could actually argue that the toy is already paying for itself.
The main argument I want to make here is not to do with the potential future cash flows coming out of the use of a wi-fi device. Instead I want to make a point at Telstra and Apple: any restrictions you would like to artificially impose between people and information will only backfire on you. Telstra, in particular, ended up making a fool of itself: instead of having a customer raving how good their product is, reception wise, I am now a customer terribly annoyed with Telstra and the service experience they provided me (or rather, the service they wouldn’t provide me). And all for what? For something their competitors have no problems giving, for something I only needed to apply a minor trick to overcome.
You are fools, Telstra. You’re currently in a tight position because your share has been freefalling and your CEO declared policies are about to change in order to retain customers (who are generally busy running away). Well, Telstra, how about starting off by trying to support your customers’ needs? I know it’s a revolutionary idea, but it might just work. Try it, Telstra; I'm sure you'll like it.