How to unlock a Telstra phone

Free yourself from the shackles of the Big T.

As Australia’s largest telco company, Telstra appeals to many Aussies looking for the best coverage, latest devices and decent perks. However, the Big T is by no means the most affordable mobile provider out there, and switching could save you big bucks, often without having to sacrifice coverage. But if you’re looking to unlock a Telstra phone, it’s easy to get confused about what you actually need to do.

To help clear things up, we’ll take you through every step (and potential fee) to free your phone from Telstra’s grasp.

How to unlock a postpaid Telstra phone

If you’re wondering how to unlock your postpaid Telstra phone, we have good news. If you purchased your phone in the last five or so years, it’s probably already unlocked out of the box. This means you can go ahead and pop any provider’s SIM card in there and you shouldn’t have any issues. If you have an older device that you suspect may be locked to Telstra, follow the steps below or contact Telstra’s support team for assistance.

How to unlock a prepaid Telstra phone

Here’s where things get a little more complicated. Almost all prepaid phones sold today are locked to the telco from which they’re purchased. There are a few exceptions (namely the iPhone SE on Telstra, which comes already unlocked), but more often than not, your prepaid phone will be locked to that network.

Luckily, unlocking your prepaid phone from Telstra is easy and, if not free, cheap. In fact, it’s pretty much a two-step process.

1. Find your IMEI number

To unlock a Telstra phone, you only need one thing: your phone’s IMEI number. Short for International Mobile Equipment Identity, an IMEI is a code (usually about 17 digits long) that’s completely unique to your device. It can often be found on the box your phone came in, but if you no longer have it, there are a couple of other ways to find it.

First, you can simply dial *#06# then press the call button. Instead of actually making a call, this code will simply display your IMEI number on your screen. Be sure to write it down or note it in some way.

There’s one other option if you’re using an Android device. Exact instructions will differ between manufacturers, but essentially you just need to go into your phone’s settings, then click ‘About Phone’, and then ‘IMEI’. Take note of this number. NB: This method doesn’t apply to iOS users, as any iPhone running iOS 7 or later (basically, any iPhone purchased in the last decade) is unlocked by default.

2. Contact Telstra

Now that you have your IMEI number, you’ll have to contact Telstra (through the MyTelstra app or on 125 8887 from a Telstra prepaid phone, 13 22 00 from a non-Telstra phone) and request to have your phone unlocked. Your operator will talk you through the process, and you may be asked to pay an unlocking fee. This fee depends on how long you’ve had the phone for.

If you’ve had the phone for less than six months (or never activated your service in the first place), you’ll need to pay $80. If you’ve had it longer than six months but less than two years, that fee goes down to $25. If you’ve owned it for more than two years, it should be completely free to unlock.

How to switch to another provider

Now onto the good stuff. Now that you’ve untethered yourself from Telstra, it’s time to save some cash. Aussies are pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile providers, with 29 available according to the WhistleOut database at the time of writing. Those 29 providers all run on the wholesale network of either Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone.

Changing providers is as simple as ordering a new SIM card and inserting it into your newly-unlocked phone. In most cases, you should be able to keep your Telstra number. This can often be done during activation of the new SIM card, but if you run into any issues, your new provider will be able to assist you.

Cheaper providers on the Telstra network

If you’re keen to save money without having to give up Telstra’s superior coverage, it’s worth considering one of the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that offer cheaper plans on the Telstra Wholesale network. This network is slightly smaller than what actual Telstra customers get, but it still covers 98.8% of the Australian population, which is actually better coverage than Optus and Vodafone. The only exception here is Boost Mobile, which gets full access to Telstra’s 3G/4G network (no 5G just yet), covering 99.2% of the population.

Here are the most popular plans (both prepaid and month-to-month) with other providers on the Telstra network.

Other providers on other networks

Ready to leave Telstra altogether? There are even more savings to be had with providers on Optus and Vodafone’s wholesale networks.

Check out the most popular ones below.