An iPhone users guide to the Telstra NextG network

Updated 30/01/2012

The Telstra NextG network is undoubtedly the largest and highest performing cellular mobile network in Australia, which makes it a perfect pair with your iPhone.

This article aims to give you a through rundown of things you need to know to make use of this network. After all you are paying an arm and a leg for it!

Network Selection

By default the Carrier selection will be set to Automatic. There are 4 networks to choose from. Telstra Mobile, 3TELSTRA, YES OPTUS, and vodafone AU. 3TELSTRA is the joint 3 and Telstra network operating on the 2100 MHz spectrum. Telstra Mobile is the NextG branded network on 850 MHz. This is the one you want. It has better penetration, better coverage, and faster data speeds.

I’ve noticed that with the release of iOS 5, the iPhone will sometimes stick to 3TELSTRA and not go back to Telstra Mobile. Lets hope that Telstra releases a carrier update soon that will fix this. You could in the meantime force the phone onto Telstra Mobile by disabling Automatic selection.

Tethering

Tethering is a feature of the iPhone which lets you use your device as a modem. Telstra enabled iPhone tethering on 5th December 2009 via a carrier update. You can tether via either USB or Bluetooth. To enable, go to Settings -> General -> Network -> Internet Tethering.

VPNs and SSH tunnels all work fine tethering through USB and through Bluetooth.

Free Content

Apps that are free to browse, all the Telstra owned ones:

Yellow Pages, White Pages, Whereis, Sensis.

The Bigpond portal is also free and available at m.bigpond.com

Keeping tabs on your data usage

Wether prepaid or post paid, you will be able to view your data usage online or through a number of apps available in the online store. “Quota” and “Consume” are two outstanding apps. You can also view your data usage through the BigPond Mobile for iPhone portal. You’ll find the link in Safari bookmarks.

The ability to view your usage and recharge via the Bigpond portal is only available when connected via GPRS/EDGE/3G. Ensure that WiFi is not connected if you run into problems trying to recharge.

APN

The default APN for an iPhone on the Telstra network is “telstra.iph”. This allows you to access the BigPond Mobile for iPhone portal. The portal contains links to various other BigPond areas such as Yellow Pages, White Pages, and most importantly My Account. This APN implements the use of a proxy.

On 11/02/2010, Telstra released the 5.2 carrier update which disabled the ability to change APNS.

With iOS 5, the ability to update the APN is back.

Visual Voicemail

On 22/03/2011 Telstra announced Visual Voicemail available to all Post-paid members on the NextG network. The service is branded Messagebank Plus and will cost an additional $5 a month and includes delivery of voice messages to your iPhone. Pre-paid customers are left out in the cold for now.

An alternative to Visual Voicemail is mBox’s voicemail service. Upon signup, you get a voicemail number which you can redirect busy/unavailable calls to. You then access the voicemails using their iPhone app which presents itself like Visual Voicemail.

Carrier updates

Carrier updates can and often do override various functions of your iPhone. Here’s an excerpt from Apple’s support pages what a carrier update is and does:

Carrier settings updates are small files (about 10 kb) that are installed on your iPhone or iPad Wi-Fi + 3G. Carrier settings include updates to Access Point Names (APNs), MMS settings, features such as tethering, and default apps such as Stocks, Maps, and Weather.

05/01/2012 – Telstra releases the 11.1 carrier update, changing the network idle state change dormancy interval to 6000 milliseconds. If you accidentally cancelled the update, you can get re-prompted by going into Settings -> General -> About.

30/01/2012 – Telstra releases the 11.2 carrier update (some got this a few days before). No word on changes yet. I’ll update this page as I learn more.

Usage Notes

Telstra implement transparent HTTP proxies, so when trying to get your IP via web based methods like whatismyip.com, it will fail to recognise your real IP and show a NAT’ted IP instead. Your NAT’ted IP will change on every request giving you the false impression that your IP is changing per connection session. There are other methods to reveal your real IP such as logging into an SSH or FTP server and looking at the logs to show your source IP.

Known issues

Since the iOS 4.2.1 upgrade, users have been reporting that 3G data and/or calls are dropping intermittently. Telstra are aware of the issue and are supposed to be rolling out a network fix in December sometime. In the meantime you can work around the problem by turning on Airplane Mode for at least 10 seconds, then turning it off. This makes your phone re-establish it’s connection to the network.

Editor notes

This article will be updated as I discover more information. If you come across this article and would like to contribute, please leave a comment and i’ll add any information you might like to share.

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