Breaking down a mobile wall

A conversation with Whatleydude at last week’s Social Media Cafe in London proved extremely useful in making a change to my relationship with my mobile service provider, Vodafone.

Whatleydude told me that Vodafone offers a network unlock code free of charge to any UK monthly-contract customer who requests it.

It’s true, and it’s something Vodafone has been offering for some months. Indeed, if you enter into a monthly service contact with Vodafone now, the phone you get is no longer locked by default.

Following a 2-minute conversation yesterday with Vodafone customer support, my Nokia N95 8GB is no longer locked to Vodafone.

Great, you might say, but what does that actually mean?

Well, to me, it means I can now do some things that I couldn’t do before because the phone wouldn’t allow it.

Things like upgrade the firmware to the latest open release which I couldn’t do before because of a restriction enabled by the Vodafone-specific firmware version. And other things, I expect.

(Of course, I could have tried one of the many hack approaches that would have given me freedom long before now. That breaches your service contract, though, and I chose not to do that.)

So I can now install applications such as Truphone or Skype Mobile, thus giving me choices I may want in how I use the device to make and receive phone calls and do text messaging.

Plus I can now use the SIM card from another mobile operator, if I so wish. And I can now use, say, a MAXroam card to save serious money when I’m travelling (and we all know how punitive the roaming charges are from mobile operators).

In sum, I can now do pretty much anything I want with my phone. I bet this will put out of business a number of folk who sell unlocking services. Now no need to pay for that.

Here’s how I got a network unlock code from Vodafone. If you have a monthly contract with Vodafone UK and your phone is locked, give them a call:

  1. Call 191 from your Vodafone phone.
  2. Enter your PIN number when the auto voice response system asks for it.
  3. Drill into the menus until you get a human being on the line.
  4. Say “I’d like a free network unlock code, please.”
  5. If you’re lucky to be speaking to a knowledgeable customer service rep like Julie, who I spoke to, she’ll say “Certainly, may I have your serial number please?”
  6. Provide that number which is also known as the IMEI number: it’s 15 digits long and you’ll find it by keying *#06# on your keypad (or look underneath the battery to find it although you can’t do that if you’re on the phone already).
  7. The service rep will then email you the network unlock code with simple instructions on the procedure to unlock your phone.

This is a good move by Vodafone. Treat your customers like grown-ups and you’ll keep them happy and more likely to stick with you.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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