Today, I ported my number across to Virgin Mobile as part of a continuing effort to have first-hand experience with all of Australia’s telcos — and I’m glad I did. While the activation and porting process were quick and painless, there was a small problem to sort with 4G connectivity which I haven’t encountered before.
Typically when I switch from one telco to another, carrier settings are sent to the phone and everything works as expected. This happened today after I put my new Virgin Mobile SIM card into my phone, only I couldn’t connect to the 4G network. I was on the 3G network, I could call out, send messages and web browse, but my data speeds were limited to HSPA speeds.
After checking my APN settings (read our detailed guide to APN settings here) and comparing it to information on a Virgin Mobile community forum, it seems that one important setting in the list isn’t correct by default.
If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the APN settings page on an Android phone, there is a field for MVNO setting — where MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Because Virgin Mobile is an MVNO, this setting needs to be changed from None to IMSI (International mobile subscriber identity).
But, of course, this wasn’t the end of the story for me. Although this fix worked for several people on the Virgin forum, my signal remained stuck on HSPA.
So, it turns out you need to ask for Virgin to activate 4G on your account — it doesn’t just happen automatically. The rest of my story is fairly brief; I ask for 4G and they gave me 4G. I have no idea why you should need to ask and why it’s not an automatic feature of any new account with Virgin, but if you’re having problems, a quick call to Virgin support should sort it out.
Which is all great news because now I can hit my new 6GB monthly data limit hard, thanks to the Double Data deal Virgin is currently running.