My contract ends this month on the 18th (next week), I am on a mobile plan that originally came from Virgin Mobile which has since become a part of the Optus network.
My question is: After the contract expires, is the phone then unlocked from the Optus network? So I am free to shop around and get a prepaid SIM from a different network? Or is there something that I need to request, cancel or do in order to unlock it?
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Your phone is likely not 'locked'. Borrow a friends SIM for a minute and see if it works in your phone.
Once your contract end you get switched to month to month and can end that any time with a call to Optus.
Feel free to shop around (although Optus mobile plans are actually pretty good)
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To find your contract end date, jump onto the My Optus app and simply tap on More in the bottom right hand corner and then Plan and Plan term.