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International students offered prepaid sim cards before they arrive in Australia

BEFORE students leave their homes, they can buy a sim card offered by an Australian tech startup in their home country and save searching for the right plan once they arrive in Australia. Stephen Clarke reports.

Image Miki Yoshihito via flickr

Image Miki Yoshihito via flickr

Those first few days when you land in Australia can be overwhelming. There’s a whole new world to discover. There’s public transport to comprehend. You want to get to uni on time, at least for the first week. The mobile is the student’s essential tool in all of this.

Whether you’re checking if your tram is running late on Tramtracker, using Google Maps to find that cafe hidden down a side alley or quickly transferring money between accounts, there’s no denying that phones are crucial in a student’s life, especially in a foreign city.

It’s important to be able to use your phone, but navigating the range of plans and providers in a new country is complicated and you want to get the best deal you can.

Brisbane-based tech start up Cohort Solutions is aiming to smooth over that period by providing pre-paid sim cards for international students before they leave home. The company has recently struck a deal with major Australian provider Optus that will allow it to offer pre-paid plans to students coming from countries like China, India and Vietnam.

The plans are all pre-paid, which means students won’t have any costs until they land in Australia and won’t be locked into a long contract. For CEO of Cohort Solutions, Mark Fletcher, this was an essential part of the plan.

“We needed to make sure it was something they could change once they got here if they didn’t like it,” said Mr Fletcher.

“We can’t lock the student in and say you’re in for a one year contract; it needs to be a pre-paid plan.”

Since 2011 Cohort Solutions has been helping international students find the best health insurance, lower fee options on tuition payments and temporary accommodation on arrival.

Offering pre-paid sim cards was just the next logical step for Cohort Solutions.

“Our direction has always been about making the transition for students studying abroad easier and cheaper,” said Mr Fletcher.

The pre-paid sims start from $1/day, with charges applied only on the days when mobile data is used or phone calls are made. On arrival in Australia, students have the option of upgrading to a higher plan.

The company, whose backers include Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter, wants to provide the sim cards in students’ home countries so that they are ready to go when they land in Australia.

Cohort Solutions is aiming to sell the sim cards in up to 20 countries, based on the demographics of international students arriving in Australia.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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