This website is here to help you save money on your phone bill
Our website is designed to give you insider information on the Australian phone market so you can save yourself a heap of cash. Key to our advice is the suggestion that you consider an MVNO ( a Mobile Virtual Network Operator ) among your options for a SIM Only plan provider. We also recommend buying your phone outright ( unless you already have one you love ) instead of choosing a contract plan with a ‘free’ phone.
How can shopping around for a SIM Only deal save me $ hundreds?
Phones are cool but they’re not a part of life that most Australians think about much. We’ve got too much else to worry about. Over time, we’ve been taught by phone companies that the most up to date smart mobile phones are unaffordable. Because of the price and the fact we’ve got too much else to do, we’ve fallen in to a trap. We’ve started thinking that we need to sign a 24 month contract to get an up to date phone. That’s not true.
The truth is we can do better than contracts. In fact if you shop around and get the best SIM Only deal, plus buy the phone yourself outright, the simple fact is that you’ll save hundreds of dollars. But you’ve got to look around. We have some suggestions here of some of the best value SIM Only plans. See below for some great SIM Only deals.
Who has the best SIM Only deals?
The answer is MVNOs have the Best SIM Only Deals. Technically, an MVNO is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. In essence, MVNOs are wireless companies that don’t own their own network. These typically small brands act as an alternative to the major phone companies like Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. They buy big chunks of data, voice and SMS and resell them on to you cheaper.
Without doubt, the people with the best SIM Only deals are MVNOs. To you, MVNOs are resellers of the major phone company networks. If you shop around with them for a deal that suits you, you can save a fortune.
The phone plans MVNOs sell are often identical to the major phone companies
It’s important to realize that the network coverage component of the ‘product’ the MVNOs sell is very often exactly the same thing being sold by a major phone company. The coverage you’ll get from an Optus MVNO is exactly the same as the coverage you’ll get from Optus itself. There are a few exceptions and ‘gotchas’ to think about. We’ve covered those in detail, below.
There is no bad prioritization of MVNO traffic
Some shoppers suspect that MVNOs are getting low quality network bandwidth. For example, minutes that aren’t used by carriers during peak activity. That’s just not true. In many ways, network access is like electricity. It’s a utility which is the same whomever or whichever company you buy it from. You will not get a lower priority on the network if you go with an MVNO.
Why have MVNOs become so popular recently ?
Recent MVNOs, like CMobile, Telechoice, Lebara and Yatango have built their businesses by undercutting the high rates the tier 1 telcos are providing their customers. Basically, the major phone companies charge a lot, the smaller ones don’t.
The result is a trend that caters to “tiers” of usage. Every tier provides you with a bit more text, data and voice. As you use any of these, you fall to the next tier automatically.
As Australian consumers become more and more savvy about their phones, they are learning about these MVNOs. Word of mouth spreads details of the deals MVNOs do between friend groups, further assisting uptake.
In addition to this, the rate of improvement in phones has started to decrease. This year’s phone is often much like last years. As a result, people are holding on to their handsets for longer. Once their phone is out of contract after 2 years, smarter individuals immediately move to a lower priced, SIM Only deal. And the best SIM Only deals, as we’ve seen, come from MVNOs.
How can MVNOs save you money
As we’ve said, MVNOs save their customers money by leasing network access ‘in bulk’ from the three, major Australian phone companies. Then they sell it, to customers like you, at a significant discount.
With MVNOs, you can take advantage of lower rates, and SIMs that are contract-free. They almost always offer better deals than the major phone companies. They don’t have the same marketing spends to pass on in the costs they charge you. They don’t spend nearly as much on advertising their brand as the others. By keeping their business models simple, they reduce the support costs and pass the savings on to you. They also need to charge less because they’re not as well known as their multinational competitors.
The MVNOs marketplace is highly competitive. The competition is focused where you want it. MVNOs have an agreed charter with the major phone companies. Each MVNO is set up to focus on servicing ( selling to ) a particular segment. ( A segment is just a group of users. Here are a couple of our favorite MVNOs and the segments they are designed to address. ) It’s this laser like competitive focus which means the deals you’ll get from an MVNO are likely to save you a heap of cash.
Better yet, most Australian MVNOs don’t tie you in to contracts
When you sign a contract, consider that it gives the phone companies legal control over you. If you fail to make a payment, it’ll result in penalties. And if your deficit is large enough, and you don’t pay, your service will be cut off. Eventually you’ll be referred to a collection agency that will harass you.
With MVNOs, it’s the other end of the scale. If you take out a SIM Only agreement with an MVNO, you will not be committed beyond the money you have spent with them or the month you’re in. If you don’t like the way they’ve treated you, if their pricing changes and it’s not as advantageous any more or if you see a better deal elsewhere, you can quickly change to benefit.
Why MVNOs offer the best rates
Here are some important points to take into account when choosing an MVNO provider :
Shop around : Your usage will impact which MVNO to choose for the best deal. For lower usage customers, or average usage, we recommend Amaysim FLEXI. For higher usage, or those who are looking for certainty, we recommend Boost. ( See above for a bit more detail. )
They’ll sell you a SIM Only : No MVNOs lock you in to 2 year contracts (multi-year plans). Rest assured that if you find a deal elsewhere which is better, you’ll be able to move to it once you’ve finished with the payments for the months you’re in.
Cancel when you like : With no contract, you can cancel anytime you want. You won’t suffer ETPs ( they’re the Early Termination Payments that you might be subject to with other phone companies if you try and leave a commitment early. )
Make sure you get a phone which is unlocked : The phones you pick up from the major phone companies in Australia, it might be locked to their network. If you’re going to use an MVNO SIM, you’ll need one which is not tied to the network.
If you already have a phone, it may be locked to the network that sold it to you. It’s a simple process to unlick it – just give them a ring and they’ll talk you through it.
Australian Mobile Phone companies
Let’s start with the big phone companies and move on to some more detail about the smaller ones.
Telstra: They are the biggest phone company in Australia when it comes to providing service for mobile devices. They claim the largest and fastest network in the country. Telstra also now has a presence in 15 countries worldwide. Telstra have as many customers as Optus and Vodafone put together. They are strategically brilliant, investing in a large number of prescient technologies and, unlike almost any telco in the world, successfully charging a premium for network coverage which is better than the alternatives.
Vodafone: This is the largest telecommunications company in the world. There are nearly 7 million customers in Australia alone and they have the country’s newest 4G network. You don’t need us to tell you of the network problems Vodafone have suffered in Australia over the last few years. It’s been one of the best examples of brand value reduction that we’ve seen in any industry and a company which is openly derided for coverage in Australia. They have, however, made significant network investments to repair that perception. Independent research from the start of 2014 highlights that those improvements have worked in the center of Australian cities on both Vodafone’s 3G and 4G networks.
Optus: They are the second-largest company in Australia. They are, in the opinion of this writer horrendously slow to react to new market circumstances, beleaguered by outdated process and staff and crippled by legacy thinking. Optus have demonstrated nothing like the intelligent investments in Digital technology that Telstra have made or the product development investments that Vodafone have made with their International Roaming proposition. Optus used to stand for competition in Australia but today, offers value to the market mostly through it’s provision of 4G services through MVNOs, itself, a strategic mistake no other Austraian telco has made. That said, Optus’ Product Management team have challenged the market with price plans that allow customers to automatically add extra data when they need it rather than suffering ‘bill shock’ which is a welcome step forward.
MVNOs: The simplest way to accurately think of an MVNO is as a network reseller. MVNOs buy big bundles of voice and data services at a discount from what individuals pay. They then resell those minutes to people like you and me, passing on some of the discounts. This is a ‘mobile virtual network operator.’ These companies don’t have their own infrastructure, but use the network of another company to provide service to customers. MVNO plans are almost exclusively month to month which
Australia’s best rates and who provides them
OK, this is what we came for. Here are Australia’s top phone plan providers and the people to whom their plans are most likely appealing.
Australia’s best value plan on the Telstra 3G network at $30
Best value plan on the Telstra 3G network at $30 We recommend Woolworths $30 plan. Woolworths give you more voice value ( $650 ) and data ( 1.5GB ) than any other Australian phone company at that price.
Woolworths $45 = $1500 Value, Unlimited SMS, 4.0 GB of 3G data Woolworths Connect offer more voice for $30 than anyone else :
!! Note – Both Woolworths Connect offers come with an additional 1 GB of data when you recharge by the 31st July !!
Whichever plan you choose you’ll get enough data for average 3G usage : Woolworths Connect plans include at least 1.5GB of data which is enough for average usage.
Unlimited SMS : Both Woolworths Connect Mobile plans available online contain unlimited SMS.
Prepaid – Month to month agreement ( 30 day recharge ) Woolworths Connect prepaid price plans offer total predictability and flexibility. Once you’ve bought your recharge amount, you know you won’t be spending more until you consciously decide to. And, if you find a better deal elsewhere, you can take advantage of it when your existing credit has run out.
Woolworths Connect use the Telstra 3G network – strong national coverage : Woolworths Connect ‘piggyback’ ( or resell ) the Telstra 3G network. It covers 98.5% of the Australian population and nearly 1.3 m square Kilometers.
More information : You can read our full Woolworths Connect review here.
In our view, Boost’s unlimited plan is the best unlimited prepaid plan in market on the Telstra network.
Boost use Telstra’s 3G network : Boost Mobile Australia are one of the only phone companies in Australia which operate on the Telstra 3G network. Telstra’s 3G network coverage 99.3% of the Australian population – more than any other network.
Boost offer a $40 Unlimited price plan : For $40 per month, you’ll get unlimited national calls and SMS to other Australian numbers
3GB of 3.5G data = Plenty of Data : ( PLUS ! 1GB free to use every Sunday! ) As well as unlimited calls and SMS to Australian numbers on the Telstra network, you’ll get 3GB of national data.
Boost’s unlimited offer is exceptionally strong in comparison to other Australian plans. It provides highly sought after access to the Telstra network, an almost unbelievable unlimited number of calls and SMS with the best Australian coverage and a perfectly adequate 3GB of data.
If you think you need more data than 3GB then check out Amaysim’s unlimited plan, below.
Which are the best 3G + 4G SIM Only plans on the Optus network ?
Do you have average phone use needs ? We recommend :Amaysim Flexi
For a 3G / 4G phone user who uses their phone about as much as an average person, Amaysim Flexi is perfect.
Spend about $20 per month : If you are looking to cover average phone usage, you have a 3G or a 4G phone and you are looking to spend around $20 per month, we recommend Amaysim’s $19.90 plan.
Gives you 3 or 4 calls per day : Calls and data inclusions are the most critical part to any plan. With this plan, you’ll be able to make 3 or 4 calls per day. This is approximately average usage and covers most people. Remember, you’ll be able to receive as many calls as you’d like, free of charge.
500 MB of 3G / 4G data on the Optus network : You will also get 500 MB of 3G / 4G data to use each month. Unless you are in to YouTube videos when you are out and about, this is probably an adequate level of data.
Free SIM delivery : Unlike some, Amaysim’s SIMs are delivered free of charge.
If you are a super user of your phone – in other words if you’re addicted to using it, you want to use the Optus 3G /4G network and you want the reassurance and flexibility of a large allocation of data then we recommend Amaysim’s Unlimited plans – now with 4G data :
Unlimited calls and SMS : Their unlimited plan offers unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers.
5GB or 7GB of data : Amaysim also have two options with significant data inclusions. You can choose an unlimited plan with either 5GB or 7GB of data for use on the Optus network. No other plan will give you this much data at these prices in Australia. Amaysim use the full Optus 3G / 4G network . That’s not part of the Optus 4G network, not most of it. It’s the whole entire Optus 4G network. You’ll get coverage wherever they have a signal ( Optus’ 3G network currently covers 98.5% of the Australian population ) and the latest 4G speeds in 4G coverage areas.
If you decide you want to change plans, you can move up or down on any Amaysim plan without charge. You just have to complete the month you’re in. Additionally, Amaysim have the best customer satisfaction in the industry : An enormous 96% of all Australians who are with Amaysim would recommend them to a friend. It’s uncommon in telco to find a company that people actually like.
If you have a 4G phone and want access to the Optus network, we recommend Yatango. Yatango’s rates are substantially cheaper than Optus’. They also use the entire Optus network. Not part of it, or a component of it – Yatango use the whole 4G network. As Optus adds more coverage, Yatango gets to use it immediately. In addition, their range has a good deal more flexibility to it.
Build your own Optus 4G plan : Yatango have a plan configurator which gives you any and all permutations of voice, SMS and data on the Optus 4G network which gives you complete control over the plan you choose. Give it a go and choose the exact number of minutes, SMS, Data and international calls you need.
Unlike most, Yatango also have a range of plans with unlimited voice and SMS. Starting at $23.90, you’ll get unlimited calls and SMS in Australia but no voice. To that, you can add some very affordable data.
Want an Unlimited plan : Yatango’s have range of plans which offer unlimited voice and SMS in Australia along with with multiple data options. Again, these are cheaper than Optus’ own equivalents.
Best Unlimited Voice and SMS in Australia on Vodafone’s network ?
If you’re after an unlimited plan with incredible included value or you make calls overseas, in our view, you need look no further than Lebara. Lebara use the much improved Vodafone 3.5G network which covers more than 96% of Australians. If you live in a major Australian city ( and more than 70% of people do ) then look no further than Lebara for the best value unlimited plan.
This is the lowest price on our site for a plan which has unlimited Australian voice calls and SMS, anywhere in Australia. It’ll give you :
Unlimited voice calls to Australian numbers : Your plan has unlimited included calls to Australian mobile and landline phone numbers on the Vodafone 3.5G network.
Unlimited SMS : Unlimited National texts. Nice and simple. You can send as many text messages each month to as many Australian phone numbers as you’d like to with no additional charge.
Big Data : A huge 4 GB of 4G data. 4 GB should be plenty for even the most ravenous data eaters. This data inclusion has just been increased and now represents the biggest data bundle you’ll find on a plan of this sort.
Lebara use the Vodafone 3.5G network : Remember, Lebara use the Vodafone 3.5G network. Vodafone’s network has improved dramatically since it’s lows of 2010. In major Australian cities, Vodafone’s network is as strong as Telstra’s or Optus’.
Best value for overseas calls : If you need to make calls overseas, Money Magazine awarded this plan the best value plan for that in Australia.
50 international call destinations : Unlimited voice and SMS to 50 destinations including India, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh, UK, France, Greece, Italy, Germany. See the full list.
Unlimited National Voice and SMS : Call who you like when you like and you can text them too. All day every day. These are genuinely unlimited allowances for calls and SMS to other Australian numbers from your mobile.
Enough Data : 4 GB of 3.5G data on the Vodafone network. Again, you can add more mid month if you need to. But not many go beyond 4 GB of data.
!! Special Offer on Lebara $49.90 : First month half price + 1GB extra for each of the first 3 months !!
Best plans under $20 on the Telstra 3G Network ?
We recommend TeleChoice : If you’re spending less than $20TeleChoice now resell the Telstra 3G network. That gives them access to a 3G network which covers 98.8% of the Australian population and 1.3 million square Kilometers. Compare that to Optus’ entire network which covers 1.2 million square Kilometers.
TeleChoice’s plans were launched in late 2014. Following a slow start, especially for their 24 month contract plans, TeleChoice revised their offerings in March 2015. We think TeleChoice offer the best Telstra network value under $20. Make sure you compare TeleChoice’s plans with Boost Mobile and Cmobile Blue, both of which use the same network TeleChoice do.
TeleChoice’s range is tiered, as most telco plans are. Prices shown are for the month to month agreement. These are usually higher by around 30% than the contract plan.
Starter : Plans under $20 per month ( Month To Month agreement. ) The starter range gives you the basics of any Australian Cap Plans: Enough calls and texts to get you through the month if you don’t use your phone much. Voicemail retrieval is included in the plan’s features so you won’t have to pay for that. However, that’s about it. All SMS and MMS are charged for. International calls are charged outside this cap.
Texter : Plans under $30 per month ( Month to Month agreement. ) Texter plans have unlimited SMS included in them for another $2.50 a month. If you don’t use apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger these days, instead of SMS then the extra money spent on unlimited SMS will make a whole lot of sense for you. The starter plan charges SMS at 25 cents per text – and for just the price of 10 SMS, you can get an unlimited quantity.
TeleChoice are also good if you’re shopping for a plan with included international calls
Global : Plans over $30 per month The Global element to the range includes a range of plans which allow you to call overseas from Australia using the credit in your cap. For example, if you call the UK, you might get charged $4 per minute from within your capped plan allocation of $650. Neither Boost nor Cmobile, the smaller phone companies which also resell the Teltsra network have this international call inclusion element to their plans.
Telstra 3G data enabled : The Telstra 3G network covers 98.8% of the Australian population. Coverage with this TeleChoice SIM will give you around the coverage an Optus SIM will provide. 3G SIMs will work in any phone. However, if you have one of the latest 4G phones, you won’t get the best data speeds possible with that device. We recommend Yatango or Amaysim if you need a 4G phone.
Best in market for low end Telstra plans : We recommend TeleChoice for anything less than $20 per month if you need the reassurance of coverage on the Telstra network.
Included International Calls : Telechoice also offer plans with international calls included in the cap. This is exceptional value. For less than the most basic month to month plan would cost you from Telstra themselves, you can get access to the Telstra network with TeleChoice and unlimited included international calls.
Flexibility and Zero Risk : TeleChoice’s SIM Only range have the same features as other SIM plans from network resellers. You have the option to make no commitment beyond the month you’re in. This gives you the freedom to move to a better deal if one becomes available. And you don’t take on any risk.
As you’ll see below, on this page, Vodafone ‘s coverage, especially in the cities around Australia, has improved greatly. Unfortunately, public perception has not yet caught up. As a result, Cmobile have seen the opportunity to get the best pricing and the best network in Australia. Here’s how you can get it.
Best Vodafone Value : Cmobile’s Red plan at $19.90 is the best pricing available in Australia at the $20 price point on the Vodafone network.
Transparent pricing : One of the advantages of Cmobile’s Red suite of plans is the transparency of pricing. They have a PAYG option – which offers calls at 12 cents per minute. To put that in perspective, if you are the kind of person who only makes one ( standard 2 minute ) call per day, Cmobile’s red plans will cost yu only $7.20 per month.
Strong customer care : Additionally, Cmobile’s Australian customer care is second to none in Australia. It is staffed by a knowledgeable friendly support team, the majority of which used to work for Vodafone in Australia.
!! 50% off the first month access fee for any plan ( PAYG not included. Offer ends on July 31, 2015) !!
Not sure where to start ? Here are 3 tips on choosing an MVNO
There are a series of insider secrets within telco that only the lucky few know. The team at WhatPhone have worked in the phone industry for the last 10 years. We’ve presented these insider secrets here as top tips so you can get what are literally the best SIM Only deals in Australia.
Tip 1 : get the best rates by choosing a SIM Only Deal with an MVNO As we’ve seen, the primary difference between MVNOS and the tier one networks are the plans they offer. And the key difference for MVNO plans is that they’re cheaper.
Tip 2 : Know your usage Each of the major MVNOs are focused on addressing a different segment. ( A group of users. ) If you identify with any of the descriptions below, you are likely in the segment. The plans offered by the MVNO will appeal to you – and, if you’re prepared to give them a go, you’ll get a great deal on a big network without the big price tag.Take a look at your bills for the last few months. Establish what you actually paid, not what the minimum monthly commitment was.
Tip 3 : Know what to look out for with different MVNOs You may have to compromise depending on your particular circumstances, if you go with an MVNO. In the interests of total transparency, here are the ‘gotchas’ which you might want to consider, before you sign up to one.
Some MVNOs only offer 3G network access :
If you’ve got one of the latest phones, you might want super fast data access. That means you may want 4G. All of the major phone companies offer access to their 4G network with their core plans. Of course, if you have a phone which is more than a year old, it’s likely not even 4G enabled and this won’t present a problem to you. Equally, super fast data may not be important to you. Find out more about Australian network phone coverage here.
Finally, there are MVNOs which do offer 4G coverage. Yatango and Amaysim offers 4G services ( and, again, cheaper than existing phone company 4G charges. )
MVNO coverage is only as good as the major networks :
Your network service is only as good as the carrier that’s partnered with the MVNO. An example: if Vodafone Australia’s coverage is no good for you in your area, then going with Lebara ( an MVNO on the Vodafone network ) is not going to get you better coverage. You can check the coverage maps of each MVNO on their website.
You won’t get the telcos’ unique plan features :
There are particular plan features that each phone company has which you might not get with a value deal. For example, Optus offer ‘auto add’ a data bundle which means you just can’t get a hugh phone bill rom them. Telstra have a prepaid plan which includes free calls at nights and weekends. Optus’ prepaid offering includes the innovative $2 days plan – a range which charges you only on the day you use them. The competition in Australia has created a lot of variety for your custom. Going with an MVNO will get you a great deal – but any one of these plans might be right for you, too.
Most MVNOs have online presence only :
There are no physical stores that you can take your phone in to if you want to talk to someone. Just to be clear, that’s not to say the support offered by MVNOs is of low quality. Amaysim are currently Roy Morgan’s best performing phone company for customer service.
So, should You choose an MVNO for the best rates ? Probably…..
The key to getting a good deal in telco is the same as getting a good deal in any industry. You need to have the best information possible. Having worked in the telecommunications industry for a long time, that’s what we’re trying to offer you here.
In short, we recommend MVNOs because they offer almost identical services to the major phone companies but charge much less for them.
Once you’ve decided to consider an MVNO, you really need to have a good understanding of your usage. Consider your normal monthly usage so you can find the right MVNO plan for you. Do your homework, establish your usage over the last 6 months to a year. Then feel free to use the Whatphone Amaysim reviews.
Ask yourself these questions when making your decision.
How do the inclusions of the MVNO SIM only plan compare to the inclusions of the major telco plan I am comparing it to ? ( You can do this by comparing on our ‘SIM Only Page’. )
Does the network of the MVNO have good coverage in my area?
Am I willing to purchase a new phone if I need to do I can use the MVNO network ?
Am I okay with not having the option of going to a physical store for customer support?
Types of Australian Mobile phone network
Different phones and network providers ( phone companies ) will offer different network capabilities. They run the ‘spectrum’ from basic and slow to rather fast and sophisticated. You will need to make sure to get the best network for your daily needs on your mobile phone. These definitions might help you navigate the path.
GSM: Global System for Mobile Communications is a more basic network for mobile phones. It uses a SIM card to store information, such as contacts.
GPRS: General Packet Radio Service basically boosts 2G phones for better data capabilities. GPRS is a software overlay on top of the GSM network.
3G: This is the third generation of communication networks for mobile devices. Customers can send and receive data at a rate of at least 200 Kbit/s. This is typically the minimum network to easily run a smartphone or tablet. ( More detail on 3G, below. )
4G/LTE: This is the fourth generation of communication networks for usage. Rates can be up to 1Gbp/s.
TDD: Time-Division Duplexing means the data is being sent and received on the same channel by alternating usage. This is good for using the Internet while on the go.
FDD: Frequency-Division Duplexing means the data being sent and the data being received are on slightly different frequencies. This may mean less interference.
5G: This isn’t an official network, but is what is referred to when talking about the future of mobile phone networks. It is expected to be faster and more efficient than any of the current options.
Types of plan
Plans can run from very cheap, offering only the very basic in voice service, or quite expensive. You will need to decide what features you will use on a regular basis: voice, text and data usage. Once you have an idea what you expect to use, you can choose the proper plan for you.
SIM Only or BYO: This is where you use your own phone (or one you purchase) and insert a SIM card into it to use a network. Amaysim and most other MVNOs use this plan style for their service. SIM Only is the biggest trend in the Australian market for mobile phones. As the rate of improvement in phones slows down, people are deciding not to upgrade at the end of their contract. Those that do hand their old phone to another either as a favor to a close family member or
Contracts: Many companies have you go into a contract with them – most are for two years. During this time, you agree to pay for a certain amount of usage at a set rate. You also are agreeing to stay with the company for the set amount of time. If you decide to leave the contract early, you will have to pay.
Prepaid: There are several prepaid options out there. These services don’t require a long-term relationship or contract. You simply pay their set amount for however many minutes, text, data you want to use. When that amount is up, you no longer have service until you pay for more.
On Account: This is kind of the best of both worlds between contracts and prepaid. You pay a monthly fee to the company for the service. Many companies using these offer unlimited plans – offering unlimited talk, text and data for a relatively affordable price. The benefit here is you can drop the company at the end of the month if you wish and pay no penalties.
Do you need a 3G or a 4G plan ?
Technology advances so quickly, it’s hard to know which features are important in a phone and which have just been marketed well. Here are the key differences between 3G and 4G plan and an outline of whether they are right for you.
3G or ‘Third Generation’ data access capability has been around for several years in Australia now. For most people, 3G represents an acceptable data speed for their mobile phone but there’s no way they can be described as ‘cutting edge’ any more. Make sure you’re not paying too much for 3G Phones. Since, at the start of 2013, people started buying 4G / LTE phones, 3G has started to be seen as ‘old’ technology. As a result, 3G phones have fallen in price. In the prepaid market, they can be picked up for as little as $100 now.
4G phones started with the iPhone
In late 2012, led, in Australia, by the Apple iPhone 5, phone manufacturers started to release 4G or LTE devices. 4G is the latest ( 4th Generation ) mobile wireless data spurred technology. To the likes of you and me, it means fast internet on your mobile phone. Speeds users receive on their 4G Mobile are comparable to what you’re used to at home on your fixed line internet connection. 4G Phones represent relatively new technology. Australia is one of the few countries in the world to benefit from 4G network capabilities.
Key point: If you’re buying a 3G mobile phone on a contract, it’s likely to be a 24 month term. Consider very carefully how you’re going to feel about having a 3G device in 2 years from now. Things have started to move on and it’s likely that by the end of your contract, there will be apps and services around which you can’t access because they rely on 4G.
As usual, we recommend buying the best you can afford and staying outside of contracts with the major phone companies. Choose the phone yourself, buy an MVNO plan and save money.
So, you’ve decided 3G or 4G – Now – How much data do you need ?
Mobile phones can do an awful lot these days. And that’s because they connect to the internet. Here’s how to work out the cheapest method of getting your mobile internet access.
Average Data Usage for 3G phones: On 3G phones is between 500 MB and 1 GB. Most 3G Phone users know where they sit on the spectrum of data usage.
Average data usage on 4G phones: The experience of using 4G Phones is so much smoother and slicker than 3G Phones, people find themselves using more data. Some statistics suggest that 4G Phone customers use twice as much data as their 3G counterparts. As always, the tips to avoid a large bill are the same. Make sure you know how to measure your usage, do it regularly, know how to add extra data to your plan if you need to and set your 4G Phone up to work off your home’s fixed broadband wireless router so that you’re not burning through your phone’s operator’s data allowance when you don’t need to be.
Types of data user :
Use a lot of data? If they use an awful lot, they know it and they probably download the operator’s Self Service Application to ensure they are managing their usage ( something everyone should do ! )
Hardly use any? If they hardly use data at all, people tend to know that too. This group can afford to be on lower end plans.
Everyone else: It’s people ‘in the middle’ who need to be most careful. Very often, this segment of phone users is fine on their plan for a long time but blow ( exceed ) their data cap once every few months and end up paying through the nose for it. The best advice for people shopping for 3G phones is to monitor your data usage every day. Know how much of your data allocation you’ve used and how much is left. Stop using when you get near your limit and learn how to buy a data bundle to ‘bolt on’ to your service if you really need the data and you’re close to running out. Give your telco a ring and they’ll help you figure out how to do it.
Australian mobile phone coverage
Make sure you compare the 4G phone coverage you’re going to get in the places you use your mobile.
Use the operator sites: Each of the telcos have a section on their website to make both current 4G capabilities and planned expansion of 4G Phone reception, clear.
Marketing of coverage: One helpful thing to be aware of is that the telcos can’t do any marketing of 4G services in areas that they don’t have 4G network coverage. If you’re looking at a billboard for 4G services, you’re in a 4G coverage area.
Telstra’s network : Telstra has a healthy 14 million subscribers. Telstra cover 99.3% of the population with their signal. 3.2 million of their customers are 4G enabled and use the company’s 2500 x 4G base stations which cover more than 85% of the population. There are a number of questions over the company’s customer service and customer satisfaction levels, however.
Optus’ network: Optus have 9.5 million subscribers. 1.4m of those are 4G enabled and Optus’ company target is to cover two thirds of the population by the middle of 2014 with their 4G network signal.
Vodafone’s network: Vodafone has had a tough time of it recently. They’ve lost subscribers and some suggest that their market share has fallen to just 3 million. They’ve spent billions on upgrading their network but have never publically released either the proportion of the population they cover with 4G service or the number of their customers using it.
Virgin Mobile’s network: There are also a number of MVNOs (Mobile virtual Network Operators) including Virgin Mobile operating in Australia. MVNOs rent access to a network owned by another company – for example, Telstra or, in Virgin’s case Optus. It’s a clever move by the company. They save money by not wasting it on network investment and focus on customer service. Which is perhaps why Virgin Mobile’s customers have been consistently more satisfied with their service than any other phone company in Australia over the last 5 years.
Things to be careful of when buying a phone plan
The best phone plans are the ones which provide great value. They give you just enough voice, SMS and data to get you through the month at a price you can afford. Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for Australia’s best phone plans:
A free phone: For most people, the key thing they’re looking for, when they buy a new mobile phone, is the fact that they get a ‘free’ mobile with their contract. Of course, the price of the phone is just included in what you pay. Unless you’re minted, it does help to not have to shell out the hundreds of dollars in one go, that today’s ‘Smart’ Mobile Phones cost though, and contracts help you do that.
Predictability: The best phone plans don’t offer you any unexpected surprises. Make sure you check out the features of the plan you’re signing up to. There are some very nice features out there if you know where to look. For example, Virgin Mobile offer some of the best phone plans around. Not only do they allow you access to the Optus Mobile Network, but they let you ‘roll over’ anything that you don’t use one month, in to the next month.
Unlimited Plans: If you never stop talking on the phone or send a lot of texts, there are some great unlimited plans in the market. But be careful ! You might have read in the press how some operators like Kogan cut off their high end users – people who use a lot. This sort of practice gives the telco industry a bad name. Afterall, what does unlimited mean !? Amaysim have some genuinely unlimited and SMS plans ( for calls and texts within Australia ) as well as a substantial data unclusion. Check out our SIM only pages for more details. Remember though, you won’t get a free device with Amaysim.
Excess usage: What is your cheap phone plan going to cost you overall ? Low end plans from the major operators very often come with small allocations of voice, data and texts. What looks like a budget price can end up costing you a lot more if you just blow your allocation substantially over the course of your contract. Be realistic about how much of each service you need ( voice, data, SMS. ) Remember, if you give your telco a call you can always move UP to a bigger price plan later on. It’s much harder to move down.
Phone cost: When the profit in cheap phone plans doesn’t cover the cost of a new phone, the telcos charge you extra, each month, for your mobile. The total you end up paying for the plan and the device is often within $5 of moving to the next plan up – which has a lot more inclusions.
Switching to an MVNO like Boost, Cmobile, Telechoice Yatango or Amaysim might very well be the right choice for you if you want the best rates for your phone calls. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are moving across to MVNOs every year.
If you can afford to buy your phone outright and get a SIM only plan to cover the network access, whatever your usage, you are likely to save money with an MVNO. That said, MVNOs are not a panacea. Use the advice we’ve offered on this page. Make sure you consider all of your calculations and carefully consider how much an MVNO will cost you to make an informed choice.
Quick summary : In our view, Boost and Amaysim sell the best unlimited plans on the Telstra and Optus networks respectively. Choosing between them for most people comes down, to two questions. 1. Do you live in a more rural area ? Boost’s network covers a large proportion of Australia than Amaysim’s. 2. Do
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