Best Mobile Phone Coverage in Australia

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Best Mobile Phone Coverage in Australia

Network Coverage Comparison

Coverage rating
99.3% Population covered
Customer satisfaction
Customer service rating
Coverage rating
98.5% Population covered
Customer satisfaction
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Virgin mobile

Virgin mobile

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Coverage rating
98.5% Population covered
Customer satisfaction
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Coverage rating
96.0% Population covered
Customer satisfaction
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Need a better phone plan?

How to get great network coverage at a better price

To get great value plans from your prefered phone network, choose a phone plan from a network reseller. They use the main networks: Telstra, Vodafone, and Optus/ Virgin – and offer excellent value plans and service. Best of all, there are no long contracts, use as much or as little as you like.

With resellers you get the same network and great value plans and no lock in contracts

Need a better phone plan?

Top value plans by network

Recommended Plans on Telstra’s, Optus’ and Vodafone’s networks


Vodafone, Optus and Telstra are the only 3 mobile network providers in Australia. Each owns their own network ( although sometimes, one of them shares part of their network with another. ) Virgin Mobile is the 4th largest but it doesn’t have it’s own network, Virgin is simply part of the Optus company and uses the Optus network.


In the telecommunications industry, the big 3 are known as tier 1 telcos. All of the major phone companies are making significant, multi billion dollar investments in their networks to improve coverage and provide the latest data ( 4G ) services to their customers. The tier 1 telcos spend billions building and maintaining their networks.


In addition to maintenance, every few years, a new generation of network technology comes out. Originally, GSM was rolled out. That was upgraded with GPRS. That was followed by 3G data, then 4G data. Starting late in 2014 with trials that commenced in July, new 700 MHz spectrum is being trialed by Optus and Telstra which will double 4G speeds and improve in building reception. This constant attention to network provision and upgrade costs these companies a lot of money. In 2015, attention turned to increasing the proportion of population covered by 4G network and increasing the speeds it was possible to get on the latest handset data downloads.


Infographic : Get the cheapest plan on a network with the best coverage for you


Phone companies who rent network access are called MVNOs


There are other companies which use the tier 1 Telco’s networks. These phone companies are known as MVNOs or Mobile Virtual Network Operators. They often use exactly the same networks as Vodafone and Optus customers receive. One of the secrets of Australia’s MVNOs, however, is that they do not charge anything like the tier 1 telcos for their services. Remember, MVNOs typically offer SIM Only plans. Using them can save you a fortune without requiring that you compromise interest in the network you choose. Here are some examples.

Best value recharge on the Telstra 3G network at $30


Woolworths Prepaid Mobile Recharge

  • Best value recharge on the Telstra 3G network at $30
    We recommend Woolworths Prepaid Mobile Recharge $30. Woolworths give you $1000 voice value and 2.5GB data (includes 500MB bonus data until 15.2.16) than any other Australian phone company at that price.

    • Woolworths $30 Recharge = $1,000 call value includes standard and international calls + unlimited standard national SMS, 2.5 GB of 3G data (includes 500MB bonus data until 15.2.16) : Woolworths offer more voice for $30 than anyone else
    • Woolworths $45 Recharge = Unlimited standard national calls and SMS, 5 GB of 3G data (includes 1GB bonus data until 15.2.16)
  • Whichever recharge you choose you’ll get enough data for average 3G usage :
    Woolworths prepaid mobile recharge include at least 2.5GB of data (includes 500MB bonus data until 15.2.16) which is enough for average usage.
  • Unlimited SMS :
    Both Woolworths prepaid mobile recharge available online contain unlimited SMS.
  • Prepaid – Month to month agreement ( 30 day recharge )
    Woolworths prepaid mobile recharge 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 use the Telstra 3G network – strong national coverage :
    Woolworths ‘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 review here.
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500 MB bonus data for $30 recharge, 1 GB bonus data for $45 recharge special until 15 February 2016

10% off every recharge with your Everyday Rewards Card


Telstra’s Mobile Network – Boost is now faster on 4G

Unlimited national talk & SMS ?


Winner: Boost Mobile's $40 unlimited plan.

  • Boost use The Telstra Mobile Network : Boost is now faster on 4G !
    Boost Mobile Australia the only phone company in Australia ( apart from Telstra themselves ) which use Telstra’s 4G network. With Boost, you’ll get 4G in every major city in Australia, most of their surrounding suburbs, every airport for a big city and 600 towns nationwide.
  • 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 4G data = Plenty of Data : ( PLUS ! extra 2GB every Weekend! )
    As well as unlimited calls and SMS to Australian numbers on the Telstra network, you’ll get 3GB of national data.

Boost’s prepaid offer is exceptionally strong in comparison to other Australian plans. It provides highly sought after access to Telstra’s Mobile Network, and now Boost is faster on 4G data ! Boost provide an almost unbelievable unlimited number of calls and SMS with the best Australian coverage and a more than adequate 3GB of data. You’ll also get a FREE GB to play with every Sunday on top of your 3GB allowance so you can watch YouTube to your heart’s content on the laziest day of the week.

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$10 OFF first month available to new customers who purchase a $40 UNLTD® SIM online.

Offer ends February 29, 2016.


Telstra’s Mobile Network – Boost is now faster on 4G

But don’t need unlimited ……?


We recommend Boost Mobile's $20 Ultra SIM Prepaid Plan.

Never let it be said that Boost aren’t innovating ! The Sydney based telco recently launched a $20 per month price plan which services people on a budget who want access to the plenty fast Telstra Mobile Network. And, Boost are faster than they’ve ever been – they offer 4G data speeds. If you don’t need unlimited but you like a bit of data and you need good coverage, this might be the plan for you. You’ll get :

  • 100 minutes of talk time :
    That’s one and a half standard 2 minute calls per day. It’s more than I use !
  • Unlimited SMS :
    You can’t get better than free and unlimited and that’s what you’ll find in Boost’s $20 plan
  • 1GB of 4G data ( PLUS ! extra 500 MB every Weekend) :
    1GB of data is only slightly less than the average data allocation you’ll need each month. Especially when you think that 15% of the time, you’ll be using your free 500 MB of data. Each Sunday, you’ll be allocated 500 MB of 4G data to send picture messages when you should be in Church.

Boost are one of the best known, most reliable telco brands in Australia. Their use of the Telstra Mobile network gives them a highly sought after position which positively differentiates them against Amaysim who would usually be considered best in price at this $20 price point. Boost now provide 4G data speeds and have a standard data inclusion now of extra data on Sundays. And now, Boost’s $20 price point really does look like a winner for anyone with less than an average usage profile.

Read our full review of Boost Mobile.


Just getting started with Boost ? Then you need a $2 Starter. Buy today and add the plan when you’re ready.

CHECK $2 Boost SIM

Kogan Mobile – WINNER ! Best Multi-Month Prepaid SIMs

Do you want a single recharge payment with a 1, 3 or 12 month validity ? Do you also want a range of data options to suit most needs ? Kogan gives you both in some of the smartest prepaid pricing we’ve seen.

Kogan Mobile Image

Kogan use The Vodafone 3G Mobile Network.

Kogan Mobile are one of the newest entrants in to Australia’s super-competitive market for prepaid and SIM Only products. They sell the much improved Vodafone network. But, because they’re Kogan, they’ve added their own unique plan features !

Kogan have a suite of 6 plans. Each plan has unlimited talk and text in Australia to Australian numbers. Pick the best plan for you, from their range by deciding :

  • A ) Whether you want a monthly, quarterly or annual recharge
  • B ) The amount of data you need.


Winner for average data users: Kogan 3XL Range

Kogan’s 3XL range all have Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers plus 3GB of 3G Data included. The difference between them is in the validity period of the recharge.

  • 30 days : $29.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 3GB of 3G data.
  • RECOMMENDED : Save 11% = 90 days : $79.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 3GB of 3G data.
  • 365 days : $ 299.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 3GB of data.

Note : You’ll need a $4.90 Starter SIM to get going on Kogan.



Winner for high data users: Kogan 5XL Range

Kogan’s 5XL range all have Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers plus 5GB of 3G Data included.

  • 30 days : $36.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 5GB of 3G data.
  • RECOMMENDED : Save 11% = 90 days :  $99.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 5GB of 3G data.
  • 365 days : $ 369.90 Unlimited Talk and Text in Oz + 5GB of 3G data.

Note : You’ll need a $4.90 Starter SIM to get going on Kogan.


Kogan go up against Lebara and CMobile Red as resellers of the Vodafone 3G network. But, with their multi month recharge options they add some genuine value and choice to the market. The plan range is substantial but easily navigated along the two axes of data & recharge validity window. You’ll get discounts for multi-month purchases you were going to make anyway. They add the convenience of less frequent running out / topping up. And they keep the total predictability and flexibility of prepaid.

We recommend the 3 month Kogan plan variants. 4G is coming in 2016 for Vodafone network resellers. With a 90 day validity ( 3 month plan ) you’ll get all the benefits of multi month without the annualized commitment to the 3G network.

All data is for use in Australia.



Best Unlimited Voice and SMS + Huge Data ?

Lebara use the Vodafone’s 3.5G network


Winner :  Lebara $29.90 National Unlimited

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.

Lebara 'National Plan' Unlimited $29.90 ( with 4.5GB of data )

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 4.5 GB of 3G data. 4.5 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 International Unlimited Voice & SMS + Huge Data?


Winner : Lebara 'Unlimited National and International Calls' $49.90

Lebara’s cheaper international call rates cover all the major destinations including : UK, USA, Greece, China, Canada, Germany, Denmark, France, South Korea and Switzerland.

  • 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 :
    4.5 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 4.5 GB of data.

Or you can read our full Lebara Review.

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First month half price for new online orders only. Special Offer on Lebara $29.90, $39.90, $49.90 .

30 day plans gives you a whole lot more, with access to UNLIMITED National Standard calls, SMS, MMS and loads of included data


For the best deal on the Vodafone network, choose Cmobile's Red plans


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.


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50% off the first month access fee for any plan.

Best SIM Only plans for average users ?

On the full Optus network. Now with 4G !

Amaysim use the Optus network

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.



Do you need an unlimited voice plan ?

On the full Optus network. Now with 4G !

Amaysim use the Optus network

We recommend : Amaysim's Unlimited plans

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 :

Each of these comes with unlimited voice & SMS in Australia :

Here’s why we recommend Amaysim :

  • Unlimited calls and SMS :
    Their unlimited plan offers unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers.inte
  • 1GB, 2GB, 5GB, 5GB Plus or 8GB of data :
    Amaysim also have two options with significant data inclusions. You can choose an unlimited plan with 1GB, 2GB, 5GB, 5GB Plus or 8GB 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.

Read our full Amaysim Unlimited plan review.

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50% OFF for the first two (2) months of Unlimited 2GB $29.90 plan or Unlimited 5GB $39.90 plan for new online orders.

Only valid until Feb 09. Use code: NOW50


OVO Mobile – Love V8 Supercars ? Get a phone plan from OVO

OVO Mobile are one of the newest and most innovative prepaid SIM plan providers in Australia. If you love V8 Supercars, don’t hesitate to pick up one of their plans. You’ll get access to exclusive V8 content.

OVO Logo

OVO use The Optus 4G Mobile Network.

OVO plans offer you access to historic race videos, interviews with key V8 drivers, live in car telemetry, live trackside commentary and behind the scenes gossip – check it out on the OVO site.

Best for anyone who loves V8 Supercars : The OVO Mobile Range

OVO’s is a totally new way of looking at a phone company. Their plans are, in our view, about as good value as Optus’ or Vodafone’s. But on top of the usual calls and data, OVO’s include exclusive access to V8 Supercar content. Specifically, you’ll get :

  • Free OVO’s V8 Supercars stuff :
    The price of the content is included in the monthly line rental charge you pay OVO for your prepaid plan. You’ll get…
  • Live In car telemetry :
    Up to 160 sensors all around the car provide real time access ( during races ) to data that you can see visually on your phone.
  • Live Trackside Commentary:
    If you don’t have Foxtel, or you just prefer to listen to the radio broadcast – the trackside commentary team are streamed live on OVO.
  • Exclusive interviews and behind the scenes content :
    OVO offer unique pictures, video, and access to stars of the sport including some in depth interviews.
  • Historic footage :
    You’ll have access to a sizable back-catalogue of races.

OVO Plans for your mobile

Picking an OVO plan is simple. All of OVO’s plans include Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers plus superfast 4G data.

There’s heaps more to say about OVO. You can learn more about them and their unique content in our OVO review.

All data is for use in Australia.

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Save $10 Off of any OVO Mobile plans with exclusive access to V8 Supercar content.

Hurry Limited Time Offers


Best value plan on the Optus 4G network at $25

We recommend : Bendigo SIM Only plans

  • Unlimited SMS :
    All three Bendigo mobile plans available online contain unlimited SMS.
  • Postpaid– Month to month agreement
    Bendigo mobile plans offer total flexibility. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll automatically be charged each month. And, if you find a better deal elsewhere, you can take advantage of it almost straight away. Just finish the month you’re in with Bendigo.
  • Bendigo use the Optus 4G network

In depth information on Telstra's Optus' and Vodafone's network

We’ve comprised all the information you need on the Major Australian networks and provide it here, all in one place.

Australian Network Coverage

There are a variety of credible ( independent ) information sources available to establish which phone companies offer the best network coverage in Australia. We try to reference as many as possible here to assist your decision. 40% of Australians say they are likely to change network in the next year. Coverage is a key factor in that decision making process.

Potentially the most important report about phone companies in 5 years, a recent ‘Open Source’ white paper revealed some surprising news. In major metro areas, Vodafone had the best 4G coverage and the best 4G speeds – compared to Optus and Telstra. Complaints to the TIO about Vodafone – the Telecommunications ombudsman halved between 2014 and 2015. These are just a few of the facts showing that the Vodafone network has improved substantially since it’s bad days.

And, when you include the other elements of the service you’re offered by your phone company, it gets interesting. Looking at customer service and overall customer satisfaction from Australian phone companies, Telstra’s and Optus are both on a par with Vodafone.  So, Telstra do have the best network but the research says they may well not be the best phone company for you.

Recent changes in Australian 4G Coverage

Low frequencies like 700 MHz or 850 MHz improve in building coverage and reach in to the bush. Remember, not all phones have access to frequencies like Optus and Telstra’s 700 MHz.

As we enter late 2015, the competition between Vodafone Telstra and Optus for 4G coverage and speed is taking an interesting twist. Each player is now attempting to make the best use of their frequency investments to improve both the number of square kilometers they cover and their in building network penetration.

Vodafone is reusing it’s 850 MHz frequency. Telstra and Optus are deploying their new 700 MHz frequency. Each of these spectrum facilitiesis enabled by the closing down of Australia’s Analogue TV networks last year.

Additionally, Optus and Telstra have rolled out ‘double fast’ 4G networks using either TDD or FDD technology. This is sometimes called carrier aggregation. These represent the start of national coverage at even faster speeds than the 4G that some people have already started to use. Meanwhile, Vodafone have moved to a full IP network infrastructure and introduced VoLTE. We cover each of these points in the operator specific section, below.


Optus network coverage

Optus’ 3G Network Coverage – 98.50% of the population

  • Optus’ 3G upgrade is complete.
    • Optus’ February 2014 3G upgrade program boosted metro in door coverage to 94%, up from 70% 2 years prior.
    • The upgrade provided better in building coverage.
  • Optus’ Cover 1.2  million square miles of Australia with their 3G network.
    • Compared to Telstra’s 2.4  square Kms.
    • And Vodafone’s 0.5  square Kms.
  • Optus Subscriber info :
    • Have 9.4  million mobile network customers.
    • Market share : 30%  ( of Australian mobile phone subscribers )
    • Customer complaints have changed from 7.2 per 10,000 in March 14 to 8.5 per 10,000 in June 15 in the previous 12 months.

Optus’ 4G Network Coverage

In addition to the information contained in the info-graphics on this page – key facts about Optus’ network include :

  • Optus had 3.82  million 4G customers.
    • That’s an increase of around 100% achieved in just 12 months from the previously reported statistics and shows how fast usage of 4G services is growing !
  • Optus cover almost 90% of the Australian population with 4G services.
    • Optus targeted 70% Australian population coverage with 4G by end March 2014 and achieved it
  • Perhaps Optus’ most revealing statistics were shown in the recent Opensource report :
    • Optus customers were in 4G signal for 70% of the time
    • And, when they were in coverage, they received speeds of  20 Mbp
    • ( Where streaming High Definition video takes approximately 5 Mbps, and streaming Ultra High Definition 4K video requires approximately 25 Mbps. )
  • Started commercial trials of their 700 MHz spectrum in July 2014
    • Optus’ commercial trials of 700 MHz spectrum make use of the network frequency they were granted access to. Full roll out began in calendar 2015.
    • The 700 MHz frequency was made available when use of analogue TV channels ceased.

Optus and Virgin Mobile use the same mobile network. Virgin Mobile is actually part of the Optus company. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this – which is why Virgin Mobile perform better on some network reviews with customers.

Optus actually shares a significant proportion of it’s network with Vodafone. This allows both companies to roll out improved network coverage to their customers whole controlling costs.

In July 2014, the ACMA granted Optus a license to do some commercial trials in Darwin and Perth of their 700 MHz frequency. Since then, Optus have trialed their 4G Plus service – their propitiatory marketing name for FDD / TDD double speed LTE services.

Finally, Optus released a WiFi calling app in mid 2015. Free to download from both the iTunes and Google Play stores, this app lets you use your phone, including the native address book, to call contacts over your home wifi network. Many people have problems making or receiving calls over the phone company networks in some places. For example, one room in a house does not get reception when others do. Optus was first to market with this WiFi calling app in Australia ( they have been up and running in other territories, notably the UK, for a while. ) It’s cheeky that Optus charge you to use your minutes from their plan range when the WiFi calling app is being used to connect the call – since it isn’t necessarily an Optus broadband connection which is providing transit for the call. However, the convenience of this app in providing quality coverage at home and, especially, in terms of integrating with your existing address book / contacts sets this apart from Skype, Viber and the other wifi calling apps. We’ve reviewed the concept of WiFi calling and Optus’ app specifically here.


Telstra do have the best network coverage in the bush

Telstra 3G network coverage

In addition to the information contained in the info-graphics on this page – key facts about Telstra include :

  • Telstra Cover 2.4  million square miles of Australia 
    • Telstra’s 3G coverage includes 60% of the Australian bush.
    • That’s around twice as much of Australia as the next best on the list – Optus.
    • Telstra’s network coverage represents 30.6% of the Australian landmass.
  • Telstra Subscriber stats :
    • Have 16.4  million mobile network customers.
    • Market share : 53%
  • Spending $2 – $3 bn per year on network improvements at the moment.

Telstra’s 4G network coverage

  • Telstra have 7.7  million 4G customers 
  • Telstra cover 88% of the Australian population
  • Offer the fastest 4G network coverage in the world according to a recent survey.
    Telstra topped the charts in a recent 4G service survey with 64% availability and speeds of 24.5 Mbps 58% of the time. We beat South Korea !
  • Telstra’s 4G network was also tested in the recent Opensource report.
    • Telstra customers were in 4G signal for 76% of the time
    • And, when they were in coverage, they received speeds of  23 Mbp
    • ( Where streaming High Definition video takes approximately 5 Mbps, and streaming Ultra High Definition 4K video requires approximately 25 Mbps )

It was back in 2008 that Telstra took the remarkable steps it did, to invest in it’s network and differentiate itself with that attribute. In many ways, it was the genius of the CEO at the time, Sol Trujillo who insisted that the Telstra ‘Next G’ network would be the best in Australia and was prepared to spend the money required to make that happen.

Telstra are ahead in their network performance and are spending more on improving it than the competition. The AFR report that Telstra is spending ‘unprecedented amounts’ on network investment. And it’s paying off. Since mid 2011, they have grown the number of customers on their network by the better part of 1m customers. Telstra now have more than 15 million mobile phone customers on their network.

Cleverly, Telstra have kept their 4G network to themselves. They sell 3G services to providers including Boost and Cmobile. However, they save their 4G network for their own customers.

Together, these steps enable Telstra to charge a premium for their network services. Their price plans are routinely $10 – $15 per month more expensive than the other networks. This poses a couple of natural questions.

  • Do you live in a bushland area where you will use the edge in network coverage that Telstra has ?
  • Is that benefit worth putting up with their bad customer service and high prices for ?

Telstra’s 4G network coverage

4G or LTE networks are cheaper to operate once established and offer more efficient use of the wireless frequencies the phone companies have bought access to. To you, that means a 4G phone will give you a better network experience.

Telstra started rolling out their 4G services in November 2011, long, long before the other Australian phone companies. By mid 2013, they covered 66% of the Australian population. Their target was to cover 85% by the end of the 2013 calendar year and they hit that milestone. In fact, they completed it a week early. They now cover 88% of the Australian population of the Australian population with a 4G signal and are targeting 99% coverage by 2017.

Telstra paid $1.3bn for access to the 700 MHz frequency in May 2012.

Similar to Optus but on a slightly larger scale, Telstra are rolling 4G coverage out in 6 cities as part of their 700 MHz commercial trial. Telstra have also been granted the license for this by the ACMA. Telstra’s trials will commence in Griffith, Mildura, Perth, Freemantle, Mt Isa and Esperance.

And, again, like Optus, Telstra are playing with double speed LTE / 4G. Telstra have some places already in Australia where the double fast 4G service is already available. Confusingly, Telstra do this under a different name : 4GX or 4GEXTREME, although the technology employed is very similar to Optus’ FDD capabilities and trials.

Finally, Teltra impressed all those watching in 2015 with the rollout of their national WiFi network. Back in July 2015, Telstra released 4000 WiFi hotspots nationally. This project will deliver faster speeds for those who use WiFi rather than Telstra’s cellular network by splitting the traffic between both fixed and cellular connections. It provides an easier way to scale to the rapidly rising growth of data on their network. It also provides a solution which ties Telstra broadband customers ( who can use the national WiFi network hotspots for free so long as they share their own with the public ) in to Telstra’s fixed and mobile services for longer. Telstra’s scheme is not unique in the world. It follows well trodden paths in the UK and USA. However, strategically, it’s brilliant and the national rollout of the initial batch of 4000 hotspots was done at light speed ( considering it was Telstra managing it. )


What about Vodafone’s network ?

Vodafone’s 3G network

  • Vodafone’s 3G network covers 96.00 %  of the Australian population
    • They cover 0.5  square Kms of Australia with a 3G signal
  • Vodafone have 5.3 million mobile network customers.
  • Market share :  53%
  • Focus of network improvements :
    • According to the newly appointed CEO of Vodafone Australia, the network is focused on acquiring customers with above average data requirements.
    • Vodafone say they are spending around $1bn each year on network improvements.
  • Vodafone’s publically stated 4G information is sparse
    • Although they have said they cover 96.00 %

Vodafone 4G Network Coverage

  • Vodafone have more than 2.0  million 4G customers 
    • That’s huge, given they launched their network more than a year after their rivals.
  • Open Source showed Vodafone had the best 4G network coverage & speed in Sydney in January 2014.
    • Had first month of adding customers to their network since 2010, at the start of 2014, demonstrating the turn around in their network performance.
    • If you’d like more information, you can see our infographic on that report.
  • And, in a more recent Opensource report, Vodafone’s 4G network did well
    • Vodafone customers were in 4G signal for 77% of the time
    • And, when they were in coverage, they received speeds of  19 Mbp
    • ( Where streaming High Definition video takes approximately 5 Mbps, and streaming Ultra High Definition 4K video requires approximately 25 Mbps )

In a nutshell, Vodafone have so much ground to recover on network and network perception that they’re focusing on the cities first. As you will have seen on this page, in many major Australian cities, Vodafone already claim the fastest 4G networks. They’re improving that with their 850 MHz frequency. It’ll deliver an immediate benefit to their existing customers. Unfortunately, this is a short term benefit and the truth is that, ultimately Vodafone will have to invest in 700 MHz spectrum at the next frequency auction, if they want to keep pace with Optus and Telstra.

Vodafone have held access to the 850 MHz frequency for some time and are only now, in late 2014, redeploying the asset. Using their 850 MHz frequency, Vodafone expect their 4G to cover 95% of the metropolitan area by the end of 2014.

There is a very real difference to consumers in all of this. The majority of existing smartphones can use Vodafone’s 850 MHz frequency. The same is not true for Telstra and Optus’ handsets. No phones from Apple, Sony or Nokia will work on the new 700 MHz frequency that the two bigger rivals are offering. ( Some phones from HTC – e.g. the HTC One M8, Samsung including the Galaxy S5, and LG including the G3 will work. ) If you want the benefits of better in building coverage and better bush coverage.

Vodafone’s network improvements are paying off for new customers. The ‘Vodafail’ tag they received in 2010 is finally leaving them following one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in Australian history. The good thing is they know it and they’re working on the problem. Bill Morrow, the ( now ex ) CEO of Vodafone recently changed the company’s internal focus away from numbers and focused staff on the emotional aspects of their relationships with customers.

Vodafone have not yet invested in a national WiFi network in the same way Telstra have. Neither has Vodafone yet released a WiFi calling app like Optus has. What they have done, however, is invest nearly a year in migrating their entire network to its core IP network. This investment will underpin Vodafone pushing further beyond their 96% current coverage capability to provide more coverage to more people. It will also provide easier access to VoLTE ( Voice Over LTE – a way of sending your voice call over the IP network for quicker connection and better call quality ) as well as other IP based services.

Comparing Complaints About The Networks

Vodafone have undertaken a huge network investment since the peak of their problems. They’ve recently spent $1.7 bn on network improvements. The sum of these improvements have reduced customer complaints to the TIO, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman ( that’s the last line of frustration for Australian consumers to complain to ) by 50%. Complaints about the quality of Vodafone’s service are now in line with the other major phone companies in Australia.

Complaints to the ( per 10,000 SIOs -Services in Operation, Source, TIO )
Complaints to the TIO Jan - Mar 2014 ( per 10,000 SIOs )
Complaints to the TIO Jan - Mar 2015 ( per 10,000 SIOs )

Vodafone have cut roll-out time and covered more area, faster by entering a network sharing agreement with Optus.

Vodafone’s network focus seems to be working in a variety of ways. NPS, a measure of customer satisfaction, for customers who joined Vodafone since 2012 is much better than customers who were with them during the worst of their network problems. Before the iPhone crashed the Vodafone network, their NPS was an industry leading +18. At its worst, Vodafone’s NPS fell to -11. For customers who joined since 2012, NPS is positive – which means people would actually recommend the Vodafone network.

Vodafone is a huge international brand and they’re taking a responsible approach to accepting new customers. They check coverage in your area for you and if it’s not good enough where you live and work, they recommend you go to another network. Perhaps that’s why they’re now prepared to offer the Vodafone Network Guarantee.

Overall satisfaction & the best network in Australia

Every month Canstar Blue publish their survey of a number of indicators as to phone company performance. Recently, it uncovered some interesting findings. All the major phone companies have exactly the same level of overall customer satisfaction.



Phone company network comparisons

Australian phone buyers have to make trade offs. They have to decide what the best combination is for them of price / network / service.

  • In the bush, Telstra have the best network. They cover 60% of bushland areas with their 3G network. If you want the best pricing on the Telstra network, we recommend Cmobile and Boost.
  • In metro areas, Vodafone are just as strong, if not stronger than Telstra. And, as the recent Open Source report shows, Vodafone has better network coverage and speeds on it’s 4G network in Sydney.

Network coverage complaint levels

The ‘regulator’ is the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or TIO. With the reduction in complaints about both international roaming rates and excessive data charges, as a result of positive improvements the phone companies have made to the way they charge, complaints are substantially down.

This chart represents the same thing, of course, backward looking. Canstar blue rate overall customer satisfaction as equal across all the major phone companies.



Determining who has the best network in Australia is not nearly as simple as it was. The gap between the best and the worst Australian network was never nearly as big as people think it is. And now, Vodafone are the best in metro areas. In the bush, Telstra is the safest bet.

The choice on which is more important ( cost or a small network quality improvement ) is a very personal decision. This article is designed to help you weigh up the elements of the trade off which are most important to you. Our suggestion is that, in many cases, especially if you need a 3G SIM, you can get a better deal on whichever network you want access to by choosing an MVNO.

What’s next for Australian network coverage ?

For the average user, the 4G networks of all 4 of the top Australian carriers can be considered of roughly equal speed in my view.

Some users receive peak speeds which might be higher here and there and those tend to be what’s reported. There are a variety of factors influencing how fast the data will come down to your phone including how many times you’ve dropped it ( did you damage the aerial ? ), how far you are from the nearest base station, how many other users there are on that network at the same time ?

Industry analysts say that 5G – the next network, beyond 4G, is just around the corner. Scheduled for the 2020s, 5G is already being worked on by the consortium of industry specialists which delivered 4G. 5G is likely to deliver more of the same sorts of improvements that 4G did.

  • Lower latency speeds :
    The time to get the response to your query – whether it’s a search or a request to begin a file download will be even faster than you’re already used to.
  • Efficiency :
    The move towards the Internet Of Things where everything from your watch, to your phone to your child and your car are all connected to the internet is going to require the ability to support more network connected devices, including phones. This will require more efficiency from the 5G network.
  • Higher speeds :
    4G speeds are staggering to most people. They’re analogous with your hme broadband fixed line connection. 6 years from now, they could be an order of magnitude faster again.

We also have in depth phone company comparisons

Network decision / price may be the most important aspect of your decision today. However, there is, of course, more to choosing a phone company than the network component. We have reviewed each of the major Australian Phone companies in depth, covering everything from how they treat their customers, to special offers and unique elements of their plans. You can access the comparison articles by reading ‘Australian phone company reviews’  



5G In Australia – Closer than you might think

Each of the major phone companies agree that 2020 is the year they will launch their 5G phone services.

The vast majority of Australians have smart mobile phones these days. But even the earliest adopters of phone technology have only had 4G ( link to ‘what is 4G ) data speeds in their phone for 4 years. As we covered above, Telstra was first to launch. Vodafone came to market with 4G much, much later, in 2014. Even so, the major phone companies have already started making promises about 5G. Each of the major phone companies agree that 2020 is the year they will launch their 5G phone services.

What 5G means to you

5G appears to be a different, more considered technology evolution than those that preceeded it. The essence of the move from 2G ( GPRS ) to 3G and then 3G to 4G was simply giving you faster data speeds. The data throughput they offered was often many times the facility of their predecessors. It became possible with 2G to download webpages, albeit slowly. 3G gave us stuttering or poor resolution video. 4G provided superfast video.

It is, perhaps, noticeable that really, these were the only benefits people were provided. For all it’s marketing machismo, the telco industry really only said ‘IT’S FAST!’ They said it a lot of different ways but that’s all they said.

5G will be deployed in to a disrupted world. Now, the internet is being used for applications that require more than just a fast dumb pipe :

  • Low power :
    The Internet Of Things has become a reality, connecting things to the internet like Coke Machines and cars that previously never were. These devices can be extremely small and may not be large enough to support substantial batteries. 5G is being designed to operate in a way which provides as much data throughput ( speed ) as is possible without requiring too much from devices’ batteries.
  • Prioritized traffic :
    5G will be in use when driver less cars are on the roads. Updating it’s own position and sharing information with other driver less vehicles might mean a requirement to secure very fast access to the internet. Similarly, emergency services around the world ( notably the UK ) which previously ran their own network to arrange police and ambulance attendance very obviously need to have prioritized access to the information they need. 5G is likely to have prioritized access for different types of user. The police and emergency services will be at the top of the list coke machines at the bottom.
  • Faster downloads :
    Data speeds are staggering on 5G. You will be able to access extremely high quality data in quantities which will allow you to completely download an entire film in seconds. It’s more likely we will download movies and video clips than stream them because it’ll be so fast and easy and it will improve the experience of watching them.
  • Faster streaming :
    For applications such as video discussions with friends and family and telecommuting, you can expect high quality transmission and uninterrupted service. Again, it is likely that this sort of use will be prioritized. Expectations of latency ( delays ) in one on one communication are high. We become frustrated if we have to wait a few seconds to get a response from a person in a conversation. This sort of communication is likely to be assigned a higher priority over a 5G network than, say, a coke machine making a request to be restocked.
  • More efficient :
    As we’ve said, there are going to be more things attached to the internet. Most estimates put the number of connected devices at around 15 bn. By 2020 there could be 50 billion. In technical terms, the requirements that are passed on to 5G are to be more efficient. 5G needs to use no more spectrum than was previously afforded 4G but to deal with more than 3 times as many connected users.

5G from Vodafone

Little is really known, beyond the conceptual capabilities, constraints and considerations in building a 5G network. Vodafone often benefit from their international scale by being invited to contribute to the definition of standards in the industry. Although it’s hard to believe it now, in Australia, globally, Vodafone built some beautiful 3G networks which set the standard.

Their network team and CEO have talked about 5G but have not yet said anything edifying.

5G from Telstra

Mike Write, in charge of networks for Telstra has talked publically in very high level terms of the advantages we have outlined here.

“We’ve always been very aggressive in adopting new technology because it’s more efficient and we can show clearly it’s a lower cost to deliver more [data], customers get the latest technology and they get a better experience,”

Experience, brand and the deep pockets of Big T suggest they will go large, early, and cover a lot of Australia when they deploy 5G.

5G from Optus

Optus have ( surprisingly ) made perhaps the most intelligent comment on 5G so far. They’ve talked about the importance of 3G.

Stuart MacIntyre, their network chief said :

“3G is still critically important to so many of our customers, so we’re upgrading our network in terms of 3G and 4G together,”

Unsaid is that they will be deploying as much as they can for 5G at the same time. When 5G comes out, there will still be a lot of people on very old phones. Just like Microsoft with XP, 3G phones will have to be turned off at some point.

Summing up 5G

Who would be a phone company ? A few short years after spending billions of dollars covering Australia’s largest continent with 2G, they rolled out 3G. Then 4G. Now 5G.

Whether we as consumers realise it or not, these network evolutions are substantial changes. They act as a backbone facility for technologies which couldn’t exist without them. When more than half of all searches and webpage views are on phones, it’s hard to imagine that YouTube or Pandora be as successful without the facility to operate on mobiles or that Google Maps would be as useful.

Albeit subtly, our already very high expectations will be raised further by 5G. At the moment, when we click a link, choose an option or decide to download a page on the internet, we expect to wait a few seconds.

5G will land in a 2020 Australia which is becoming used to fiber optic data speeds from the NBN. We’ll be used to internet interactions without delay. Everything online, whether you’re at home, outside or in the car, will become instantaneous.

We already live in a world with an expectation of immediate gratification. Add in the subconscious belief that every request you make will receive an instantaneous response ( along with the associated frustration you’ll have when it doesn’t because of a technical glitch ) and the biggest contribution 5G could make to the world is an increase in stress and potentially, the number of heart attacks. At least the ambulance will be able to transmit your bodies functioning parameters efficiently as you make your way to the hospital.

December 2015 Spectrum Auctions

The December 2015 spectrum auctions gave a strong hint as to the strategies and capabilities of Australia’s major players. The government raised over half a billion dollars selling 1800Mhz spectrum to Optus, Telstra, TPG and Vodafone.

Optus$196 Million
Telstra$191 Million
TPG$88 Million
Vodafone$68 Million

There appears to be a reasonable amount of significance to the bidding profile. Their spend levels shows Vodafone is still cash strapped. Despite the monies around from their internal ‘Project Spring‘ ( the projects that used the monies freed up by the sale of Verizon ) Vodafone was still comprehensively outbid. In many ways, this is making an existing problem worse. As we have seen elsewhere on this page, Vodafone has still not publically announced it’s 4G national coverage levels as a proportion of population. If they’re behind Optus and Telstra and and going slower, they obviously don’t intend to compete with either of them, in the short term, in the bush.

Optus on the other hand appear more than willing to compete with Telstra on network. Optus have said that they’re going to match Telstra for coverage before. This bidding profile suggests that they’re actively investing to do it now.

Network coverage is about balance. Telstra cover more than 1m square miles more than Optus for a 0.5% of population coverage increase. That footprint does, of course, cover travelers and people who temporarily find themselves in the bigger footprint area. From what we’ve seen in this, the latest round of bidding, it appears that Optus has the right balance bidding for this extra capacity outside cities. And it looks like Vodafone will only be focused on metro coverage for the foreseeable future.