Best Mobile Coverage In Australia
At WhatPhone, we believe in transparency across every aspect of your mobile phone purchase. One of the key things that WhatPhone visitors need to know when they are considering what mobile phone to buy is what phone company has the best coverage ? As such, we update the blog regularly with changes to the lay of the land in Australian Telecommunications Services. This article was last updated September 2013.
There are a variety of credible ( independent ) information sources available to establish the best phone coverage in Australia. We try to reference as many as possible here to assist your decision.
JD Powers is an American research company which conducts an annual report in to the quality of Australian phone networks. Here is ( in my view ) the most important quote from the 2013 JD Powers report in to Australian Network Coverage. The JD Powers analysis studied 1900 Australians in February / March 2013 and covered the 3 critical areas of national phone usage. Their aim was to determine What phone company has the best coverage: Calls, Messaging and Data.
Translated in to terms that people who don’t work in the phone industry, that means Telstra’s network is best. But the gap between Telstra and Vodafone is not nearly as big as people think it is.
Top Selling Phones
Phone Company Network Coverage Trade Offs
Australian phone buyers have to make trade offs. They have to decide what the best combination is for them of price / network / service. In fact, arguably the most important part of your phone purchase decisions is the trade off between price and network performance / speed / quality of the connection you get.
So, the answer as to which Phone company has the best phone coverage in 2013 is simple and unsurprising : Telstra. However, if you read below, you’ll see it’s not as simple as that ! In fact, even the Telstra Chief Financial officer acknowledged the alternatives that people face in Australia ! In September 2013, he spoke of the improvements Vodafone were making in their network and his certainty that their improvements would continue.
Within the 2012 JD Powers groupings of Australian usage, on average across the networks :
- Call problems ( including issues like dropped calls, calls which were not connected, audio problems and lost calls ) happened to about 20% of people.
- Messaging problems ( like lost or late SMSs ) happened to about 5%.
And the biggest problem set
- Data problems ( mostly slow network access speeds ) – affected 22% of people.
Over all of the categories however, only 10% of Telstra customers had a problem with any of their service components. Virgin Mobile’s overall statistic indicated that 13% of customers faced issues. Since Virgin uses the Optus network, it’s probably fair to assume that Optus had the same type of performance quality. Vodafone had 21 complaints per 100 although the network claimed that the report was done before recent improvements to their network had been implemented. As a result, the margin is thin and the results should reassure you about wanting to buy.
- Out of 100 customers, 87% on the Optus / Virgin network won’t have a network problem.
- 90% of Telstra customers won’t have a problem.
- 79% of Vodafone customers won’t have a problem.
Network Coverage Complaint Levels
We would also recommend considering the number of complaints to the most recent TIO ( The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. ) The TIO has a report which painted a similar picture. Complaints about all the telcos were nearly identical in proportion to their market share. Basically, people liked and disliked Vodafone, Optus and Telstra about the same. None stood out as particularly good or bad at what they do.
There Is Slim Real Difference In Australian Coverage Levels
What phone company has the best coverage ? Telstra. But. We’re left with a slim performance benefit in going to that company. Although it must be acknowledged that Telstra are consistently strong on their network. However, in the opinion of Whatphone, perhaps the perception of the network gap between Telstra and the other operators is not quite as big as we all believe.
Telstra Have The Best Network Coverage In Australia
Telstra are ahead in their network performance and are spending more on improving it. The AFR report that Telstra is spending ‘unprecedented amounts’ on improving it. Their investments are paying off. Since mid 2011, they have grown the number of customers on their network by 455,000.
Telstra’s 4G Coverage
Cleverly Telstra have kept their 4G network to themselves. They sell 3G services ( often constrained to a sub set of their network ) to providers including Boost but save their 4G network for their own customers. This enables them to charge a premium for it.
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 Australians, that means 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 is to cover 85% by the end of the 2013 calendar year.
The question for those considering Telstra is – is it worth it ? They are more expensive than alternative Australian phone companies. Some say they’re a lot more expensive. If you live in a metro ( city ) area, it’s likely to have a choice of good coverage options from Optus, Virgin Mobile and these days Vodafone.
Optus and Virgin Mobile Network Coverage
Optus and Virgin Mobile use the same mobile network. Virgin Mobile is part of the Optus company. Unfortunately, not everyone realises this – which is why Virgin Mobile perform better on some network reviews with customers !
Optus too has spent $2 billion dollars growing its network in 2013 and is offering new Technology, available since its purchase of Vivid Wireless which will further improve 4G speeds.
What About Vodafone ?
If Telstra is the best, Vodafone, recently and famously, have become known as the worst. The good thing is they know it and they’re working on the problem. Bill Morrow, the 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. They’re treating every lost customer as the loss of a lover.
It’s a slightly over the top approach but it has a basis in reality. 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 40%.
And it seems to be working. 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.
Checking Coverage Where You Live And Work
There is nothing less useful than knowing the phone company you’re considering using has coverage over 98% of the country. What people care about is whether they will have coverage where they live, work and while they commute. You can determine coverage in the areas most important to you, using these coverage checking tools.
- Vodafone Network Coverage Checking Tool
- Virgin Mobile Network Coverage Checking Tool
- Optus Network Coverage Checking Tool
- Telstra Mobile Network Coverage Checking Tool
Telstra’s & Optus – 4G Network Speeds – Next
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.
However, Telstra and Optus are working on squeezing more out of their 4G networks. Telstra managed 150 Mbps in September 2013 using LTE-A. Optus are likely to be first to market with their souped up 4G technology of TDD which they intend to launch late in 2013 in Canberra.
What Phone Company Has The Best Coverage – Summary
At Whatphone, we encourage our visitors to consider the compromise between network quality and price carefully. Telstra usually costs more for the contract you sign up to. Sometimes they cost a lot more. The decision on which is more important ( cost or a small network quality improvement ) is a very personal. If Whatphone can contribute to you feeling good about your decision by telling you the best deals across the operators for the mobile you’re interested in, we’re only too happy to do that.
What Phone Company Has The Best Coverage – Infographic
To make the trade offs between Network Quality, as easy as possible, WhatPhone has produced a simple summary. To see all the latest network, customer satisfaction and customer service quality information on each of the Australian Phone Companies, check out our infographic summary. Just click on the image below and you will be taken to it.
Australian Phone Company Reviews
- Network decision may be the most important aspect of the decision. There is, of course, more to choosing a phone company than the network component. WhatPhone has reviewed each of the major Australian Phone companies. You can access the reviews by clicking the links below.
- Each review covers the latest, up to date price plans for the phone company. They also detail other considerations including freebies the networks provide to their customers, data charges and ways to minimise your monthly spend.
- Telstra Mobile Review
- Vodafone Mobile review
- Optus Mobile Review
- Virgin Mobile Review
- AmaySIM Review
Australian Phone Company Comparison Reviews
- If you’re considering two phone companies, you might like to check out WhatPhone’s comparison reviews. These WhatPhone resources compare the phone companies on every axis : Plan inclusions, additional extras offered by the phone company etc.
- All Networks Compared In One Place
- Telstra Or Vodafone
- Telstra Or Optus
- Telstra Or Virgin Mobile
- Vodafone Or Optus
- Vodafone Or Virgin Mobile
- Optus Or Virgin Mobile