Boost Mobile versus Vaya: Which is best for you?

Boost Mobile and Vaya are two of the smaller phone companies (also known as mobile virtual network operators) competing for the custom of Australian mobile phone owners.

Boost Mobile and Vaya service bundles both include:

  • Monthly SIM-Only phone contracts
  • Unlimited SMS, and a certain number of free minutes within Australia
  • An online data allowance
  • Various bonuses

However, although they work within a similar framework the details of their offerings vary, and these fine details can make all the difference.

The following comparison of Boost Mobile and Vaya provides key facts that distinguish their offerings, and help you decide which of them suits you the best.

Can I Keep my Phone Number if I Move to Boost Mobile or Vaya?

Phone users are reluctant to change a number familiar to friends and contacts. One of the most common questions asked is how easily can you transfer a phone number between companies. In telecom jargon transferring a phone number is called “porting”.

Both Boost Mobile and Vaya allow you to port your mobile number.

Boost Mobile say you can easily port your mobile number if:

  • You activate your Boost Mobile SIM card via chat or their phone line, but NOT if you activate it via their website.
  • Your mobile phone is unlocked.
  • The mobile is 850MHz compatible.

Vaya say that all you need to do to port a number is order a SIM card from them, and let them know (via their website) that you want to port your mobile number. From this point on they take over. As soon as your Vaya service starts, your ported number becomes a Vaya number. It could not be simpler.

Which network does Boost Mobile/Vaya Use?

Boost Mobile operates over Telstra’s 3G mobile network. Telstra has the highest coverage rating in Australia with 99.3% of the population able to use their service. One of the big advantages of working with Telstra is their excellent coverage in rural areas. However, the absence of the faster speeds provided by 4G might discourage some 4G mobile owners from getting a Boost Mobile plan.

Vaya operates over the Optus 3G and 4G mobile network. Optus 3G covers 98.5% of Australia while their 4G service has reached 86% coverage. For users with 4G phones this gives them an advantage over Boost Mobile service speeds, but for the vast majority of mobile users this difference is not going to be so noticeable.

What is 3G data? What is 4G data? What’s the difference?

3G is an abbreviation for third generation mobile phone technology. Over the last thirty years mobile phones have gone through four generations, and a fifth generation is currently being developed.

3G phones offer:

  • Quality voice and text messaging services.
  • Online data transfer at download speeds of around 4Mbps.
  • Easy access to online data while on the move.

3G mobile phones started to come into general use in the early years of this century. Their success has raised user expectations and this in turn has encouraged the phone companies to make additional technological improvements.

Beginning in 2012, Vodafone and Optus introduced 4G (fourth generation mobile phone) services to Australia. 4G phones are approximately six times faster than 3G phones. The speed difference is particularly noticeable when you stream heavy video files. Nevertheless, many mobile users find their 3G mobiles meet their needs well enough, and there are also still some areas of the country where 4G service is not available.

Which is better value, Boost Mobile or Vaya?

Let’s compare a few of the plans available at Boost Mobile and Vaya and draw our conclusions. We will start with the cheapest deals.

For $16 a month the Vaya Power plan V3 gives you:

  • $300 of calls (any unused credit is forfeited at the end of the month).
  • 300MB data
  • 3G+4G network service
  • Free SIM card delivery.

Compare this with Boost Mobile’s Boost $20 ULTRA plan:

  • 100 free call minutes plus unlimited SMS
  • 1 GB data
  • 3G / 4G network service
  • An extra 500MB data each Sunday of the month.

While Vaya’s plan offers you more phone minutes, Boost Mobile is more generous in its online data allowance. If you do a fair amount of browsing and downloading it could work out more economical. It is worth noting that Vaya charges 4c per MB for data and they bill you per KB.

Boost Mobile also has an advantage if we consider more expensive unlimited monthly plans.

For $44 a month the Vaya Power plan V3 gives you:

  • Unlimited standard calls and SMS in Oz
  • 3GB data
  • 3G+4G network service
  • Free SIM card delivery.

Compare this with Boost Mobile’s Boost Unltd $40 plan:

  • Unlimited standard calls and SMS in Oz
  • 3GB data
  • 3G / 4G network service
  • An extra 2GB data each Sunday of the month.

Boost Mobile has a clear advantage in terms of price differential and their generosity with online data.

Another factor to consider is customer service. A reading of online forum comments suggests that Boost Mobile customer care is superior to Vaya’s.

What is an MVNO?

Whenever you read about mobile phone companies you are likely to come across the term “MVNO.” When you learn that these letters stand for “mobile virtual network operator”, it is easy to understand why this long expression is often abbreviated! Admittedly, it probably sounds like some very complex and highly technical-commercial jargon, but don’t be put off — behind the MVNO concept lies a very easy to understand business arrangement.

In Australia three large companies, Vodafone, Telstra and Optus own and manage the mobile phone networks. There are also quite a few smaller companies who don’t have their own networks but they lease access from one of the big three – these smaller companies are MVNOs. Because they operate over other companies’ networks they are described as “virtual network operators.”

Because the MVNOs buy network access in bulk they receive very favourable prices from the network owners. Since they are free from network infrastructure development and maintenance expenses, they also benefit from lower operating costs. This business structure enables them to pass on major discounts to customers through SIM-Only phone plans. The fact that their names are not as familiar to the public as the main phone companies is another reason why MVNOs use attractive price differentials to attract custom.

Do I Only Benefit from Working with a MVNO?

For the most part the answer has to be “yes.” You benefit from:

  • Lower prices with SIM-Only Deals
  • Coverage levels comparable to those you get from the network owner.
  • Freedom from the limitations of one or two year contracts.

Rumours that the big three companies assign lower priorities to network traffic generated through MVNOs are unfounded. The networks handle traffic equally without paying any regard to where the access was purchased.

Some might be concerned that MVNOs have lower quality customer service levels than the larger companies. Certainly customers of the smaller companies are not invariably impressed with the service they receive, but there are also small companies who win awards for customer service. It is impossible to generalize when accessing customer care levels, but once again, if a small company’s customer service is below par you can easily take your business elsewhere.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.