Telecommunications in recent times has become a significant expense in a household budget. If we go back just a few decades, before mobile phones and the internet, a typical family had a home phone line to fulfill their telecommunication needs – and that was it!
Today, the conventional landline phone has almost become redundant. Mobile is king, and consumers have a wide variety of communication service providers and options to satisfy the markets growing and ever-changing appetite for connectivity. The mobile phone has evolved from a telephone to a portable, pocket-sized computer, allowing us to be connected wherever we roam, 24/7. Furthermore, many of us have unlimited mobile phone plans, making home internet plans for many both expensive and unnecessary.
Mobile devices are now more commonly used for internet usage than computers. Source
To ensure you are making the most of mobile phone technology, while not overspending on telecommunications overall, you need to ask yourself a few questions and conduct regular audits on your telecommunication requirements. Once you have a clear idea of your specific requirements, you can seek the most suitable offerings from the wide range of Telcos, to service your needs both when you are mobile and at home.
Read on to discover some of the most fundamental factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing a mobile internet plan for your phone and laptop and home.
What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a mobile internet plan for your phone?
How many call you make per month?
Before choosing a plan, it is essential to estimate how much you are likely to use your mobile phone for phone calls, texts, and data.
To estimate roughly how many calls you are likely to make, and how many messages you are likely to send, you will need to take a look at your previous phone bills. If you take an average of the last few months, it will be likely that you have a fair indication of what your call usage is and what it will continue to be, providing your circumstances remain the same.
How much data do you use?
Data usage can vary significantly for many people from month to month. You may want to take a look back over a more extended period from past billings, to better assess your likely average usage. Looking back over perhaps 6-12 months of data usage will help identify spikes that you will want to allow for in a new plan. If you have a spike in data usage one month, and your plan does not allow for the extra data, Telcos can charge exorbitant fees. It will cost much less for data when it is included in your monthly data allowance, as opposed to paying premium rates for using excess amounts not included in your mobile internet plan.
There are efficient ways to monitor your data usage for a mobile phone, using online data usage calculators and mobile apps. We have written extensively about this topic in the past, other examples are here, here and here.
Do you have a home internet package that you can use when you are at home?
Perhaps you work from home or for another reason, you have a need to maintain a home internet plan with ample data. In this case, you may not need a large data allowance for your mobile phone. That is, of course, you use a significant portion of your mobile data when at home.
Many home broadband plans today offer unlimited data, so if you spend a lot of time at home and a significant portion of your data usage from your mobile device is when you are at home, then you do not require a mobile data plan with a large data allowance. Using data that you are paying for that is included in your home broadband plan, may allow you to save significantly on your mobile data plan.
What is Smartphone Tethering & Does it Make Sense For Me?
Tethering is a process whereby you attach your phone to a laptop and use it as a modem. This allows you to use your laptop either on the road or at home, and use the data included in your mobile phone plan.
As long as you have a mobile phone that was purchased within the last 5 years or so, and has a WiFi facility and a mobile data connection to a wireless network – has a SIM with data from a Telco like Telstra, Optus, etc – you will be able to tether.
Tethering can save you a lot of money by eliminating the need for an extra service such as mobile broadband or even home internet – if you only use your laptop at home sparingly.
Network coverage where you live, work or travel
Coverage is a fundamental factor to consider before you sign up for a mobile phone plan, and can often be overlooked. It is essential that you understand each potential service providers strengths and weaknesses in regards to coverage in your specific area. This should include where you live, work and also where you frequently travel to or are likely to visit in the future. Without coverage, your phone is relatively useless, so I’m sure you can appreciate how important the issue of coverage really is.
Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone are the top three mobile network service providers in Australia. The remaining service providers lease service from either one of these top three providers. The smaller Telcos are known as MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).
If you are looking for the best mobile phone coverage in Australia, you will be pleased to know that you can still get great coverage using one of the smaller network providers. After all, they are using exactly the same network as the big three, the only difference is that you can save money. However, it does pay to do a bit of research and take a look at each providers coverage maps before making a commitment.
The Impact of 5G
With 5G coverage set to explode over the next couple of years, researching network coverage is even more critical, to ensure you can take advantage of the next generation of mobile network communication. While 5G is already here in a minimal capacity, it will be a few years before it becomes the dominant force it is expected to be.
Obviously, before signing up to a new phone plan, you need to ask yourself what your budget is. Telecommunications can be a significant expense for many people, so you need to be honest firstly with what your needs are and secondly, how much you are comfortable paying for it.
SIM only plans will always be the most economical road to take. If you already have a phone, then there are a number of budget plans available to you that won’t break the bank.
Do you need a new handset?
Even if you need a new handset, you can still save money signing up for a SIM only plan after buying a new phone outright. However, many consumers opt to sign a 24-month contract because it allows them to take a new phone home without any upfront costs. Smartphones nowadays are expensive. A new iPhone is close to $2,000.00. For this reason, many customers do not consider how much money they can save by looking at other options.
Pre-Paid Vs. Post Paid – What are the advantages & disadvantages?
Firstly, let’s take a quick look at it means by Pre-Paid and Post-paid plans.
A Pre-Paid mobile phone plan is where you pay the network provider a set amount upfront per month, which converts into phone credit for you to use on calls, texts, and data.
A Post-Paid mobile plan allows the customer to pay a set amount at the end of each month, for all calls, texts, and data that has been used within the billing period. Contracts can be up to 36 months or month to month, depending on the plan. Most of the more extended contracted plans will provide a new handset as an incentive for consumers to sign lock-in contracts.
Advantages of Pre-Paid
- Many prepaid plans today offer unlimited talk and text, making data the only point of difference between each plan.
- Pre-paid is excellent for those who are on a budget, or those just wanting to avoid being stung with a big unexpected bill.
- Can provide much better value by reducing your overall monthly mobile phone expenditure
Disadvantage of Pre-Paid
- Pre-Paid plans do not come with a new phone
- Can run of credit at any time, meaning you will need to manually renew in order to continue to enjoy your phone service
Advantages of Post-Paid
- Post-paid plans allow you to call, text or go online without the risk of running of out of credit.
- Auto-renew each month, so you don’t have to worry about topping up your account
- Some plans provide a handset
Disadvantage of Post-Paid
- Generally higher monthly commitments
- Risk of excess data charges that can be particularly expensive
- Risk of incurring a cancellation fee if you want to cancel the contract early, perhaps preventing an easy exit to take up a better deal if one happens to come along
Take Away Message in a Nutshell – Take a Holistic View of Telecommunications
Before signing up for a new mobile phone plan, it is a good idea to review all of your telecommunication requirements holistically. As the trend continues and more and more people are using their phones to go online than ever before, perhaps you can look at your home internet usage and choose plans that can work synergistically and save you money on data usage.
Another option, if your home internet usage via a laptop or computer is limited, or you need a mobile broadband plan because you use a laptop on the road, thanks to smartphone tethering, you could use your phone as a modem, allowing you to do away with your home internet or mobile broadband plans altogether.
There are plenty of options in this space, often the array of choices can lead to confusion. But, if you are willing to do a little bit of research, there are several opportunities to save a lot of money on telecommunications.
Do I really need a separate home internet service or can I just use my mobile phone data plan?
This is a difficult question to answer definitively, and as discussed in the article, it will depend on your usage habits. If you work from home or for any other reason, you have a need to be on a laptop or computer at home for a significant amount of time, then yes a home internet broadband plan may offer a considerable advantage to warrant signing up for an additional service.
However, if you are like many people these days – and a growing percentage of people, and you regularly use your phone to browse the internet, even when you are at home, and only use a computer, laptop or tablet occasionally, then perhaps it would be feasible to maintain just one telecommunication and data service plan. Just ensure you have ample data to accommodate your requirements, and you can potentially save a lot of money.
Why is Tethering so good?
Simply put, because you can add-on extra data to your standard mobile service plan and get fast mobile broadband at a low price. That is because you’re already paying for a mobile phone plan, the extra data is considered a “bolt-on” – an add-on service that is added to the core offering. Further, it gives you access to the 3G, 4G LTE networks, and better yet, soon you could even experience the next generation, ultra-fast 5G as this latest technology rolls out across Australia.
The alternative is to sign up for an additional and separate service. Telcos call a similar service provided by tethering as Wireless or Mobile Broadband. An extra piece of hardware which acts as a modem is required with these plans, which can cost a lot of money to purchase.
Are there any disadvantages to Tethering over mobile broadband?
1. Firstly, you need a modern smartphone. For example, with Apple, you can only tether on iPhones which are IOS version 4.0 or later. Most people today have a capable smartphone, but there is still a small minority that will have to update their phone, to be able to take advantage of this option.
2. If you are on a lower end plan, for example, anything under $20, you will most likely have a small data allowance. While it will still be possible to tether your laptop, you will be almost sure to exceed your data limit.
3. Since tethering utilizes your phone’s connection, it puts a strain on the phone battery.
4. Tethering can be slightly slower than taking a separate modem instead.
5. While your phone is tethered to your laptop or another device, you may be prevented from using specific phone functionalities, until you disconnect.
However, when you are on the road, whether it is an impromptu or urgent connection you need, providing you are not downloading large amounts of data like videos, etc, tethering is the smartest way to get mobile data to your laptop.
There are plenty of phone plans offering unlimited data these days, so there are heaps of options available to you to avoid bill shock – this is especially important if you start tethering.
What are better pre-paid or post-paid plans?
Consumers have historically held a view that post-paid phone plans offered better value than prepaid, but this perception may not be accurate.
Prepaid plans today have come a long way from their early incarnation. Data allowance has vastly been increased, as have the talk and text caps, resulting in a neck-and-neck race between the basic 2 types of phone plans in Australia.
Generally speaking, post-paid can potentially offer consumers more data and other inclusions when they commit to a lock-in contract. However, many prepaid plans now provide tremendous value and include flexibility as their biggest drawcard.
Today, more than ever before, the lines of the value proposition are blurred between the pre-paid and post-paid mobile plan options. If you don’t want to run the risk of being charged more than your allocated budget for telecommunications, then pre-paid may be for you. However, if you prefer having an endless supply of calls, texts, and data, without the risk of running out, then post-paid may be better suited. Perhaps your decision will come down to whatever type of plan provides the best value for money.
Is 5G going to replace NBN?
5G is set to deliver download speeds not yet seen in Australia, including with the existing National Broadband Network (NBN). However, it is important to note that while the reported speeds and capabilities of 5G have been discussed, the network is still a work in progress. If it does eventually replace NBN, it will not be for some years, and that is if it does at all – the jury is still out!
Will 5G be more expensive than 3G & 4G?
Data is getting significantly less expensive year after year. A good thing with 5G just around the corner, considering the dramatic increase in data consumption that 5G is expected to trigger. Initially, while the network is being built, and it is still in its infancy, it would be reasonable to expect people will have to pay a premium for the superior service of 5G. But, as the network grows and more consumers and competition enters the market, we can expect pricing to level out.