Optus Australia – Everything you need to know
This Optus Mobile Review gives you an independent review of the Optus network and the SIM Only (postpaid) plans they have in market. It overviews Optus coverage (including 4G / LTE) and provides information on the unique features of what they offer. Finally, we’ve included some ‘Top Tips’, designed to make purchasing and using your phone / SIM Only SIM as safe as possible.
million customers and just over 22.3%
market share Optus is a big player in the Australian market. They are spending big on their 4G network right now and offer 95.9% of the Australian population
4G population coverage of the population. This makes them a safe bet as your chosen mobile network provider.
Optus has been famous in Australia for the last 20 years for offering much needed competition against Telstra, the original Australian monopoly telco. Optus began as a satellite communications entity back in 1981 and has since grown to be an $8 bn business employing 9,000 people in Australia. Following years of challenge in the Australian Telco market, Optus recently refocused it’s strategy on it’s core mobile and fixed products, brand and customer service.
In 2016, they refocused again, adding content to their offering – streamed music for everyone and EPL ( English Premier League ) games for those who are prepared to pay. It seems these content / entertainment inclusions on top of the core phone plans they used to offer are going to be an increasingly large part of how Optus sell SIMs in Australia.
Other relevant resources:
- EPL articles:
The EPL is a huge part of Optus’ SIM Only plan offering. You’ll have to pay more to get it. This article provides the details of Optus’ huge decision and tells you how the details of the pricing will work. We have a quick summary below on this page.
- Streamed audio:
Internet radio uses more data than you might think. We explain in this article what streamed audio is, which phone companies other than Optus offer it and how it can benefit you. We have a quick summary below, on this page.
- Comparing Optus and Telstra’s content offering:
Optus isn’t alone in providing entertainment / content in their plans. In this article, we compare Telstra and Optus’ plan inclusions.
- Optus prepaid / Optus recharge articles:
This article relates to SIM Only plans (Postpaid) If you want to see Optus’ prepaid plans or Optus recharge then we have dedicated pages.
Optus’ SIM Only Plans – Feature comparison with every other phone company
Optus have one of the best Product Management teams in the business. They study overseas developments and best practice (big company talk for copying good ideas they see in other markets). They add a small amount of local ingenuity. Optus launch some good Products. They have noticed the trend to SIM Only plans and have nailed their range. Their suite of plans is simple, it’s 4G, it’s well articulated and it has far more competitive rates than you’d think, even from the challenger in Australia.
The key to understanding what’s changed in Optus’ portfolio is this diagram. Until a year ago, most of the phone companies had about the same plans in marker, including Optus. Now, Optus has led a series of announcements about the extra value they will be offering their customers in addition to the core voice and data inclusions they’re used to.
At the bottom of the pile are the MVNOs or smaller phone companies . They offer the core of what a phone company needs to. Voice, SMS and data inclusions in a SIM / plan. That, to us is the core of this discussion. Optus have great value adds. The question is, do you need them ? We will return to this theme throughout this article.
Optus’ network coverage
Although people love to hate their telcos, Optus has some of the best customer service in Australia. They’ve been out spent on network and marketing for years by Telstra and the result is that people have an inaccurate view of the quality of the Optus network. In metro areas, independent research say that Optus’ network is on a par with Telstra.
One measure of the quality of Optus customer service is the number of complaints received by the TIO. Each year, the TIO release a report which details the number of complaints that have been put in place about each telco. The TIO is the body people complain to when they’ve tried everything else.
Last year, there were 6.7 per 10,000 in October ’15
. A year later, the TIO received 7.2 per 10,000 in October ’16
In the same periods, Telstra 5.5 per 10,000 in October ’15
. And 12 months after that 6.0 per 10,000 in October ’16
Vodafone 4.1 per 10,000 in October ’15
. And a year later 6.2 per 10,000 in October 16
Optus Mobile Network Investments
- Optus spends approximately $1.9 bn each year at the moment on network improvements.
- Telstra are spending $2bn to $3bn each year.
- Vodafone is spending $1 billion on improving their wireless network, focusing mostly on metro area improvements.
Optus and Vodafone have been considering how to use their money smarter, however. They have been considering the network investment statistics above. They’ve realized what we all have. They’re behind Telstra in both real and perceived Network Coverage. They also know that it’ll cost a lot to catch up. As a result, Vodafone and Optus have recently announced a network sharing agreement. In some areas, where Optus has good coverage but Vodafone doesn’t (or the other way around ) they will share wireless network coverage and improve their performance relative to Telstra. They’re also lobbying the government to share Telstra’s network out in the bush.
Coverage is such a key part of people’s purchasing decisions that we have a separate, detailed article on the subject.
Optus Mobile 4G Review
Optus and Telstra are some of the first networks anywhere in the world to roll out 4G (sometimes known as LTE) network speeds. If you’ve bought a high end mobile phone under contract since the end of 2012, it’s probably 4G / LTE enabled.
Optus were slower with their initial rolling out of 4G services than Telstra. They currently cover almost 90% of the Australian population with a 4G signal. Their 4G services are used by 4.45 million people.
Telstra cover 96% of the Australian population of Australia with a 4G signal. That’s 7.7 million customers.
Vodafone’s 4G statistics are relatively low. Vodafone have not released a statistic concerning the proportion of Australia’s population that they cover. We do know, however, that Vodafone cover 7.7 million customers.
Finally, most people have a wireless router for their fixed internet connection these days. It only takes a minute to fish out that long wireless router password and attach your mobile to it. Then, when you get home, your mobile will ‘find’ the wireless broadband network and attach itself to it. This can significantly reduce the amount of data you use on the Optus wireless network and reduce the risk of expensive, excessive data.
Quick summary of Optus’ main plan features
|Automatically add extra data when your monthly allowance is finished.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Share data over multiple devices||Yes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.||Yes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.||Yes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.|
|Overseas Roaming At Daily Charge||Yes. 'Travel Pass' is available if bought up front in multi-day pack. Small daily data allowance around 75MB.||Yes. Optus 'Travel Pack' zoned system, typically $10 a day auto enabled. Gives you 50 MB of data.||Yes. Vodafone's scheme covers a broader range of countries at a lower daily fee of $5 per day. It too is auto activated.|
|Simple 'Yes' Insurance||Telstra's 'Premium Care Insurance' very similar to Optus'.||Yes. $14 per month. Reasonable terms.||Vodafone's scheme is similar to Optus'. 2 options - $10 / $15 per month.|
|Good Self Service App||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Free Video Content Access (SVOD)||No||EPL charged extra unless very high spend plans. Data is zero rated.||Free Stan subscription on some plans. Note - user pays for data used to watch the show.|
|Free Music Content Access||Yes. Free Apple Music. Includes subscription to Apple Music. Data is zero rated.||Yes. Multiple music services with data free through app.||Free Spotify access. Note - cost of data is passed on to use. (Is NOT zero rated.)|
|Free First Month's Data||25GB free of charge to users in the first month||No.||Data workout' us unmetered (uncharged) usage for the first 2 months.|
|Network Guarantee||Not marketed but does exist.||Yes.||Yes.|
|New Phone Feeling||Yes. Pay $180 per to upgrade upgrade your phone after 12 months.||No.||No.|
|Free WiFi when out and about||Yes. Telstra 'Air' free wifi at 650k locations in Oz.||No.||No.|
|Loyalty Rewards Scheme||Telstra Thanks! Cheap movie tickets. First refusal of event tickets.||Cheap movie tickets. First refusal of event tickets. Air BnB tie in.||No|
|Adult content filter protection?Scheme||Telstra Mobile Protect. Set up through My Account.||None||None|
|Voice over WiFi app ?||Yes. App requires Telstra home phone rental. Minutes charged against home phone bill.||Yes. Best of the lot.||No.|
Sign up to any Optus plan and you will be offered free audio streaming from a number of internet radio services. You’ve probably heard the names before : Spotify, Pandors, Google Play Music and IHeartRadio. To be clear, Optus will offer you free data to stream (at up to 512 kbps) content from these providers over the air to your phone. You will have to have (or sign up to) the service yourself.
We have more on this significant plan structure change including comparisons with Telstra and Optus here.
Data Auto Addition:
Optus were the first to launch this plan feature and it’s dead set genius. If you reach the data limit of your plan, you’ll automatically get another 1GB of data added for a $10 charge. Vodafone and Telstra have, subsequent to Optus’ launch, implemented an almost identical scheme.
Remember, the alternative to this is that you (used to) get charged an out of bundle fee – and that can be extremely expensive. It was this charging mechanism that led to the bill shock that plagued telco for years.
You’ve got to manage Optu’s scheme well. If they add another 1GB of data and you only needed 1.5GB that month well, you’ve paid for and wasted half a GB. To most, however, the risk of a huge bill is more off-putting than the addition of a reasonable charge for the extra half GB, whether or not you use it all.
Data Sharing ( e.g. Between a Tablet + a Phone ):
Like Telstra, Optus will sell you this service and allow you to share data between your phone and other devices. In principal, it’s useful. Strategically, as people add more and more internet connected products to their accounts, it’s obviously worth having. This feature will become more important over time.
Daily charges for overseas roaming:
The customer problem Optus set out to address with this is that overseas roaming was a nightmare for customers and phone companies alike. The minute a phone connected to a network when you were overseas, some amount of data was transacted between the phone and the network and everything went to pot.
Roaming data was so prohibitively expensive when you were buying it (on an Australian phone overseas) that people ended up with huge bills. Some phone bills were so large they got in to the press.
People were slugged with thousands of dollars worth of overseas data fees. They ended up hating the phone companies which put them in the situation. It all led to people either not taking their phone on holiday with them or turning the network connection off when they did. And that wasn’t good for telco revenues either. The win / win was for the telcos to charge a reasonable amount for the use of the service.
Optus charges $10 per day for unlimited calls to anywhere in Australia. You’ll be charged every time you’re overseas with roaming enabled and when the phone connects.
Good Self Service App:
Optus’ Self Service App is very good indeed. This is their second iteration. The first was panned in the App stores. Bad reviews meant it was destroyed and Optus began again from the ground up. The new version looks great and works extremely well. Self Service apps like this are a critical component of the phone plan you buy these days. They help you use your data and manage your data charging far more effectively.
Optus have always had a network guarantee. They just didn’t always market it very well. However, you are covered by the most basic elements of Australia’s consumer law if you take a SIM Only plan out with Optus (and any other phone company for that matter) If you get your SIM home, stick it in your phone and you don’t get reasonable service where you live and work then you have every right to take it back to Optus and get your money back. That’s what they market as their 30 day guarantee.
Unlimited voice and SMS:
Competition in Australia is all about data inclusions these days. Both Optus and Vodafone have included free national calls and SMS in all of their price plans. Entry level pricing does start at a hefty $30 (we believe you can do much better than pay that much on our ‘cheap phone plans’ page.)
We have mixed feelings about data rollover. In principal, we think it’s a crock but in terms of practical application, we agree you’re no worse off for having it. It can be hard to determine the amount of data you need. If your response to that is the same as many other people’s (to buy more data than you need) then a data rollover feature is worth having.
Month to month and 12 month options
Unlike many smaller phone companies, Optus offers both a month to month and a 12 month SIM Only plan variants. The 12 month, in particular, is often used as the focus of some of their better special offers. The question of whether you take a 12 month contract or not is really a question of looking realistically at your behavior and determining whether you will bother checking the pricing more than once every 12 months. Comparing phone companies can be an arduous task. If the reality is that, whatever happens, you won’t find time to come to a comparison site like ours more than once a year, you may as well get the (small) price benefit of choosing a 12 month SIM Only agreement.
International Minute plan inclusions
On the $60 SIM Only plan and above, Optus have joined the throng (the number of phone companies) which have international minutes in their plans.
Like most phone companies, Optus has flim flamed (changed their mind a number of times) on the question of online offers. Phone companies want you to feel like you’re dealing with one brand, whether you go in to a retail store or buy online. They also want to stimulate lower cost sales by encouraging customers to buy their phone through digital stores. The result is that sometimes they offer better pricing online and sometimes they don’t. It depends on which ‘faction’ in internally is winning the argument at the time. For now, Optus regularly offers better online deals than you’ll find in retail. With next day SIM delivery, that means buying online is clearly the best thing to do.
What’s not so good
It’s actually pretty hard to fault Optus. Their plans are sophisticated and clearly offer extra value on top of the core services you would expect from a telco. They have thought about the whole customer journey, encouraging a great digital experience both to purchase and self servicing that will keep you online. They have a 30 day satisfaction guarantee. They’ve put paid to big data bills.
The only problem they have is their pricing and plan inclusions. Put simply, you can get more for your money elsewhere. There are a number of smaller phone companies which resell the Optus network and which offer either different content which might appeal ( see OVO Mobile’s plans ) or vanilla SIM / prepaid plans which don’t include all the extras but, as a result, are a good deal cheaper.
Optus’ and Football – their rights to the EPL – The English premier League
You can’t have missed it. Optus announced their successful bid for the Australian broadcasting rights to the UK A-league English premier League in late 2015. It threw the industry in to turmoil.
Subscribers to Optus’ SIM Only plans can now add the EPL for $15 per month. Non Optus customers will have to rely on the one free-to-air game each week, broadcast by the SBS.
Now, Optus is looking to shore up their football coverage with the A-League. This focus on content reveals Optus’ strategy: They are continuing to expand on their content offerings, in a bid to positively differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market.
By exclusively partnering with premier football codes, Optus subscribers can enjoy a wealth of on demand content. Since Optus secured the rights to the EPL last November, dedicated football fans can enjoy catching live at any time of their choosing.
The A-League coverage will feature comprehensive match coverage and exclusive benefits to Optus subscribers.
SIM Only plans are now the biggest part of the way phone companies deal with their customers. Optus’ SIM Only plans are highly competitive and include additional extras that may well entice you to use them. The list of features we covered above is just too long to recap here.
Data rollover, access to the English premier League and included streamed audio from Pandora, Spotify and the rest are likely to be the killer features in Optus’ plans for most. If any one of these features appeals to you, it’s likely Optus is the provider you want.
If, on the other hand, you just want the lowest price plan and voice / SMS / data inclusions, you still have some great options available to you.
- Virgin Mobile offer good value – sometimes better than Optus – and use exactly the same network as Optus do.
- OVO Mobile have incredible rates, use the same network Optus does and offer an incredible guarantee that, when they drop their pricing, they will pass it on to their entire existing customer base.
- Amaysim have consistently been one of the best value unlimited plan providers. They too use exactly the same network as Optus.
Whatever you decide, Optus for the value adds or the smaller phone companies for the value they offer, you’re never worse off for having a choice. Phone plan additions like streamed video and audio look like they are taking a while to catch on. If Optus isn’t right for you this time, by the time you come to renew your plan, these value adds might be such a part of the culture that you’ll be inspired to change.
See all SIM Only plans
If you need another network, for example you’re after an unlimited plan with Telstra coverage, or you live in a city and you’re happy with Vodafone, you might like to check our SIM Only Comparison page and compare all the plans ( including every one mentioned on this page. )
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