SIM Only (also known as BYO – Bring Your Own – Mobile) used to be the best kept secret in telco. Now SIM only plans are some of the best sellers in Australia’s Smartphone plans market and make up around 40% – 60 % of phone company business. If you’re looking for a great value deal on calls + data and you already have have your own device, well read on. You’ve hit the jackpot.>
60 Second Intro to SIM Only Plans
- SIM Only plans are an easy, flexible way to save money on your phone tariff.
- They’re such a sensible choice and represent such good value that they are taking over.
- Today, the majority ( around 60% ) of people have a SIM Only plan from their phone company.
- SIM Only plans provide access to the phone company’s network services.
- Network services are the data, voice, SMS, international calls and other phone company services you need to use your phone.
- There are different types of SIM Only plan : Prepaid, Postpaid, and PAYG. We explain each of these terms below.
- SIM Only plans rarely have contracts. They are extremely flexible agreements.
- You can usually change the plan you’re on at the end of each month.
- Or, you can move to a new phone company whenever you want to.
- Even if you’re buying a brand new phone yourself and adding a SIM to it, you can save a lot of money.
- We often suggest SIM Only plans from smaller phone companies ( also known as MVNOs ) because they’re so much better value.
- There are some changes coming in Australia which are likely to make SIM Only ( and eSIMs ) an even bigger part of the market.
The basics of SIM Only plans
If you hit any snags in doing setting your phone up with a SIM Only plan, don’t worry, your SIM Only agreement entitles you to call the phone company’s support team.
SIM Only plans are often the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get a phone service from a phone company. There are some basic questions that come up about SIM Only plans all the time. Almost everyone thinking of buying a SIM Only plan asks the same things. We have tried to answer them here.
- What do SIM Only plans give me ? :
This sort of plan offers you a connection for whatever device you have to the phone company network. Importantly, you get access to the network without buying the phone itself from the phone company. Access to the phone company network gives you the use of voice, text, data, international calling and any other ‘network services’ you need.
- So where does the phone come from then ?
To use a SIM Only deal, you’re going to need to already have a phone. Pretty much any phone you have will be fine. If you have been given a phone by a family member, bought one on eBay or took it out of a cupboard, that’s fine. SIM Only will provide you with what you need.
- How do SIM Only plans work ? :
Put the new SIM in your existing phone and you’re done. There are sometimes a few small configuration issues to take care of. For example – setting up a data ‘APN’ on the new network you’ve joined. If you hit any snags in doing setting your phone up with a SIM Only plan, don’t worry. Your SIM Only agreement entitles you to call the phone company’s support team, just as if you’d bought the phone from them.
- Do I need to unlock my phone :
If you bought your phone ( the one you’re trying to put this new SIM in to ) under a contract from one of the phone companies, you might have to give them a call to unlock it. We explain more about unlocking phones in this article.
- Can I keep my existing phone number ? :
Whether you’re buying your phone outright or taking a SIM Only deal – you can keep your existing phone number.
- Why are SIM Only plans called different things e.g SIM Only / BYO ? :
SIM only plans are also known as BYO mobile by some phone companies – mostly Virgin Mobile. It’s crazy in our view. There is enough confusion in the market for phone services already. SIM Only and BYO are exactly the same thing.
- How long will it take to move phone companies ? Will I be without my phone number / phone service for long ?
No ! You won’t be without either your phone number or phone service for long at all ! The major constraint to moving is porting your phone number which usually takes only 2 hours. The absolute most you’ll be without a service is 2 days. I move around a lot and the most I’ve been without service is 4 hours.
Different types of SIM Only plan
Within the SIM Only family, there is a lot of choice. There are many different types of SIM Only plan
Within the SIM Only family, there is a lot of choice. There are many different types of SIM Only plan. The most common are prepaid and postpaid SIM Only plans which are usually just called SIM Only plans. Less common are PAYG ( Pay As You Go ) plans and contract agreements.
Below, we have explained the differences between the different types of SIM Only plans that are available. If you’d like more detail, we have it here.
Prepaid SIM Only Plans :
Prepaid SIMs used to be the realm of the teenager. Now some of the best SIM Only pricing you’ll find is on a Prepaid Plan. I use one myself.
In prepaid agreements, the user has no more commitment than what they’ve spend on their initial SIM or a recharge. Customers pay at the start of the billing period with prepaid. You then use the network services within the entitlements of the plan, for a specified period. One example might be ‘Unlimited Calls and SMS in Australia for 30 days.’ When the time period for the plan and entitlements is up, you ‘recharge’ your service and start the time window once more.
|Who are Prepaid SIM Only plan right for ?||Prepaid SIM Only plans service a lot of people. They’re Australia’s biggest single type of SIM Only plan. Generally, since no credit card is required in order to get one of these plans, they tend to be used by younger people with no credit rating. However, because they offer such great value, anyone could use them.|
|What is a typical monthly cost of a SIM Only Plan ?||Spend levels of $30 or more per month.|
Note : If you’re looking to spend $30 per month, you will get better rates on a prepaid plan rather than a postpaid SIM Only plan from the 3 major Australian phone companies.
|Where can I find out more ?||You are welcome to click through to our dedicated prepaid plan page or to check out our ‘cheap SIM Only Plans’ where they feature prominently,|
|What do I need to be careful of ?||Prepaid plans can run out of ‘credit’ at inconvenient times. If you really need to be able to use your phone whenever you want, it can be inconvenient to realize that your existing plan has just ended and that you’ll need to recharge before you can talk, text or get on the internet again.|
Prepaid SIMs used to be the realm of the teenager. Now some of the best SIM Only pricing you’ll find is on a Prepaid Plan. I use one myself. Prepaid offers features that other plans don’t. One obvious one is that if you are not going to be using your phone for a while, you don’t have to recharge until you need it.
If you’re aiming to spend $30 or less, prepaid should be your first port of call. With the major phone companies, at the $30 price point, you’ll get better inclusions than if you took their postpaid equivalent.
There are providers out there who only offer prepaid plans. And their value is often incredible. For example, Lebara have unlimited plans with huge data inclusions. And Boost offer 4G access to the Telstra Mobile Network cheaper than anywhere else you’ll find on this site.
Postpaid SIM Only agreements ( also known as ‘SIM Only’ ) :
At the other end of the spectrum are postpaid SIM Only agreements. The name of these is mostly abbreviated to ‘SIM Only plans.’
The key difference between a SIM Only plan and a prepaid plan is that customers choosing a postpaid agreement pay at the end of the billing period with a SIM Only plan. Typically, that’s a month in arrears ( behind. ) In some ways, it’s a trivial distinction. Postpaid plans are seen as more responsible and grown up by some people. They tend to be entered in to by older people because a ( rudimentary ) credit check is required in order to get this type of plan.
|Who are SIM Only Plans right for ?||Postpaid SIM Only plans start to provide better value than prepaid plans at roughly $30. There are some Unlimited Plans from smaller phone companies or network resellers which are prepaid, cost up to $40 and are certainly worth a look.|
|What is a typical monthly cost of a SIM Only Plan ?||Spend levels of $30 or more per month.|
|Where can I find out more ?||You are on the SIM Only page.|
|What do I need to be careful of ?||We always advise people to have a clear view of their usage with any plan. It’s especially important with a postpaid plan. Postpaid means you pay after the event. That means you could be running up a large bill. If you hit your data allowance with some providers, they will charge you out of bundle rates. Overseas roaming can also be expensive. Overseas roaming is very expensive ! Use the app your phone company provides and check it every day or two. That way, there are no possible surprises.|
Contract SIM Only Plans :
Contract SIM Only Plans are rare these days. In Australia, only Telstra and Telechoice have 12 month contract options. There’s clearly a little more commitment involved with a contract. However, in exchange for your dedication, you’ll save some money. People usually save around $10 per month for signing a multiple month agreement.
Contract plans make sense for people who don’t have the time to check their options every month. It’s important to be realistic about what you’re going to have time to do. If you won’t have the time or inclination to check the competition regularly, maybe signing up to a contract and taking the price saving is the most sensible thing to do.
|Who are Contract SIM Only Plans right for ?||Contract SIM Only plans might be right for you if you like the providers that offer them, want better pricing than a month to month agreement and / or you won’t have time to regularly check competitor pricing for changes.|
|What is a typical monthly cost of a SIM Only Plan ?||Spend levels of $30 or more per month.|
|Where can I find out more ?||On our Telstra SIM Only Plan Review and ComparisonTelstra or Telechoice pages.|
|What do I need to be careful of ?||Be careful of your commitment. Things move fast when it comes to phone plans. Every week, it seems like competition in the market has caused a phone company to add more data to their plan inclusions. If you’re locked in to a contract, you might not be able to take advantage of it.|
PAYG plans – also known as ‘ Pay As You Go’ plans have a mixture of prepaid and postpaid features. They’re pretty rare in Australia. With this sort of plan, buy the SIM, add a PAYG plan to it at the point of activation and then charge – all as you would a prepaid service. However, from that point, money comes from your account as if you were a postpaid customer.
|Who are PAYG SIM Only Plans right for ?||PAYG plans make the most sense for people who spend $5 to $10 per month on making calls to other people. Remember though, with a PAYG SIM in your phone, you’ll still receive as many phone calls as you would with any other plan. If you’re the popular one and people call you all day, PAYG might just be right for you.|
|What is a typical monthly cost||We recommend PAYG plans to anyone who makes around a call a day and wants to spend less than $10 per month.|
|Where can I find out more ?||We have an article about Australia’s best PAYG plans.|
|What do I need to be careful of ?||If there’s one thing to be careful of with PAYG plans, it’s using data. Typical data rates on an Australian PAYG plan are 5c per MB. That doesn’t sound like a lot but average usage these days on a smart mobile phone like an iPhone is often over 1GB per month. That’s around 1000 MB or $50 per month just for the data in your plan ! Think ahead and be warned – if you have a smart mobile phone like a Galaxy S5 or an older phone on which you do a bunch of internet surfing, PAYG plans are almost certainly not right for you !|
Just as you’d expect, PAYG plans charge you each time you make a phone call. Rates of 7c per minute are typical. With the average call length being around 2 minutes, you’ll quickly see, if you do the maths, that once you’re making a couple or more calls each day, it makes more sense to invest in a plan with a cap value, whether it’s prepaid, postpaid or contract postpaid. However, if you only make one call a day, you’ll often get your PAYG bill in for less than $10 per month.
Payments are still made a month in arrears with a PAYG plan. However, there is nothing like the level of commitment that a contract plan usually involves. You can usually leave your SIM only commitments with one month notice. ( That is, you can leave once you’ve paid the month you’re in. )
Subtle differences between phone companies
Regrettably, the phone companies don’t make it easy. You might have spotted that they don’t call prepaid plans SIM Only plans which itself is confusing. The fact is that there are even differences between the type of SIM Only plan you get and the rates you pay at some places. Here’s how it breaks down.
- Almost everyone has different plan rates for different types of plan.
This is what you’d expect. Vodafone’s prepaid rates are different from Vodafone’s postpaid rates. Of course they are you say.
- There are a very small number of phone companies which offer the same rates for both prepaid and postpaid SIMs :
This is confusing, of course. Amaysim are the most prominent phone company that do this. It can be great for some customers, however.
How does a SIM Only plan save me money ?
At a high level, when you get in to an agreement with the phone company, you have a couple of different options. First, you can buy a phone under contract with the phone company. They’re typically 2 year agreements. You’ll get a phone thrown in to your tariff.
The other option is buying the phone yourself, outright and adding a SIM to it. You can save a lot of money if you get the maths right.
This is such an important subject, we’ve covered it in a great deal of detail. You can find out more about this in our article comparing the relative merits of buying a phone under contract or buying it yourself and adding a SIM Only plan.
Why choose a SIM Only / BYO plan?
The primary benefit of a SIM Only plan is flexibility : SIM only plans offer users the flexibility to change plans as often as they want.
Now you know about the different types of SIM Only plan. You also know the financial reasons some people decide to buy their phone outright and add a SIM to it later. We can now move on to the benefits of having a SIM Only plan. The primary benefit of a SIM Only plan is flexibility : SIM only plans offer users the flexibility to change plans as often as they want. This flexibility comes in many forms. The reason it’s so much simpler is that there is no phone to consider. You’ll find the flexibility manifests in a number of ways – most of which you won’t be used to receiving from a phone company.
- Flexibility of plan :
Most providers let you move up and down plans very easily, whenever you want to. For example, if you’re on a SIM Only plan at $30 but you find you consistently use more of your inclusions than you have at that price, you should be able to move to the $40 at the end of the month with penalty. The same is usually true of a move the other way. ( So long as you’re not under contract. ) So, if your usage requirements rise with time, or decrease, you’ll be able to flex without penalty.
- Flexibility of provider :
Since most people are not tied in to a contract on a SIM only plan, they are not locked to any particular provider for more than 30 days. If your existing phone company overcharges you, annoy you with their customer service or, something simple happens like you see a better deal in market, you’ll be able to change your provider at the end of the month you’re in.
SIM Only users can move around to new companies when they launch. Australian telco is, believe it or not, a dynamic place. Phone companies are always being added to the market.
How to make SIM Only work for you
Follow these few simple tips and SIM Only will work like a treat for you.
Hopefully this is obvious – you’re going to need your own phone ! The phone you’ve got will need to be ‘unlocked’ phone. With that done, follow these few simple tips and SIM Only will work like a treat for you.
- Order online :
Ordering online usually pays off. As always and you’ll get it delivered to you quick smart and many of the Service Providers offer ‘2 months free’ or similar. Amaysim offer an unlimited plan which often has an introductory offer ( e.g. 50% off first month ) you can click here to find the latest info on Amaysim and their best deals.
- Check out delivery options you have :
Are SIM Only packages delivered faster than phones ? If you order your SIM only SIM online, it will be posted to you and you are likely to receive it the next day. SIMs are delivered faster than it takes to get a phone to get to you
- Consider but don’t automatically go for a contract longer than 1 month :
Some phone companies want you to take out a contract ( pretty much only Telstra and even then, they only require contracts for some of their plans. ) Almost everyone else does not require a contract. Of course, if you do, you will lose the flexibility of the month to month option of you choose them.
- Get one as soon as your contract ends :
When can I take advantage of SIM Only / BYO mobile rates ? You can start right now. Remember, if you had a phone under contract, that contract ends at some point ( usually, it’s after 2 years. ) From the point your contract ends, you can keep your phone and start getting the new, better rates of a SIM Only plan
Where are the best SIM Only Plan deals ?
In our view, network resellers ( also known as MVNOs ) offer the best deals. There are MVNO options on each of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s networks.
In our view, network resellers ( also known as MVNOs ) offer the best deals. There are MVNO options on each of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s networks. Network resellers are smaller phone companies which don’t own their own telecommunications network.
Generally, we advise our visitors to choose one of these smaller phone companies. They’re also known as MVNOs. MVNOs are Mobile Virtual Network Operators. These companies rent their network access from the major phone companies like Optus, Telstra and Virgin Mobile. Then they resell that network to Australians and they ( usually ) provide much better rates for access than you’ll get from the major players.
What is an MVNO ?
How can MVNOs save you money
MVNOs save their customers money by leasing network access ‘in bulk’ from the three, major Australian phone companies. Then they sell it, to customers like you, at a significant discount.
With MVNOs, you can take advantage of lower rates, and SIMs that are contract-free. They almost always offer better deals than the major phone companies. They don’t have the same marketing spends to pass on in the costs they charge you. They don’t spend nearly as much on advertising their brand as the others. By keeping their business models simple, they reduce the support costs and pass the savings on to you. They also need to charge less because they’re not as well known as their multinational competitors.
By keeping their business models simple, MVNOs reduce the support costs and pass the savings on to you in their SIM Only plans.
It’s important to realize that the network coverage component of the ‘product’ the MVNOs sell is very often exactly the same thing being sold by Optus or Vodafone. The coverage you’ll get from an Optus MVNO is exactly the same as the coverage you’ll get from Optus itself. There are a few exceptions and ‘gotchas’ to think about. We’ve covered those in detail, below.
Myths about MVNOs: Prioritization
Some shoppers suspect that MVNOs are getting low quality network bandwidth. For example, minutes that aren’t used by carriers during peak activity. That’s just not true. In many ways, network access is like electricity. It’s a utility which is the same whomever or whichever company you buy it from. You will not get a lower priority on the network if you go with an MVNO.
Why are MVNO deals cheaper?
The MVNOs marketplace is highly competitive. The competition is focused where you want it. MVNOs have an agreed charter with the major phone companies. Each MVNO is set up to focus on servicing ( selling to ) a particular segment.
A segment is just a group of users. Here are a couple of our favorite MVNOs and the segments they are designed to address.
Data Price Deflation – NEVER buy a phone contract
Data price deflation is an ongoing general reductions in the price of data. You might not be fully aware of it but it’s been going on around you for years. Where once you paid $30 a month for 300 MB of data, you can now get 3GB or more in a plan, for the same monthly spend.
This is one side of a critical balance you need to strike when considering a phone plan. The amount of data that people are using increases each year : Cisco ( the data and networking people ) say that data use on mobile phones, in our region, is growing about 80% per year. That’s huge. It means that if your phone plan comes with 1GB of data when you buy it, you’ll need something like 3GB or 4GB by the time your 2 year contract ends.
That means if you manage your plan well, you will keep spending the same amount. If you don’t manage your spend well, you will end up paying more.
- Consider 2 individuals, Matt and Mel. Matt has his iPhone under a 2 year contract with Optus.
- Mel bought hers outright. She now has a SIM from Amaysim. Over time, both Matt and Mel use more data.
- However, because Matt is bound by his iPhone agreement, the amount of data he gets is set for the 24 months of the contract.
- His contract includes 2GB of data which is fine for the first year. But, in the 2nd year, he soon as to pay extra each month to cover his rising data use.
- Mel on the other hand has been a bit smarter. Over time, the amount of data the phone companies provide their users increases. It happens irrespective of phone provider or spend level.
This phenomenon is called ‘data price deflation’ and it’s the reason you should never buy a phone under contract again
Summing Up – The future of SIM Only Plans
SIM Only plans have been on the market for a long time now. In the last two or three years, they have really taken off. Already, the majority of people are using SIM Only plans in their phones.
The maths doesn’t always work in favor of buying your own phone and adding a SIM to it. There are exceptions when the major phone companies compete over significant device launches to steal some new customers form their competitors. A good example is Optus’ IPhone pricing which is often very keen.
Apple and Samsung have already started their own leasing schemes in the USA. That’s going to increase the number of people who buy SIM Only plans. It could mean that Apple / Google also turn in to an MVNO. And that’s just one of the factors which is making SIM Only Plans so popular. This time next year Apple’s eSIM will hit the market. That’s going to make it even easier to sign up to and move SIM providers.
All of which proves that SIM Only is one of the smartest possible ways you could engage with a phone company.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Why are there different sizes of SIM cards ?
Space is at a premium in phones. The smaller the area taken up with standard components, the smaller, and more lightweight, the phone can be. Less room for a SIM means more room for a bigger battery, a bigger processor or a thinner chassis
Finding out more about SIM Only
SIM Only Plans are a huge subject. We built a site to explain it all. We’ve covered everything here and, if you want more detail, you’ll find it through the links below. They’ll take you to more information in other areas of our site.
You need a Nano SIM if :
Do you have an iPhone with the number 5 in it ? Specifically, that’s the iPhone 5s, 5c or 5 ? If so, you need a Nano SIM. Apple have been using Nano SIMs on every version of their iPhone since the iPhone 5 launched in 2012. They’ve also started using Nano SIMs in some of their other products such as the iPad Air.
You need a ‘full’ SIM if :
You’ve got an old phone then you need a full SIM. But it’ll have to be really old. We’re talking as old as the 2007 Apple iPhone 3Gs, a Samsung Galaxy Note or a Samsung Galaxy S2 .
You need a micro SIM if :
You have any other type of phone – you need a Micro SIM. It’ll probably come to you as a Combi SIM ( also called a Multifit ) SIM.
What do I need to know about Telstra SIM Only Plans ?
The structure of SIM Only plans is similar between the major phone companies. Here are the notable differences for Telstra’s SIM only plans.
Be sure about the 850 MHz.
First of all, before moving over to Telstra, make sure the phone you have chosen supports the 850 MHz bandwidth. You can do this by checking the phone on the Telstra website. Telstra are the only Australian phone company which use the 850 MHz frequency and, unless you bought the phone you have from Tesltra in the first place, there’s a good chance it won’t work on that frequency.
Telstra insist on contracts
Telstra’s SIM Only plans are only available under contract The minimum term for many of Telstra SIM Only plan is currently 12 months.
Telstra’s plans are also substantially more expensive than the competition. Given recent announcements about the quality of the other Australian phone networks, we would recommend that you avoid taking out a Telstra Everyday Connect plan. In metro regions, you’ll get better coverage and much, much lower rates for data and voice, with Vodafone.
Remember the CIS ( Critical Information Summary )
By law, each of these phone companies must show the CIS. The CIS or Critical Information Summary details exactly what is and what is not included in their SIM Only Plans. It is expressed in simple to understand terms. It’s only a couple of pages long. You will be able to find the CIS on any of the pages on the phone company websites where the details of the plans are shown. The CIS is an important document you should appraise yourself of before you buy.
Data Plans and SIM Only
If you need more data or your SIM only plan you will be able to add it in later. Each of the phone companies will allow you to add any of the standard facilities you would get on contract plans to a SIM Only Plan. If you’d like to add data in the form of a data pack, or insurance for your phone, for example, you’ll be able to do that, no trouble. ( Note, sometimes insurance has to be added within 30 days of signing up to the plan. )
How can I track the usage on my SIM Only account ?
Like other plans you buy from the phone company, you will be able to track your usage using the downloadable app. You can get these in the iTunes store or Google Play store. Most of the phone companies ( and certainly all of the major ones – Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, Optus and Telstra ) allow their customers, including their SIM Only customers to set up usage alerts on their SIM Only accounts. Thresholds are flexible according to your needs but commonly, people set the system up to notify them by text alert when they’ve used 80%, 85% or 90% of their bundle allowance.