Data plans for tablets and data led plans for phones.
Data SIMs are also known as mobile broadband SIMs. They give you access to the phone companies’ wireless networks. With the right package, you’ll get internet data whenever you’re in coverage.
Do you have a cellular enabled tablet, ‘dongle’ or a wireless modem ? An increasing proportion of Australian households do. And if you do, you’ll be wanting a SIM you can use in those products. Data SIMs fit the bill. Sometimes, they’re known as mobile broadband SIMs. They give you access to one of the phone companies’ wireless networks so you can get internet data whenever you’re in coverage.
According to the ACMA, around 45% of tablets have a facility to access the phone company networks. The rest are wifi capable only. However, only one in 6 people have a wireless data plan. Finding a data plan that makes sense is obviously not that easy or cheap. Otherwise everyone would have one.
Here’s a summary of what we think you need to know about the best data plans currently available in Australia. There are more details in the article below.
- Data plans are common :
Data plans are sold by almost every phone company in Australia – big or small. They have to be. The average Australian household has a plethora of internet connected devices. And many of them need a data SIM.
- The competition means you’ll get a lot for your money :
That means there are a variety of competitive data only deals which offer a range of data allowance per customer per month.
- There are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you get started :
Where do I need coverage ? How much data do I need ? And, critically, Do I have a 3G or a 4G phone ?
- We recommend 3GB to 4GB of data for your tablet :
The research says that your usage is mostly likely to be below this level.
- You probably won’t be able to use the phone company’s ‘voice’ network using your mobile broadband SIM :
Mostly, the SIMs you buy for use in a tablet, dongle, computer with an embedded SIM or an ever wider array of hardware will come to you with no voice service. There are exceptions and we highlight them in the table of results on this page.
- Use the phone company app to measure and manage your usage :
Using apps to monitor your usage is a great way of learning how much data you use each month.
Data plans are sold by almost every phone company
Every phone company in Australia offers a mobile data plan alongside the more traditional voice, SMS and data plans.
The average Australian family now has 8 internet connected devices. Uptake of this ever expanding range is is being driven by larger, brighter, better resolution screens, user friendly interfaces and content.
Australian Telecos are watching the trend. Data plans are big business for them because people are so mobile. Even within houses, some rooms often have coverage the WiFi doesn’t get to. They’re coming out with competitive products to tap into what is a growing data market. Every phone company in Australia offers a mobile data plan alongside the more traditional voice, SMS and data plans. Shop around and you’ll find a range of plans with big data inclusions at a reasonable monthly rates.
The questions to ask yourself
The good news is that most of these plans are month to month. That means it’s difficult to make a mistake.
The key to picking the right plan is to be informed about your circumstances. You want enough data to let you use your tablet or dongle as you want when you’re mobile. We recommend that you consider at least these three critical questions.
- Where do I need coverage ? :
Every phone company has a set of data plans. That means that, as is the case for most voice based services, you have coverage options. Whether it’s Telstra’s, Vodafone’s or Optus’s network you want, there will be multiple service provider options for you to consider. Smaller phone companies resell the major networks and can give the coverage you need at lower prices. If you need broad, national coverage, then Telstra is probably the best bet. But, as you know, they’re expensive. Take the time to consider what coverage you really need to provide data where you live, travel and work.
- Is my tablet 3G or 4G enabled ? :
Some older tablets, including earlier iPads, work with 3G SIMs. If you’ve got a 3G SIM ( or you’ve got something newer but are content with slower speeds when you’re mobile with your tablet ), 3G plans will save you a lot.
- Do I need voice in my plan :
You’ll be able to tell from the comparison table on this page that most data SIM Only plans have the voice facility barred. That means you couldn’t take the SIM out of your table and put it in your phone. You would still be able to make voice calls over VoIP services like Skype though.
The good news is that most of these mobile broadband plans are month to month agreements. That means it’s difficult to make a mistake. If these questions don’t take you to a data only SIM plan that’s right for you, there’s very little lost. You’ll be able to change at the end of the month to a plan you prefer somewhere else.
How much data do you need?
Considering average usage, safety margin and changes in the way people use their tablets / dongles, we recommend between 3GB and 4GB of data on the data SIMs you get for use in 4G network enabled devices.
This is the age-old question. From person to person, usage varies greatly. Some data only plans are better for one type of consumer. For someone with different patterns, different hardware and different habits, another is the right one. People spend up to a staggering 50 hours a week online. How much data you’ll need to cover that depends entirely on what you do with your 50 hours a week and how much of it is mobile.
As a general rule to use when comparing data plans to each other, it’s a good idea to keep the following guidelines in mind when making your choice.
- Know your usage :
If this isn’t the first time you’ve obtained a SIM for your tablet / dongle or mobile broadband device, you’ll have a history that could be useful. Check your previous months data usage. It’ll be available for you online through your phone company’s self service portal. Or you can give them a ring. Try to confirm how much data you have recently used. This will allow you to have a good idea of how much you actually need when shopping for a data plan.
- Consider what you do online :
Think about what sort of data-intensive activities you do on your device, such as browsing the internet, streaming movies or being social on Facebook. We have a section on this below which tells you how each type of usage will impact your data requirements.
Its tough. Tablets have only been available in Australia for the last 5 years but they have caused a real change in the culture of how we relate to the internet. That means it’s hard to judge just how much data each person needs. One of the most common issues Australian data consumers face, is not knowing how much data they have, or even how much data they are using every month. However, considering average usage, safety margin and changes in the way people use their tablets / dongles, we recommend between 3GB and 4GB of data in 4G network enabled devices.
Which is the best Data Only plan currently on the market ?
Our advice is that generally, MVNOs provide the best SIM Only data plan deals. Generally, Amaysim have the best customer service and value combination.
Our suggestion is that you use the comparison table, work through the questions we’ve posed below and shop around. Our advice is that generally, MVNOs provide the best SIM Only data plan deals.
Here, we’ve tried to steer you in the right direction. We’re using the $30 price point for comparison. At $30, there are some great deals on both the Vodafone network and from Amaysim an MVNO provider which is powered by the Optus 4G network.
- Amaysim :
Are a great all round choice as you get the benefit of being on the Optus 4G network, while receiving superior service, compared to if you were to go direct with Optus. For the price point of $30 per month with Amaysim, you receive 4GB of data which is a generous amount of data and 30 days to use it all in.
- Vodafone :
Offer exactly the same amount of data as Amaysim on the Optus 4G network do, but they do have less coverage around Australia, especially in rural areas if you so happen to live outside of a major city. Vodafone has recently announced that they are in partnership with TPG, which will be providing access to their infrastructure so perhaps in the near future this will be another great choice.
- Optus :
You can go direct with Optus but in our experience you get the best deals by using an MVNO on the Optus network such as Amaysim. If you are a casual data user who doesn’t need much data, then they do have an attractive deal and it is the 22GB, $130, 2yrs to use it all up in, long term plan.
|Mobile Phone Company||Voice||Data||Network||Partner Site|
Amaysim Data Pack
Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network
Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network
Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network
Yomojo Data Only
Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network
Yomojo Data Only
Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network
What are some data intensive activities people undertake online ?
A lot of the content we’re watching is video. It’s the elephant in the room. If you use video on your tablet from places like YouTube, Stan or Netflix, you need more a lot more data than someone who doesn’t.
The critical question everyone always asks is how does my behavior indicate the data I need? Here’s an example to give you an idea of what you might be able to do with 3-4GB of data.
Don’t forget this is just the data you use when on the mobile data network and not what you use when in WiFi range.
- Video Streaming :
A lot of the content we’re watching is video. It’s the elephant in the room. If you use video streamed on to your tablet from places like YouTube, Stan or Netflix, you need more a lot more data than someone who doesn’t. Streaming video is one of the biggest data killers you can have. Taking the average of several YouTube videos, on average you can use up to 2-3MB per minute and if watching a YouTube video in HD, you can use up as much as 6MB per minute. As you can see, if you can stay clear of the data hungry services until you are in WiFi you will wipe off a huge amount of the data usage.
Less critical to determining your needs is an understanding of how these other, alternative activities will influence your data bill.
- Uploading Photos :
The size of the photos which you upload and the service which you are uploading to determines the amount of data which you will be using. Larger photos of around 8 megapixels in size, taken with modern phones can use up 1.5MB of data each time you transact them across the network.
- Social Media – e.g. Facebook :
On Facebook, it’s a good idea to disable the auto-play videos in the app settings. ( It’s just video and, like we say, video is what spikes the usage meter. ) Facebook set video play to ‘on’ by default. It uses up a lot of data. How much more is entirely dependent on how many videos happen to pop up in your news feed that day. On average social media users apparently spend more than 7 hours every month online. This adds up to around 720MB at 1.5MB per minute, if you access your Facebook feed on your smartphone or device. That’s most of a 1GB cap. Heavy Facebook users should definitely keep this in mind.
- Internet browsing :
General web browsing on your phone will often result in variable data usage, going as low as 1MB per minute up to around 4MB or higher. It all depends though on what sites you visit and how graphical or embedded video intensive they are. Most modern news websites feature auto playing videos after a few seconds and if you browse the news each day, you can end up using a lot more data then you would normally use.
- Music & Podcast Streaming :
Music streaming service websites such as Spotify, use around 1 or 2MB per minute, when streaming standard quality music or podcasts. In all that’s not a great deal of data usage, but when you add up all the songs which you are continuously streaming, it can add up to a significant amount.
- Skype voice calls and WhatsApp :
Compared to other services, VoIP applications like Skype and Viber hardly use any data relative. Skype and WhatsApp calls and messages are unlikely to be the culprit should you bust your bundle.
Using the Self Service app
Whichever plan you choose, make sure you install and use the self service app.
In days gone by there was no applications for your smartphone or device which counted your usage. People had to rely on notoriously slow telecom service providers to keep them updated as to how much data was remaining on their monthly account. Thankfully that has changed now and there is a wide selection of self-service apps which consumers can take advantage of to self-monitor their data use and the associated costs.
By using self-managed applications and purchasing a data plan with data you need, there is no longer any reason to suffer from bill shock.
Summing up – the future of data plans
The average Australian is using less and less time making calls and sending fewer texts each year. They prefer to browse the internet, send messages through apps and communicate with their friends and family via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They do those things across a range of devices. Often, they use more than one device at once.
Soon, cars will be enabled with data SIMs. It’s likely that many other things will too. You might have heard of the ‘Internet of things’ ( ‘IoT’. ) Mobile data access for sensors and small microprocessors is a key component of delivering the IoT.
Family plans are a step towards the phone companies helping us out here. They are a step in the right direction – towards what we’re all going to have to do. Family plans are the first centralized method of managing multiple data plans, over multiple devices.
You may also want to consider tethering your tablet or laptop to your phone. It can be just as affordable as taking a data only SIM.