How will Telstra’s size help me ?
Well, if we keep ourselves to the mobile phone market ( they do a bunch of other stuff like broadband for example ) they have more than a 50% market share. Half of all the mobiles in Australia are on the Telstra network.
That size of user base good is news and bad news for their customers. Being a phone company is a lot easier when you’re big. You can afford to build big networks and cover a lot of the country with your towers. On the other hand, having that many customers makes Telstra bureaucratic and slow to deal with. Some perceive them as arrogant and slow to consider the needs of their customers. A little bit of this is evident in the section in these FAQs on the unique plan elements Telstra have. It’s clear ( to us anyway ) that in comparison with some of the other phone companies available, Telstra simply have not had to put the hard yards in with plan features. They just rely on charging a premium for their network coverage.
What do Telstra’s phone plans have that the others’ don’t?
Telstra have a number of plan features which are unique to them.
In your first month being with them, they will give you 25GB of data to play with. Everyone uses more data in their first month and this is a helpful method of letting you get started without getting a first bill from them which cost more than you thought.
They have a ‘New Phone Feeling’ aspect to their plans which means that if you take a phone out with them under contract, you can pay a bit more and upgrade it early. This way, you have the latest phone all the time and you don’t pay full whack.
They have a ‘Thanks’ loyalty programme which, in our view is pretty naff, offering cheap cinema tickets and early access to music shows which aren’t really a reason to stay with a phone company in our view.
They have data sharing facilities (say if you want to have a single large bundle of data which you then share across multiple devices like a phone and a tablet) although they will charge you $10 per month for the privilege.
How come Telstra don’t have the best network any more ?
Telstra’s 4G coverage is, you won’t be surprised to hear, the best in Australia. They’ve spent more than $5.5bn on their network since 2006 and they’re aiming to spend another $1bn in 2015. Telstra’s 4G network covers 98% of the Australian population . They claim 4 times the coverage area in square Km that Optus haveand already have 7.7 customers on 4G.
What is 4GX ?
4GX is a marketing name for faster network access. 4G is already pretty fast. 4Gx uses clever technical means to roughly double the 4G speeds Telstra’s users get. Telstra have actually done extremely well at rolling out their 4GX coverage.
The technology behind 4GX is FDD – Frequency Division Duplexing if you want to look it up.
Do Telstra let any smaller phone companies use their network ?
Yes. Take cMobile, for example. cMobile have access to the Telstra Mobile Network but they don’t charge as much as some other companies for the privelege.
Why are Telstra setting up Wi-Fi around their payphones? (Telstra ‘Air’)
The use of data is increasing quicklyt in Australia. That’s especially true in cities where populations of people are dense. It’s also especially true for Telstra given the relatively large proportion of their customer base which is on a 4G plan.
Equipping payphones with Wi-Fi is a way to offload some of that data traffic from the mobile network in densely populated areas. It also allows Telstra to charge non Telstra customers for using their network. It’s a pretty clever strategy from Telstra to offload smartphone data usage to their fixed network in this way.
- Australias best coverage
- Mature 4G coverage across wide area
- First month comes with 25 GB of data
- Share your data across multiple devices
- Low levels of customer satisfaction
- Cmobile have cheaper rates for plans <$30
- Some Telstra SIM Only plans = 12 month contracts
Telstra are bureaucratic and difficult to deal with but have the best coverage in Australia. We explain the pros and cons of Telstra and consider some of the alternatives.
Telstra’s (Postpaid) SIM Only Plans – Is paying so much more for the network worth it?
If you’re looking for prepaid options check out our dedicated Telstra Prepaid page.
- When it comes to Telstra’s SIM Only plans, we all know they cost more.
- The question is – does Telstra’s service warrant the extra monthly spend?
- The short answer, in our view, is no.
- We do not advise on paying more to get the Telstra network.
- (Unless you are one of the literally 1% of the population who lives in the far bush, that is.)
- Or you love some of the new content offers that Telstra has in place. (We have a lot of detail on content, below.)
- In this article, we show you the truth about the coverage offered by the phone networks in Australia.
- And outline options from competitors – some of which are on the Telstra Mobile Network.
- With them, you can get a plan on the Telstra Mobile Network without getting a plan from Telstra themselves.
Introducing Telstra’s Postpaid SIM Only Plans
Telstra are not always easy to love. Their huge size means they’re great for big business and government contracts but can be hard for individuals to deal with.
Big T have been part of the fabric of Australia for as long as most of us have been alive. It’s hard to imagine Australia without them. That said, Telstra are not always easy to love. Their huge size means they’re great for big business and government contracts but can be hard for individuals to deal with. Take a quick trip around their website or customer service organization and you will remember the frustration of working with them. They are so big, they’ve become unwieldy.
In this article, we discuss both the good and the not so good things about Telstra. We go on to tell you how you can get the best of both worlds if you’d like to (great coverage and great pricing).
There are a couple of ‘insider’ facts that seem likely to help you in weight up the pros and cons of Telstra’s SIM Only Plans.
- Telstra’s network is not as good as you think it is:
First of all, Telstra’s network coverage advantage is not nearly as substantial (in terms of population coverage or availability of 4G signal) as most people think it is.
- You can get cheap deals on the Telstra Mobile Network :
Secondly there are a number of phone companies who resell the Telstra Mobile Network (now with 4G.) They typically have better deals than Telstra themselves. We show you which, of these options, is our preferred Telstra Mobile Network resellers, below.
That said, Telstra do have some nice value adds in their service. Notable among them is their sports and entertainment content options. You can only get some of these content value adds with Telstra. And, if they appeal to you, they alone could be enough to get you across the line on taking a Telstra SIM.
Let’s start by looking at the basics of Telstra’s plan structure. Then we can consider their content offerings and the all important network question.
Telstra SIM Card Only / Everyday BYO Review
Nearly 60% of people now eschew 24 month agreements with the phone companies, preferring, instead, to buy the phone outright and add the SIM themselves.
SIM Only plans are a big deal these days. Australians hate being tied in to 2 year contracts before they can upgrade their phone. Nearly 60% of people now eschew 24 month agreements with the phone companies, preferring, instead, to buy the phone outright and add the SIM themselves.
Overseas, things are different. Providers of phones give users phone hardware cheaply, with many people buying their handset themselves, often on the grey market. eBay and other second hand phone vendors, too, offer better priced alternatives to the latest device released. There are also now a number of phone leasing options. (Telstra have their own which we consider below.) Together, this sort of purchase favours more price conscious customers.
Together, these forces have changed the market for phone services in Australia dramatically. Over the last 3-5 years, SIM only and prepaid plans have become the biggest single selling plans at all of the major Australian telecommunications companies. To address the customer need and the business opportunity it presents, Telstra provide two suites of SIM Only plan.
Telstra’s 2 Different Types Of SIM Only Plans:
We usually recommend the month to month variants of these plans for a simple reason; Data pricing falls so regularly that, in a few months, you are almost always likely to be able to get more data how ever much you spend.
1 ) Everyday BYO (Bring Your Own) Plans:
Almost uniquely in the Australian market, Telstra’s BYO plans offer you the option of a 12 month SIM Only contract. Pricing for their 12 month SIM Only plan range starts at $35 per plan per month. Voice inclusions on this part of their offering are not all unlimited. We cover more of the features and inclusions below.
Contracts (including their 12 month variants) can be useful if you don’t switch phone often. And obviously, the inclusions they give you are slightly better (they usually bump up the data allowances in 12 month contracts) to entice you in. They want to know you’ll be around for a while.
2 ) No Contract / Month to month agreements:
Telstra also match the majority of competitors with plans which do not require you to take out a contract with Telstra. On these, you can change your plan up and down according to your usage, every month, without penalty.
It’s worth noting, voice call rates on both plans are the same. 40 cent connection, 99 cents a minute. So a 2 minute call is $2.38. (Remember, inclusions are what they give you. $350 of value is an inclusion. $2.38 is the rate – that’s how quickly you work through your usage).
So, which, of Telstra’s offerings, are best?
Contract plans, while rare, are not a bad thing. The choice as to whether you want a month to month agreement or a 12 month contract comes down to your willingness to compare phone plan alternatives. If you are the kind of person who always knows where the best SIM Only deals are then a month to month agreement might be for you.
On the other hand, if you are likely to compare less frequently, perhaps even, realistically, only once a year, then a 12 month agreement might be for you.
We usually recommend the month to month variants of these plans for a simple reason. Data pricing falls so regularly that, in a few months, you are almost always likely to be able to get more data for however much you’re spending. To put that in terms which are as clear as possible : If you spend $30 now and get 2GB, in 6 months, a $30 spend is likely to get you 3GB or more. If you’re locked in to a contract with Telstra, you won’t get the benefit of price drops like this.
Telstra’s content offerings are unique and impressive
Are you a mad footy fan ? Do you love the AFL ? Would you watch these sports on your phone ? If you do value these things, Telstra (and the premium they charge) might be right for you
Content is the big thing in phone plans this year. As you would expect, Telstra has been dishing it out in a bid to keep existing and win new customers. If you take a postpaid or SIM Only plan from Telstra, you’ll get some unique content.
- All Telstra customers get AFL and NRL ‘Season Passes’:
Whether you are a Telstra prepaid or a Telstra SIM Only customer, you will be given one free season pass to either the AFL or NRL season as part of your plan. If you want both sports codes on your phone, you can have them but you’ll have to pay for one. Access to the video content (of every game!) is through an app you can download from Telstra. The data you use to watch the games, even if it’s over the Telstra cellular network, is free of charge. In the industry, this is called ‘zero rating’ content and it is liable to save you some money. More generally, this facility is known as Streaming Video On Demand, SVOD and you’re liable to be seeing a lot more of it soon in phone plans from everyone.
- All Telstra’s customers get free streamed audio:
Streamed audio is the facility to listen to music, on your phone, which is provided through the mobile network you’re attached to. Telstra’s variant is Apple Music (Telstra even throw in a free subscription to that service) and you’ll get this streamed option as part of any SIM Only or prepaid plan from the company. Generally, in our view, Optus’ equivalent facility which offers unmetered access to Spotify, IHeartRadio and Google Play, seems like a better bet than Telstra’s offer – purely because it appears to service so many more people / accounts. But it’s great both companies have a scheme in place.
Content or ‘entertainment’ is something that people are still getting used to in their phone plans. Its so new, they’re still really weighing up the value. So that’s the fundamental question you need to ask yourself when you are considering Telstra. Are you a mad footy fan ? Do you love the AFL ? Is streamed audio of value to you ? Would you watch these games on your phone ? If you do value these things, Telstra (and the premium they charge for the access to their plans) might be right for you.
Feature comparison between Telstra and their major competitors
Quick Summary of 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.|
- Automatic addition of extra data: It was Optus which started this feature on their ‘My Plans’ SIM Only suite back in 2013. Telstra launched their own version soon after. Telstra’s automatic top up of data counters one of the worst parts of phone bills which has been in place for a long time: bill shock on SIM Only plans. Typical out of bundle rates for data (this is what you’re charged when you exceeded your data allocation for the month) were 10c per MB. There are (around a) 1000 or so MB in a GB. So, if customers went over their data limit by 1GB, they’d pay $100 for it with Telstra ! Luckily, things have changed now. Telstra, like the alternatives will automatically charge you $10 and give you an extra GB of data when you reach your data allowance on a plan. In our view, what you should do is buy a data bundle you need and manage your usage. Adding extra data automatically sounds good but could leave you with an extra GB on the final day of the month, for example. That’s a $10 charge for a service you didn’t use. Still, data add ons are better than bill shock.
- Shared Data over multiple devices ( a.k.a. ‘Family Plans’ ): The average Australian home has 7 wireless devices, they say. If you want to share your data allocation across more than one device, Telstra will let you. As usual, when you exceed your allowance, even when it’s a shared allowance, you will be charged $10 and have a GB added to the shared data bundle you’ve signed up to with other members of your family or work crewi.
- Overseas roaming: In principal, Telstra will charge you either $5 per day (if you want to roam to NZ) or $10 per day every day (depending on where else in the world you go) you’re overseas and give you unlimited SMS and talk back to Australia for that price. The key difference between Telstra’s offering here and Vodafone’s (apart from the pricing, where Vodafone usually win) is data. Telstra only give you 100 MB of data for each day while you’re overseas. Vodafone allow you to use your full allocation just as if you were at home. On the plus side, for Telstra customers, the company has a huge range of international ‘hot spots’ which their customers can access while travelling. Getting online this way is free and won’t count against your 100MB daily allowance.
- Good Self Service App: After no small amount of time and investment, Telstra’s 24×7 app for Self Service and Account Management is extremely good. So are the alternatives from Vodafone and Australia’s other major alternatives. You can manage your SIM Only plan just fine from this Self Service app. You can also use the app for any type of contract plan from Telstra. We always advise people to take advantage of these apps. They help you manage your data and get the most out of your service, for free and without having to wait on hold all the time.
- Free content: Content is a whole new battlefield for the phone companies. We have a special section to draw out the key differences, above.
- Free WiFi / Telstra ‘Air’: Telstra’s size gives them some unique capabilities. Like turning on free WiFi in the town center of every conurbation in the country if they want to. Telstra are the only phone company who are offering free WiFi to their customers through their own phone booths at the moment. They have around 1 million phone booths and other access points, across Australia, which offer free WiFi access for their customers. Telstra started their trial of this service within a few weeks of announcing their intention. Their first stage national rollout was completed a few months later in mid 2015. That is an impressively fast deployment by any telco standards. To use Telstra Air you will need to download the Telstra Air app.
- Loyalty Rewards: Telstra’s Loyalty scheme is called Telstra ‘Thanks’. If you stay with them long enough, you’ll get some cinema tickets, subsidised concert tickets or first pick on a list of events. It’s a nice to have scheme at best and should not (in our view) influence your decision as to which network to go with. These rewards are to trick the rational bit of your brain but are worth little (in our view!)
Cons Of Telstra
- Telstra’s network is not as good as you think : You can get almost exactly the same population coverage and 4G signal availability from Optus or a network reseller and pay far less than if you take a SIM Only plan from Telstra. You cannot have missed the coverage of the consistent network outages that Telstra suffered during the early part of 2016. Those networks crippled the Telstra customer base – they were literally without coverage for long periods of time. They also brought to light the fact that an increasing proportion of Australians now know. Telstra’s network advantage is not what it once was. Starting with 3G coverage, Telstra’s major competitor covers 98.50% of the population. Telstra covers 99% of the population. Not much of a gap there, is there. Trying to make this real for you: Across Australia, less than one percent of people will benefit from having Testra’s network! Have a think about that. In real terms, the availability of a 4G signal is almost always the same whether you’re on the Telstra or the alternative network. There is virtually no difference in the quality of coverage these companies offer, when it comes to being able to practically present you with a 4G signal. These are the latest statistics in market. The truth is, this information has been around for some time now. Two years ago, JD Powers offered a similarly slim margin to Telstra. The problem is Telstra have spent so long convincing us that their network was superior, we have started to believe it. The key point here is that you can get almost exactly the same population coverage and 4G signal availability from Optus or a network reseller and pay far less.
- Telstra’s Range Is Limited & Expensive : Telstra have redesigned their online store to be more ‘Customer Friendly’. They have reduced their range of plans to SIM only, with 4 or 5 options to pick from, some of which are available online only. The cost of some of these plans is eye watering. The key to navigating the options available to you with Telstra is to consider your real data need. The way big T’s plans are configured tends to push people to the higher spend levels which include huge data allocations, far beyond what most people could use in a month. People tend to choose these plans cautiously and get a bigger data plan than they need, just so they’re sure they don’t run out of data when they need it. Compare Telstra’s data allocations on the tables on this page to the alternatives to make sure you’re getting a plan which makes sense for you.
Alternatives – companies which lease their network from Telstra
Prices are also pretty eye watering and you will pay top dollar for a phone plan if you go direct to the big T.
Did you know that there are the only three mobile providers in Australia that actually own and run their own mobile network? Telstra’s prices are the highest of the lot. These days you have more options. There is a plethora of other phone plan providers (in the industry, they’re known as MVNOs) or network resellers. They that sell phone plans using the Telstra Mobile network. What’s great about this? Lots of choice and competition brings the cost, to you, the consumer, down.
If you are one of the 0.5% of people who live outside the coverage footprint Telstra’s main rivals offer, you have little option but to buy a Telstra SIM. Our suggestion for those people is that you go ahead and get one. If you’re not in that 0.5%, and you’re prepared to look rationally at alternatives, you will find many credible options available to you. We think the anternatives on this page will service the vast majority of customers well.
Benefits of the alternatives
- They are easier to understand : Many of Telstra’s compatitors current range of price plans show you what you’re really getting, included minutes of calls rather than data. Previously, all of the Australian mobile phone companies had spent a decade marketing their services as ‘Caps.’ Caps appeared to make it easy to compare between the operators. Unfortunately, once you really got in to the plan inclusions and the reality of what they were offering, it was actually quite difficult to compare plans from one phone company with plans from another. Some plans had 13 and 18 numbers included, some didn’t. Some offered International Calls from within the cap, some didn’t. In truth, calculating the number of minutes in the cap was not hard at all. Just divide the included value by the cost of a minute and you’ll find it easily enough. Unfortunately, each operator had a different standard rate. And the standard rate was usually for a 2 minute call ( the average call people make is usually about 2 minutes – it has been for years ) which made the maths a bit harder ! By letting you choose a number of minutes as the basis of your plan, Telstra’s competition have made it easier and slightly more ‘human’ to decide the right plan for you.
- You’ll Never Blow Your Voice Allowance : Of course, not everyone knows exactly how many minutes they use. And the truth is that people’s usage varies by month to month. Sometimes by a lot. Many people find it even harder to determine how much data they will need. Almost all phone plans in Australia now offer Unlimited national calls and SMS. Just check the table on this page and you’ll see what we mean.
- Competitors Let You Buy Your Device Outright : Alongside their new range of mobile phone plans, some of Telstra’s competitors have made it possible to buy a device outright from them. Increasingly, Australians are buying their own phones and taking out a SIM only plan. Around a third of Australians buy their phone services this way at the moment. It can save you a lot of money, in many cases, 30% or more of your phone bill. This method of getting a phone and a plan makes upgrading to a new device easier, if you’re the sort of person who likes to do that more than once every two years. SIM Only plans also offer better value inclusions. In the opinion of WhatPhone, the overall costs work out to be more when you buy the device outright. We recommend going with a device and price plan combination. We think you get more for your money. You can find out more about that in this WhatPhone article : Buying A Mobile Phone Outright Will I Save Money ?
Some detail on Telstra’s New Phone Feeling
We think Telstra’s New Phone Feeling plan makes sense for users who meet these criteria.
If you’re one of the few who meet this profile then go ahead and get yourself on the Teltsra new phone feeling plan:
- You live in a rural area AND
- You like to have the latest phone every year AND
- You like to have a 4G phone
What are the terms of the agreement for the new phone feeling ?
In a nutshell, Telstra’s New Phone Feeling means that, if you return your phone after 12 months, undamaged, Telstra will give you a new phone. You have to start another 24 month contract on the spot but the original one is cancelled.
Pros for the New Phone Feeling Plan :
- You’ve always got a new phone :
With the New Phone Feeling there is no waiting for a 24 month contract to end before getting a new phone. Once you turn in your phone in undamaged and in good working condition the contract can be cancelled and a new 24-month plan put into place.
- You never have to worry about being left behind in the techno dust :
By getting a new phone each year you’ll be able to upgrade to the newest technology and not miss out on any hi-tech advances.
Cons for the New Phone Feeling Plan
- When the plan is cancelled after 12 months, you don’t get to keep your existing phone :
This takes away the option of passing the phone along to a family member or friend who could use it.
- It costs ( even ) more :
The New Phone Feeling option comes with a $149 upgrade price tag which adds extra expense to the most expensive network. (Telstra do waive that charge from time to time.)
- You’re exposed to Telstra’s price plan changes :
By committing to renew your plan and contract at the end of the 12 month period, you will be obliged to take on any price plan change that Telstra puts in place at that time. Over the last couple of years Telstra have steadily charged an increasing monthly fee for the data in their plans. This trend looks set to continue. If you get in to this deal, you’re going to be worse off if it does.
- You pay whether or not you use the service :
If you wait too long to relinquish your existing phone and cancel the contract it the deal will be less cost effective. Telstra are going to charge you that $10 per month every month you have the facility open to you whether or not you use it.
- New phone iterations don’t give you as much as they used to :
The rate of change in feature releases has slowed notably since the launch if the iPhone in 2007. Getting the latest and greatest phone doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of the new features and functions that you’ll receive. Put simply, the difference between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5 is not that much. You’ll be paying a lot for a few additional features and limited bragging rights.
Summing up Telstra’s SIM Only Plans
Adding things like the NRL / AFL in to their phone plans is now the only way to justify the frankly horrifyingly expensive postpaid SIM Only plans that Telstra have in market.
There’s a reason Telstra has refocused it’s SIM Only and Prepaid plan offering around content this year. They have to provide content as part of their SIM Only plans so that people will keep buying them. In our view, Telstra’s single biggest phone plan advantage is the inclusion of AFL, NRL and netball content.
However, Telstra’s network advantage is not what it once was. As Australians, we have our fingers on the pulse of how our friends and family feel about the networks which make up part of our every day life. People have stopped complaining about the Vodafone network. Telstra no longer say things on their website like ‘the network without equal.’ They can’t. Because the other networks pretty much do equal them these days.