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 deals, 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.
- There are a couple of exceptions.
- If you are one of the literally 1% of the population who lives in the far bush, Telstra might be a good decision.
- Or you love some of the new content offers that Telstra has in place. (We have a lot of detail on Telstra’s content, below.)
- Then Telstra might be right for you.
- 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 dealing with 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 manage.
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. At some stage, almost all of us have had to. 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 offerings.
- 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.
- Their recent plan range update (September 2017) has increased both data allocation and price:
Telstra was expensive before they revised their postpaid SIM Only plan portfolio. Now they are even more pricey. Their entry level plans don’t have enough data for most people. And their mid / top level plans ( those with a $49/12 month contract / $69 for a month to month agreement, may well include too much data for most. It’s a bizarre split.
- You can get cheap deals on the Telstra Mobile Network :
Third, 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.
These things 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 inclusion structure. Then we can consider their content offerings and the all important network question.
Telstra SIM Card Only / Everyday BYO Review – They’re not very popular
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. Many save money this way. There are also now a number of phone leasing options. (Telstra have their own which we consider below.) 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 these customer need Telstra provide two suites of SIM Only plan.
Around two thirds of people are buying SIM Only plans now. Telstra perform relatively poorly when it comes to SIM Only market share.
‘Telstra’s SIM Only pricing is so high, people are inclined to consider other providers.
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 ) Casual SIM Only / BYO Plans
- Month to month SIM Only agreements start at $59 per month for Telstra.
- That’s a full $20 – roughly 50% more than you’ll pay for the equivalent inclusions in a 12 month contract.
- This plan doesn’t even include Unlimited Calls and SMS !
- Pricing rises in 4 plan groups to $109 per month.
- The top 2 have unlimited calls and SMS to International Numbers included, too.
2 ) 12 month SIM Only / BYO Plans
Almost uniquely in the Australian market, Telstra’s BYO deals offer you the option of a 12 month SIM Only contract.
- Pricing for their 12 month SIM Only plan range starts at $39 per month.
- Voice inclusions on this part of their offering are not all unlimited which is also surprising.
- There is not a single other phone company in Australia which charges this much for a phone plan and doesn’t include unlimited voice and SMS.
- These plans have 5 options, including an online exclusive.
Contract SIM Only plans (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 than the month to month alternatives. 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.
The thing to be aware of, when you’re comparing, is that, when you’re in a contract, the amount of data they offer you at a price point won’t increase over time. When you’re on a month to month agreement, you are likely to find that it will.
So, which, of Telstra’s SIM Only Plans, are best?
- Consider the contract :
Contract deals, while rare for SIM Only plans, 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 how frequently you’re prepared 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.
‘Only 30% of people compare SIM Only plans more than once a year.
- We recommend month to month :
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.
‘Our advice is to not take a SIM Only Contract Plan from Telstra. You’ll be given more data if you stay on a month to month plan and move around.
- Don’t forget prepaid :
Remember, Telstra also have prepaid plans, which are month to month agreements of their own sort. If you’re not sure what a prepaid offer is, we explain the differences here. As you can see from this chart, Telstra actually often offer better value on prepaid plans than they do on postpaid SIM Only plans. This isn’t uncommon among the big phone companies (it doesn’t happen with the smaller phone companies.) But, since the difference between a Prepaid SIM Only plans and a postpaid SIM Only plan is so tiny, having such a difference in plan inclusions is crazy. You might as well get a prepaid SIM and get the benefit of all the extra data.
‘Telstra offers both SIM Only and Prepaid plans. Perhaps surprisingly, prepaid plans offer better value (more data) at lower spend levels.
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 agreement 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 deals 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.
‘Telstra’s SIM Only plans include content. For some, it’s invaluable, for others, an unnecessary extra.
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 deals) might be right for you.
Feature comparison between Telstra and their major competitors
Quick Summary of main inclusions
|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. 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, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 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.
- 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 agreement 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. With data being the most important part of people’s plans, this is an important facility. Just be aware that Telstra may sell information about you – your shopping habits and where you’ve been – to third parties, if you use it.
- 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 deal 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 SIM Only plans offer you access to their network. Again, you may be surprised to see how similar the 4G population coverage profiles of the major networks are.
- 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 offerings 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 agreement providers (in the industry, they’re known as MVNOs) or network resellers. They that sell mobile deals using the Telstra Mobile network. What’s great about this? Lots of choice and competition brings the cost, to you, the consumer, down.
You can get a Telstra SIM Only plan either directly from Telstra or by going to one of their resellers.
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 inclusions and the reality of what they were offering, it was actually quite difficult to compare deals from one phone company with deals 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 agreement 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 deal. 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 :
- 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 agreement 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
- When the agreement 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 tariffs. 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
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 offerings 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.