How will Telstra’s size help me?
Well, if we keep ourselves to the mobile phone plan market (they do a bunch of other stuff like fixed broadband connections under the NBN, 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 is good news and bad news for their customers. Being a phone company is a lot easier when you’re big. You can afford to cover a larger proportion of the country with your network & towers. On the other hand, having such many customers makes Telstra bureaucratic and slow to deal with. Some perceive them as arrogant and slow to consider the needs of their customers. We have the latest survey showing this finding, in the text, below.
What do Telstra’s plans have that the others don’t?
Telstra have a number of plan features which are unique to them.
- Never exceed your allowance:
Telstra now also offer a plan feature which means you will never exceed your data allowance (‘Peace Of Mind Data’ throttles speeds to 1.5Mbps after plan data is exhausted). Again, we explain the ins and outs of that, below.
- They have 5G:
Telstra now have 5G available in select areas. This only applies to postpaid plans, however.
- They have a ‘Plus’ loyalty program:
A nice-to-have component of some plans, offering the ability to accumulate points and cash them for actual accessories and devices, as well as other perks like cinema tickets. In our view, these probably aren’t a reason to stay with a phone company but if you were going to go with Telstra anyway, they are worth keeping an eye on.
- Shared phone number:
If you have one of the new iPhones, you can pay a $5 monthly charge and split the phone number between your Apple Watch.
What is ‘Peace Of Mind’ Data?
Fairness is an issue to Australian consumers, especially when it comes to their phone bills. Our own research shows that 28% of people have been charged $10 or more in the previous month, for exceeding the data allowance they were provided in their plan.
Telstra is taking the lead among Australian phone companies, in helping users manage their data. As well as an exceptional self-service app which they provide free to their users, Telstra has also put in place a new plan feature called ‘Peace Of Mind’ data.
Peace of mind data works by limiting (in the industry, it’s called throttling) the mobile data speeds you’re provided to 1.5Mbps when you reach the limit of your plan’s data allocation. Telstra offers this on their postpaid plans.
It’s probably best explained with an example. Imagine your phone plan has 12 GB of data included in it. While you’re using that 12 GB of data each month, you’ll get the maximum / full network speeds offered by Telstra. Typically, on the Telstra network, that will give you 4G download speeds which are about as fast as your home broadband connection.
When you reach your 12GB limit, your access to data doesn’t stop. Nor will you be charged $10 per GB, as was previously the case. Instead, you will continue to get mobile data but it will be provided to you at a reduced speed of 1.5Mbps– thus, it might take a little longer for a map to appear, or the video you download from YouTube might be of a standard definition quality, rather than HD.
For almost any task, throttled data like this is enough to keep you going – although some tasks might take longer than you’re used to. On the plus side, you will always have access to data and you won’t be charged more. That’s Peace Of Mind Data.
What is a ‘Data Bank’?
A data bank is a feature unique to Telstra that’s available on many of their prepaid plans. Data banking means that whatever data you’re given, it remains on your account until you use it or leave the company for another provider. Telstra offers it directly to their prepaid customers, or you can get it through Belong Mobile, which also uses the Telstra Mobile Network. Telstra’s month-to-month plans don’t offer this feature at the moment.
Typically, with a phone plan, you’re given a data allocation which will last for a month. For example, you might be given a phone plan which has 6GB of 4G data. In the past, that allocation has been provided on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. That is, if you won’t work your way through the 6GB of data in the month you’ve been granted it, whatever is left at the end of the month is forfeited and replaced with a new allocation, provided on the same terms.
A data bank is different. When you’re given your 6GB for the month, it will stay on your account until you use it. Say, in the first month, you use 4GB of your 6GB allocation. In the next month, you’ll see 8GB at the start of the month. The 6GB from your plan plus 2GB of data from last month.
The data bank facility stays in place for the entirety of your plan. Every bit of data you don’t use will be added to a running total or balance which you can use at any time.
What is Telstra’s ‘HRO’? (Hardware Replacement Option.)
Telstra now offers eligible customers the option to add the cost of hardware to their account and split the payments for it over 24 or 36 month periods.
Say you have a postpaid mobile account with Telstra and are paying off an iPhone along with the monthly cost of a mobile plan. You might end up with a bill of $90 per month to cover both the network access and monthly cost of the iPhone, broken down over 24 months. If, after 12 months, you then bought a new piece of hardware from Telstra (a new mobile broadband router, which cost $120 for example) the HRO would give you the ability to split the cost of that mobile broadband router over the remaining 12 months of your agreement with Telstra. For the final 12 months of your agreement with Telstra, your monthly repayments would rise from $90 per month to $100.
The HRO is essentially a credit agreement between you and Telstra which lets you split the cost of accessories, phones, or other pieces of electronic equipment you buy from Telstra over multiple months.
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.
Does Telstra let any smaller phone companies use their network ?
Telstra has a number of smaller phone networks reselling components of their network. Boost Mobile, Belong Mobile, Woolworths Mobile, Aldi Mobile, CMobile and others, all have access to at least parts of the Telstra network.
However, the only company selling access to the full Telstra network is Telstra itself.
Why is Telstra setting up Wi-Fi around their payphones? (Telstra ‘Air’)
The use of data on mobile phones is increasing quickly in Australia. That’s especially true in cities, where populations of people are denser. It’s also especially true for Telstra, given the relatively large proportion of their customer base 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 spread out smartphone data usage to their fixed network in this way. It’s popular with their customers.
- Australias best coverage
- Mature 4G coverage across wide area
- And new scheme to avoid overage
- 5G available in select locations and growing
- Add your own phone to separate month-to-month plan with no lock-in contract
- No excess data (overage) charges - 'Peace of Mind' data
- Change plans once a month
- Low levels of customer satisfaction, although complaints to TIO have reduced
- Must stay connected for 36-months to take advantage of 36-month device payment plans
- Network re-sellers often offer better value
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 that plans from big T cost a little more.
- The question is, does Telstra’s service – both customer and network – warrant the extra monthly spend?
- If 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 the answer might be yes.
- 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.
- Finally, we also consider Telstra’s recent plan inclusion upgrade and explain the details in simple terms.
Telstra reinvented their plan range again in late 2018. The decision followed a disastrous fall in share price, and the very public discussion with shareholders at the company’s July 2018 AGM regarding available options. Telstra dramatically reduced the number of phone plans available, as part of a strategy called Telstra 2022. Overall, the approach is designed to align the company with the new hyper-competitive environment of Australian phone plans, especially with the knowledge of TPG’s new plan range, which is set to cause serious disruption to every major phone plan provider in Australia – including Telstra.
Telstra have now added even more perks to what they offer. With their postpaid plans, you can now get access to their 5G Network. Telstra now separates handset plans from your mobile phone plan, and you can stretch out your handset plan to 36 months and your mobile phone plans will remain month-to-month. With Telstra postpaid plans, you also don’t have to worry about data overage charges — your speed simply gets throttled to 1.5Mbps when your plan data is exhausted, and you can stay online at that speed for free until your next billing cycle.
Telstra offers a broad (sometimes so broad that they become bewildering) array of options, extras, and inclusions in their postpaid plan range. These include content inclusions attached to their phone plans, and contract agreements (in which the user is provided a phone with their Telstra service and pays for it over a period of up to 36 months – something we generally advise against these days). We explain each of these, below.
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.
Telstra are not always easy to love. Their huge size means they’re great for big business and government contracts but can be difficult for individual customers to deal with. A quick tour of their website or customer service organization will serve as a quick reminder of how frustrating it can be for the individual customer to work with them. At some stage, almost all of us have had to go through it. They are so big, they’ve become unwieldy.
Here are a couple of ‘insider’ facts that are likely to help you in weighing the pros and cons of Telstra’s SIM Only offerings:
- Telstra’s 4G network may not be 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 3G network, however, is much bigger:
When you’re outside 4G coverage, however, you will be under Telstra’s 3G coverage – here, they really are a cut above the rest. Telstra covers approximately twice as much of Australia as their nearest rival Optus, in terms of square Kilometers. 3G is older technology now, and download speeds are notably slower (in a recent survey, typical download speeds for the 3G network were approximately 6 Mbps for Telstra, compared to around 40 Mbps on their 4G network). However, having some internet is often far preferable to having none, even if the access you have is slow.
- You can get cheaper deals on the Telstra Mobile Network :
Third, there are a number of phone companies that resell the Telstra Mobile Network (now with 4G). They typically have better deals than Telstra itself. We show you which of these options are our preferred Telstra Mobile Network resellers, below.
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.
We usually recommend the month-to-month variants of these plans for a simple reason; Data pricing falls so frequently that, in a few months, you are almost always likely to be able to get more data, however much you spend.
Following their late 2018 refresh, the only way you could get a month-to-month plan from Telstra was if you took one of their prepaid plans.
We have a dedicated section for Telstra’s prepaid plans. However, with Telstra’s 2019 refresh, their postpaid plans are now month-to-month as well, with no lock-in contracts.
Some more news from Telstra was released mid-2019. This time, the telco targeted its postpaid plans, refreshing them starting from June 25, following an almost equivalent revamp of its Prepaid Max plans,
Telstra took the opportunity to increase the data allowance included in their postpaid range, eliminating excess data charges (overage charges) (which we think is one of the fairest treatment of data in Australia), and more. That announcement also came with several other changes to the entire Telstra lineup to make for a more competitive package and to deal with some of the newer trends that their customers are experiencing.
The new range includes the following features:
- Postpaid customers can now get a taste of 5G:
Telstra’s 5G Network is now live in 32 major and regional cities. However, Telstra 5G is only available to postpaid customers and, as stated, in select areas. The telco hopes to have 35 cities 5G-ready by mid-summer. If you have a 5G device, you can get a taste of the anticipated 5G network free of charge on Telstra’s Small and Medium plans until 30 June 2020, when it goes up to an additional $15 per month if you opt in. The Large and Extra Large plans won’t increase.
- Customers can add a device to month-to-month plans with no lock-in contracts:
Vodafone launched this scheme for their postpaid plans around a year ago, in recognition of a number of changes in the market. People are holding on to their phones longer and hate to be slugged with extra data charges at $10 per month. Telstra has followed suit and now provides very similar features to Vodafone. Telstra postpaid plans are now month-to-month plans with no lock-in contracts, and you can add a device as well on a lengthy contract while still keeping your mobile plan as month-to-month. This is a big change for Telstra who used to only offer 12-month contracts in the SIM Only space.
- Customers can now pay off a device over a 24- or 36-month span, and device plans are separate from your mobile plan:
Another significant change which has been taking place among Australian phone plan buying is the concept of ‘peak smartphone‘. We’re all holding on to our phones longer than we used to. To Telstra, that means acknowledging that a 2-year contract might be right for some, but won’t be right for everyone. Separating the plan cost and phone cost, making their product structure ‘modular’ – providing service elements that people can choose or change as they want to – recognizes the shift and simplifies the choices they are making. Although you can add a device to your separate month-to-month mobile phone plan, you’d have to stay connected for 36 months to keep your monthly device payments low, but they offer 24-month plans as well.
- Customers don’t get charged for excess data within Australia – their data speeds get throttled to 1.5mbps instead;
Overage charges (when you get slugged with another $10 on your bill for exceeding your included data allowance) really annoy customers. Telstra’s new plan range continues their alternative approach, limiting speeds to 1.5mbps when you reach your limit, and you stay connected at that speed for free until your next billing cycle kicks in. Most users find that speed perfectly OK for what they want to do – and preferable to the charged ($10 / GB) alternative.
- A range of entertainment, accessories, and service extras can now be used to personalize plans:
Telstra’s entertainment options are now provided free of charge (included in the price) of their postpaid plans. Users get access to AFL, NRL, and a growing range of women’s sports video content, including some live games.
- Customers can now change plans once a month, and device plans are separate from mobile phone plans:
The phone’s Minimum Total Cost (MTC) refers to the lowest amount you’ll pay for your phone after the contract period is successfully completed (all months have been paid). Telcos usually advertise the MTC, but your actual payment might be higher when it’s all said and done, depending on factors like the length of the contract you choose. Telstra now breaks down the phone’s MTC over the course of 24 or 36 months, and treats it independently of the SIM Only plan. That means users can move up or down a plan, securing extra data (or reducing it) once a month. If a customer wants to leave Big T altogether, all they have to do is pay for their device or accessories in full and cancel the agreement, without being stuck with the SIM Only plan.
So, these are the new features Telstra offer. Below, we provide a bit more detail on Telstra service features which remain in place and are unaffected by Telstra’s latest plan refresh.
At the moment, Telstra is the only phone company that offers ‘throttled’ data, slowed to 1.5mbps, designed to remove the fear of bill shock from data overspends. Source: Telstra
- They now have ‘Peace Of Mind’ (‘unlimited’) data plans:
In 2018, Optus launched a plan with unlimited data included for a short time. Telstra and Vodafone followed suit shortly after. The regulator didn’t like the messaging of the unlimited plans that were released because they were not, in fact, unlimited. After the core data inclusion was used in these ‘Unlimited’ plans, bandwidth was slowed to 1.5 Mbps. To avoid a lawsuit, the telcos withdrew those unlimited plans from the market. Now, on most of Telstra’s SIM Only plans, you won’t be charged for extra data once you reach the limit of your monthly data inclusions – you’ll always have access to data (when you’re in coverage). However, the download speeds you’ll get are capped at that 1.5 Mbps limit. Telstra calls that ‘Peace of Mind’ data.
- 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 here, between Telstra’s offering and Vodafone’s (apart from the pricing, where Vodafone usually wins) is data. Telstra only gives you 200 MB of data for each day while you’re overseas; Vodafone allows 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 traveling. Getting online this way is free and won’t count against your 200 MB daily allowance. You can learn more about Australian plans which can be used for roaming here.
- Great ’24×7′ Self Service App:
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, as well as 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, without having to wait on hold all the time.
- Telstra has impressive sports content inclusions:
Notable among Telstra’s inclusions 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. Telstra’s content includes Apple Music access (provided free of charge for the first 6 months). They also have the rights to the AFL and NRL, as well as some other niche sports. Content is of increasing importance in phone plans, with around 70% of Australians saying it is a key criterion they use to compare plans. This point is so important – we have expanded on it below.
- Free WiFi / Telstra ‘Air’:
Telstra’s size gives them some unique capabilities, such as turning on free WiFi in the town center of every conurbation in the country if they want to. Telstra is the only phone company 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 Plus“. It allows you to accumulate points and cash them in for actual accessories and devices, as well as other smaller items such as movie and concert tickets. It’s a tiered system that ranks members based on how much they spend on recharges/bills. 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 – in reality, they are worth little (in our view!).
- International Calls Pack:
Telstra customers can add a $10 a month charge for unlimited calls to (selected) overseas destinations. We have a dedicated page showing the best Australian phone plans for international calls.
- 5G Coverage for Free Until 30 June 2020:
Telstra 5G is now available in select areas, but only for their postpaid customers (not prepaid). There are several 5G smartphones available now, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G lineup. Customers on Telstra’s new Small and Medium plan will have free access to Telstra’s 5G network until 30 June 2020, after which an additional $15 will be charged per month if you opt in for the 5G service. The Large and Extra Large plans won’t incur any additional 5G charges.
- Telstra’s 4G network is not as good as you think (but their 3G coverage is much better than the competition):
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 a 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 Telstra’s network! Have a think about that. In real terms, the availability of a 4G signal is almost always the same regardless of 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, according to the latest statistics in the 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 that Telstra has spent such a long time convincing us that its network was superior that 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.
- 3G coverage is where Telstra really have the advantage: Telstra’s 3G coverage footprint, however, is around twice the signal area you’d get on either the Optus or Vodafone networks. 4G speeds are obviously better than 3G – but 3G is far, far preferable to no coverage at all. This is the reality of the extra you pay for Telstra. If you live outside a city, there may well be a lot of times, when you can only get a mobile internet connection with Telstra. It might only apply to 1 – 5% of the population – those who live or work in the extra 1.2 million square Kilometers or so that Telstra’s 3G network covers. But to them, that’s an important fact.
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 agreements this year. As you would expect, Telstra has been dishing it out in a bid to keep existing customers and win new ones. 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 granted 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 throws 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. It’s so new that 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.
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 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 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 1% 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 1%, and you’re prepared to look rationally at alternatives, you will find many credible options available to you. We think the alternatives on this page will service the vast majority of customers well.
This Month’s Hot Offers
Summing up Telstra’s SIM Only
Adding things like the NRL / AFL and Peace of Mind data into their phone plans might justify the SIM Only plans that Telstra has in market.
Telstra has made a range of improvements to their SIM Only plan range, both postpaid and prepaid. Their data allowance have increased on all price points, and they’ve added fair treatment offers like data banking (prepaid) and Peace of Mind data (postpaid). These new features have led to a reduction in complaints to the TIO, so Telstra is definitely making the right moves.
Optus has a large number of credible and fast-growing brands in it’s stable. Moose Mobile, Spintel and Vaya, all offer postpaid deals on the Optus networks. OVO mobile, Amaysim, and Yomojo all offer prepaid plans on the Optus network. While Telstra matches Optus on price, Optus steals everything below – in one form or another.
However, all that being said, there really is no alternative to Telstra’s 3G coverage footprint. If you live in rural Australia, you simply have to consider Telstra or one of its resellers Boost / Belong.
Telstra’s plan inclusions are as involved as the rest of them. We’ve compared the details here so you don’t have to.
This Month’s Hot Offers