What’s special about Telstra’s prepaid plans ?
Telstra’s prepaid plan range has a number of unique features. Depending on the (specific prepaid) plan you sign up to, you might get:
- Included sport:
Telstra’s ‘free’ (for prepaid customers who have a balance of over $30 on selected plans) included video content / Entertainment is unique and could, on its own, entice you to try Telstra’s network. Through their Self Service app, you will get one season of AFL, NRL or Basketball when you have an appropriate SIM.
- Included streamed audio:
Telstra also offers a 6-month subscription to Apple Music. Streamed audio through this service is free.
Both of these entertainment options provide the user with zero-rated data.
- Data Bank:
This feature allows you to save up to 200GB of your unused data and roll it over to your next cycle when you recharge with $10 or more. You can keep the up to 200GB in your data bank for as long as your plan remains active.
We explain these, and every other unique Telstra prepaid ‘value add’, in our article, below.
How can I maximize the value in my plan ?
We encourage prepaid shoppers to try alternative service providers to Telstra. One of the best elements of using a Prepaid service is that you are not tied in to a contract. Other providers who resell the Telstra Mobile network will provide better value inclusions.
What are Data Top Ups and Plus Packs ?
This page relates to Telstra’s prepaid plans. We have a separate page if you’d like to see Telstra’s postpaid plans. In prepaid plans, additional services like international calls, calls to satellite numbers, the use of premium SMS numbers, etc., may all be required by customers at some point. Where these services are not included in your Telstra prepaid plan, you can buy a ‘Plus Pack’ to enable their use. A Data Top Up plan is the same deal. You use it to add more data on top of the initial allocation you were given in your Freedom bundle.
In a postpaid agreement between you and Telstra, you agree that any services you use, on top of the core arrangement, will be charged to you automatically at the end of the month. For example, if you buy a plan which has just Australian Domestic call minutes (core product) but you want to call overseas this month (you’ll be charged automatically for that at the end of the month.) This is just one of the reasons that postpaid plans can end up being more expensive than prepaid plans.
Imagine you have taken a Telstra Prepaid plan at $30. You have used all of the international minutes included in your plan but you want to make an international call. Buying a Bonus Pack would allow you to do that.
I need to compare the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks to be able to decide.
Telstra experienced a number of concerning network problems during 2016. Since Telstra’s main justification for their unusually high pricing is the quality of their network, this is a concerning new aspect to their service.
This is an understandable question before you commit to a service. We’ve written a separate page on this very subject, to track the most important Australian network facts.
What phone options do I have with Telstra Prepaid ?
Telstra has a reasonable range of phone hardware targetted at prepaid shoppers.
You don’t have to take a new phone from Telstra to get a Prepaid SIM from them, however. Any SIM you get should work in just about any phone you bought in Australia.
If you do need a new phone, Telstra has an inexpensive range with some 4G models. You’ll find them on the Telstra website.
How can I compare Telstra prepaid against Telstra postpaid plans ?
We have a separate page for Telstra’s postpaid SIM Only plan range.
I live in a city. Is it worth paying the extra for Telstra coverage ?
In our view, no. Independent studies have shown that, in cities, Optus and Vodafone’s coverage is just as good as, if not better than, Telstra’s.
- Undeniably the best 3G+4G network in Australia
- Useful plan features - e.g. included sport & 'Data Bank'
- Data-free streaming
- Range made simpler - now just 2 plan types
- Entertainment content
- Telstra's SIM Only plans offers better value, and are now month-to-month
- Inflexible company procedures - can be hard to work with
- Better value available if you live in / near a city
- Value adds not right for everyone - could leave you paying for something you won't use
- Most expensive in market - consider Boost & Belong as alternatives
Telstra’s prepaid plans’ best feature is their unique content and ‘data vault’. Telstra’s pricing and network coverage plus their recent preparedness to offer sign up special deals mean they have to be in the mix when you’re comparing plans.
- Telstra offers some unique entertainment options (streamed voice and video) and some other value-added services to its prepaid range.
- Telstra prepaid will be right for you if you like those entertainment options.
- To be sure you’re getting the best value for data, make sure you first compare with their SIM Only plans.
- Then compare with Belong Mobile, and Boost Mobile, the major alternatives to Telstra.
- Both Belong Mobile and Boost Mobile use the Telstra Mobile Network.
- Telstra’s prepaid plans used to offer better value than their postpaid SIM Only deals.
- However, the opposite is now true.
- And their postpaid plans are now month-to-month as well.
Telstra’s plans and positioning, place them at the top of our telco value pyramid. In essence, going with a big phone company like Telstra means you’ll get a bunch of value-adds provided ‘free’ on top of the prepaid plan they give you. If these value-adds are of no use to you, however, then you may well have been better off choosing a core plan from an alternative SIM Only or prepaid provider.
Telstra’s voice, minutes and data inclusions are well understood. You might be less familiar with the following important aspects of Telstra’s prepaid product range.
- Telstra’s prepaid video entertainment options :
Entertainment has become a part of phone plans now. Telstra’s prepaid plans and Optus include access to zero-rated sports programming, available to Telstra prepaid customers through an app. If you’re into them, Telstra’s sports inclusions will be hugely valuable. For NRL, AFR or Australian Netball fans (those are the codes that Telstra support), this single plan feature might make Telstra worthy of their monthly prepaid spend. (Note: With any prepaid plan on which the user has a recharge value of $30 or more, they’ll be able to use the Telstra app to watch the sport.)
- Telstra prepaid streamed audio options:
Optus and Telstra have quite different streamed audio offerings. Telstra has partnered with Apple. On some Telstra prepaid services, you can sign up with Telstra for a free 6 months Apple Music account. The ‘new aspect’ to Telstra’s support of this is that the data you use to stream the Apple Music service to your phone won’t come out of your plan. Optus partners with different streamed audio providers including iHeart Radio and Spotify.
- Other bonus Telstra features:
Note, these are all available on Telstra Prepaid Plus. Not all of these features are available on all of their prepaid plans. Telstra also offers its users data banking, data free streaming of Apple Music and sports content, and Internet access through several hundred thousand “Telstra Air” WiFi Networks throughout the country (Which it sometimes offers free to everyone, anyway) and some Microsoft Onedrive cloud storage.
Telstra’s prepaid lineup offers everything from short expiry plans with 7-day expiry to normal expiry (28 days) and long expiry plans (up to 12 months expiry). Your prepaid plan’s “recharge expiry” refers to how long it lasts before you have to recharge, and long expiry plans last longer than a month and as much as a year before you have to recharge.
Unless you have a relatively unusual need for a long ‘expiry’ plan, or make a very small number of voice calls over a very long time, Telstra Prepaid Extra plans (their normal expiry lineup) are almost certainly going to be right for you. If you do have a requirement for a prepaid plan with a longer expiry period, see below for Telstra’s Long Life Plus offers.
Our own research shows that subscribers look for several factors when considering a phone plan. Among them are:
- Network coverage;
- Fair treatment;
- Quality customer service; and
Of all these factors, we’ve found that subscribers, when looking into a phone plan, value fair treatment 3 times more than they do innovation.
What subscribers value. Source
Phone companies are now aware of this fact, and are responding accordingly. Telstra is no different, as they revamp their Telstra Pre-Paid Max plan with a number of fair inclusions:
- Increased core data inclusions;
- Expanded IDD (International Direct Dial) inclusions;
- Increased expiry dates;
- The addition of a ‘Data Bank.’ ( Also known as a ‘Data Vault’)
- Data-free streaming on Apple Music;
- Data-free sports streaming
Here’s more on Telstra’s approach.
Telstra’s phone plans already had some good features. Notably, the company has exclusive rights to sports leagues — notably the AFL (Australian Football League) and NRL (National Rugby League) among others — and allows its subscribers to stream this content for free.
The company continues to break records with this feature, with tens of thousands of subscribers streaming content at the same time during these sports events. For example, last year, the company recorded 1.2 million separate devices streaming AFL, NRL, and Netball games on a single weekend.
However, regardless of how great free sports streaming may be, it only targets a certain sector — males. For example, 60 percent of NRL viewers are male. Although a 40 percent viewership is not that bad as a target market, it leaves too many subscribers within a certain gender without much to look forward to in a phone plan.
As stated, our survey on what subscribers find important while considering phone plans suggests that fairness comes first, after the basics of price and reliability. There, we pointed out that subscribers see fairness as covering a broad range of issues. Two of the concerns were tailored towards data — specifically, refunding unused data and data management.
Another survey showed that over 20 percent of customers don’t trust their telco “at all”, and only less than 5 percent trust their telco “completely”. Trust and fairness go hand-in-hand, and watching your unused data disappear shakes trust and seems entirely unfair.
Consumer trust. Source
With Data Banking, Telstra allows you to keep your unused data as long as you recharge with at least $10. Your unused data rolls over to your next recharge cycle and beyond, up to 200GB that can be used after your plan data allowance expires. The data in your data vault never disappears or expires, so long as you keep your plan active and recharged. Unused data from data packs also go into your data bank.
Telstra offer a $2 SIM Starter Kit with free delivery. It doesn’t include any recharge, so you’ll have to purchase a plan separately. However, Telstra also offer 5 other SIM Starter Kits that cost from $10 to $300. The amounts on these SIM Starter Kits are used to recharge your chosen prepaid plan. These kits usually come with some very attractive discounts on your plan recharge. Note that if you don’t use or recharge your SIM for 6 months, it will expire.
Telstra Long Life Plus plans are for unusual use cases. If you have a phone you keep in the glove box of your car for emergencies, if you receive the vast majority of your calls, then you might want one of these prepaid plans with extremely long expiry duration. Your plan’s expiry refers to how long your current recharge lasts until you need to recharge again. The most common plans have 20 or 30-day expiry periods, but long expiry plans last a lot longer — up to 365 days with Telstra.
Many phone companies have this sort of plan. We all upgrade our phones regularly (although the time between those upgrades is increasing all the time). Our own research on this site shows that the most common thing people do with their old phone is to put it in a drawer at home. It is in those phones squandered in drawers that Long Life SIMs are used.
- Sold in dollar values:
As opposed to ‘Caps’, Long Expiry plans are purchased with a $ face value (e.g.$20) and then reasonable per minute call charges are deducted from that amount until the balance on the account is Zero.
- Data is expensive:
In this plan, you will be charged 10 cents per MB. That’s $100+ per GB! This is the old way of charging for data.
- Telstra Prepaid Max is a better long expiry alternative:
In our view, the overlap between the Long Life Prepaid plans offered by Telstra and the Prepaid Max range – which includes plans with a 35 and 42-day, 6 month and 12 month recharge ‘expiry’ period, is just plain confusing. Either plan will get you full access to the Telstra Network, and the Prepaid max 35 and 42-day, 6-month, and 12-month plans all come with allocated data allowances (20GB to 150GB) that make more sense than charging 10 cents per GB, as well as a 200GB Data Bank.
Both Telstra postpaid and prepaid customers can stream songs on Apple Music data-free (that is, without spending their plan data allowance). Note that you still have to purchase an Apple Music subscription, and downloads, video streaming and social interactions aren’t data free — you’ll use your data allowance for that.
Telstra prepaid customers also get data-free streaming of live sports on plans $30 and above, as long as they maintain an active recharge. Data-free sports include the AFL, Football, AFLW, Netball, and NRL.
Telstra also offer Extra Credit, which can be applied towards International voice and SMS, roaming, and premium SMS. Extra Credits can’t be used for calls and texts to Australian phone numbers and other uses within Australia, nor can they be used as PAYG data.
Prepaid has always been the lion’s share of the phone company’s sales. Despite the already enormous size of the prepaid market, the usage of prepaid services is increasing quickly. A number of factors are driving the increase in prepaid and other SIM only products, including Telstra’s. One of those factors is introductory offers. Including introductory offers, Telstra’s prepaid plans are often better value than more expensive postpaid alternatives, at lower price points on their own network. Also, the quality of the product is exactly the same.
As if often the case, Telstra’s Prepaid Plus plan is a better value than the nearest spend SIM Only plan. This is the case consistently across the major telcos – another reason not to write prepaid plans off before you consider them.
Telstra has addressed this data aspect of fairness with its inclusion of a data bank on its prepaid plans (their postpaid plans don’t offer this). Further, unlike Telstras free sports streaming content, data banks are even more fair because they benefit all subscribers — not just one sector.
But a significant advantage Telstra’s prepaid plans had over postpaid plans was their month-to-month nature vs their postpaid lengthy 12-month contract. Now, though, Telstra postpaid plans are also month-to-month, no lock-in contracts plans.
Telstra’s revamped inclusions are great, but they still face competition. The specifics of the data bank require that subscribers recharge with at least $10 prior to the plans expiry. Also, the $30, $40, and $50 plans require that the subscriber’s first recharge occur by 13 May, with all others by 31 October. The other plans lack this requirement, but all plans have a 200GB data bank cap.
Other telcos’ plans provide data banks with less stipulations, and for less money. For example, Belong Mobile offers unlimited data vaults on all its plans ($10 to $25), the data never expires, and the subscriber can transfer unused data to other Belong subscribers. Boost Mobile offer a similar ‘Data Rollover’ scheme.
Perhaps Telstra may eventually even match the competition – something that we thought might never happen.
A key change for Telstra in 2016 was the perception of their coverage. Following improvements in 2016, Optus and Vodafone’s networks are on a par with Telstra in cities. Independent research shows that all 3 networks cover a very similar proportion of the population with 4G speeds. If you live in or near a city, there really is very little reason to choose Telstra now. The case is different, however, in rural areas given Telstra’s expansive coverage footprint.
There are around 2.5 million Australians who live in Rural Australia (that’s towns with less than 1000 inhabitants, and includes everyone from farmers to downsizing retirees who have moved from city areas). For them, Telstra could appear to be the only choice because of its strong 3G coverage.
Telstra has 2 national networks – its 3G and, separately, 4G networks. Whatever phone you have, it will work with the Telstra 3G network. The Telstra 3G network covers 98% of the Australian population. That’s 1.26 million square kilometers – a larger network footprint area than any other Australian phone company network. Their 4G network currently covers 90% of Australians with a 4G signal.
Just to make it clear, this does not call in to question what was said above. Telstra does cover some very rural parts of Australia. Those rural parts are very sparsely populated. But for people in the city – the vast majority of the country as a whole – Optus’ coverage is as good for them as Telstra’s. However, for those living in the coverage area that only Telstra services (usually with a 3G signal), there is no alternative.
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Telstra’s network is provided with equal priority to both prepaid and postpaid customers. When the network stops working, it is most likely to stop working for both prepaid and postpaid customers at the same time.
Telstra suffered a series of embarrassing network outages in 2016. Despite efforts and a great deal of PR, the perception of their network as the most reliable in Australia has been sorely dented.
There’s another negative — Telstra charge an unlocking fee for their devices. Apparently, just because you If you have a Telstra device (handset, mobile broadband device, etc.) and you’d like to unlock it to use on other networks, Telstra will charge you some steep fees based on how long you’ve been activated:
- $80 if you never activated your device or had it activated for 6 months or less.
- $25 if activated for 6 months to 2 years.
- Free, only if activated over 2 years.
Telstra’s major competitors are well known in Australia
- Vodafone ‘MyMix’:
Vodafone ‘MyMix’ plans allow you to tie together whatever combination of SMS, data, and voice you need. We think that the value Vodafone includes on these prepaid services is never as good as Kogan Mobile, which uses the same network. The international rates are simply not as good as those offered by Lebara Mobile, which, again, use exactly the same Vodafone 3G and 4G network. We also believe that the Vodafone MyMix plan configurator is complicated and an outdated concept. Yomojo, for example, does the same thing much better.
- Optus prepaid:
Not only does Optus compete with Telstra extremely effectively on data inclusions at the moment, but we think Optus’ Streamed Audio offering is better than Telstra’s.
Outside the major phone companies, you will get a lot more for your money. We recommend you compare all prepaid SIM Plans side by side.
Summing Up : Telstra’s prepaid service looks very different already and seems set to change a great deal more – from a coverage point of view
Although several improvements to inclusions have been made here, the data bank addition carries the most weight. Costumers want to be sure they aren’t losing; having your unused data disappear feels that way.
Telstra’s move here is a step towards fairer plans. However, competition still exists, and at a lower cost with less stipulations. Telstra, though, is moving towards the right direction, and perhaps even more competitive plans are underway.
There have been many changes, but probably the key adaptation to their prepaid service since you last checked in are Telstra’s entertainment options. They are mind-blowingly good and, in line with the reason Telstra is prepared to spend so much on them, these alone might cause you to pick Telstra as your prepaid provider. If you choose Telstra prepaid, their ‘Prepaid Max’ range will be right for 90% of those reading this article.
The nature of the prepaid service is that it’s highly competitive. Prepaid services do not require customers to sign up for contracts. Customers’ short recharge commitment period ( typically 28 days ) gives them a great deal of ‘switching power’. Essentially, the minute they’re unhappy with the deal they’re on, or see something better coming, they can leave and go to the new deal.
That works in favor of every prepaid shopper. Simply put, the phone companies have to provide headline-stealing introductory offers to get your attention. It has to be worthwhile for you in order to get you to move away from the competition. That even applies to Telstra, who has uncharacteristically started competing in this way with special introductory offers.
These days, headline-grabbing introductory offers involve including more data, which is just what Telstra has done. Incredibly, as we’ve shown above, you’re more likely to get bigger and better data inclusions from Telstra prepaid than if you spend an equivalent amount on their own postpaid range.
Unfortunately, Telstra’s plans are often too expensive for everyone except those in deeply rural areas who have no alternative. One reason for Telstra’s inflated pricing is the charge they impose for 4G services. If you are a feature phone owner ( and many prepaid customers are ) then paying for 4G speeds even though you can’t use them is wasteful. Compare on our prepaid plans page to get the best value.
Beyond the entertainment, these must be terrifying times for Telstra. They’re forced to match ( what they consider to be less worthwhile rivals like ) Optus and Vodafone on data allowance. The famed reliability of the network they used to be able to charge more for is now seen as in need of some maintenance. This seems to be the start of a network perception problem which could get worse for Telstra. To this, we add the burden of the proposed national roaming agreements. If they go ahead, as seems likely, Telstra will not have a better network at all. Telstra’s prepaid offering will be even more interesting when Optus and Vodafone can access that extra rural footprint. That seems likely to accentuate what’s already happening – Telstra having to add more and more data and more and more value-adds to justify their very high pricing.
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