Telstra Prepaid Plan Review & Comparison

  • Telstra have reduced their range
  • Now offer only 'Prepaid-Max' and Long Life Prepaid Plans
  • Can be expensive compared to alternatives
  • Innovative plan features inc data bank
  • Range includes impressive 'value adds'

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Which Competitors To Telstra Prepaid Should You Consider?

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Common Questions About Telstra Prepaid

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.
  • Remember:
    Both of these entertainment options provide the user with zero-rated data.

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.

Consider :

  • Boost Mobile
    A prepaid provider for plans with relatively large 4G data allocations on the Telstra Mobile Network – now with 4G.
  • Belong Mobile :
    A postpaid SIM Only plan provider which also uses the Telstra Mobile Network and which now also offer 4G plans.

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.

What's good

  • Undeniably the best 3G+4G network in Australia
  • Useful plan features - e.g. included sport & 'Data Vault'
  • Most expensive in market - consider Boost & Belong as alternatives
  • Range made simpler - now just 2 plan types

What's bad

  • Telstra's SIM Only plans offers better value - but only come on 12 month terms
  • 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

 

A 60-second intro to Telstra Prepaid

  • Telstra revised their plan line up, including their prepaid plans in early 2019.
  • 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.
    • Unfortunately, if you want a month to month plan – as opposed to a 12 month contract, and you want to be on the Telstra Network, you will need to take a prepaid plan or sign up with Belong Mobile (link above) who offer postpaid plans on the Telstra Network.

 

Telstra won the WhatPhone award for 'Best for Entertainment 2019'

Telstra won the WhatPhone award for ‘Best for Entertainment 2019’

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Telstra : Winner – Best For Entertainment

Telstra’s Prepaid Plans now include the same Entertainment as their postpaid range. Entertainment inclusions in phone plans are increasingly becoming a lucrative arena,  where most of the battle for supremacy – at least the major phone companies – is unfolding. In simple terms, Telstra’s content inclusion in their current phone plan range is the best in the market, in our view. So, we awarded them the Best Operator For Entertainment in a phone plan.

When it comes to content streaming (sports, Netflix film, TV shows, audio services like Spotify, etc), Optus, Telstra and, to a lesser degree, OVO Mobile, lead the pack. As an industry leader, Telstra is well off to making big money moves in the entertainment industry, such as securing exclusive access to the AFL and NRL. In late 2018, Telstra decided to capture a greater proportion of young female users by introducing free gymnastics content streaming.

 

Telstra’s Prepaid Plans Offer a Bunch Of Value Adds

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 access to its users through several hundred thousand “Telstra Air” WiFi Networks. (Which it sometimes offers free to everyone, anyway) and some Microsoft Onedrive cloud storage.

 

Telstra Prepaid Max

Unless you have a the relatively unusual need for a long ‘expiry’ (that is, a prepaid plan with an expiry longer than a month) make a very small number of voice calls over a very long time, these Telstra Prepaid Extra plans 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 offers.

Telstra’s lineup just got better. The telco launched a 26 February 2019 retail campaign refreshing everything from home internet to Telstra TV to mobile broadband hardware. Most interesting of all are the new inclusions in the Telstra Pre-Paid Max plan.

Our own research shows that subscribers look for several factors when considering a phone plan. Among them are:

  • Affordability;
  • Network coverage;
  • Reliability;
  • Fair treatment;
  • Quality customer service; and
  • Innovation.

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.

Subscribers place more value on fairness than on innovation

What subscribers value. Source

Phone companies are now aware of this fact, and are responding accordingly. Telstra is no different, as it revamps its Telstra Pre-Paid Max plan with a number of fair inclusions:

  • Increased core data inclusions;
  • Expanded IDD (International Direct Dial) inclusions;
  • Increased expiry dates; and
  • The addition of a ‘Data Bank.’ ( Also known as a ‘Data Vault’)

Here’s more on Telstra’s approach.

 

Telstra’s previous offers weren’t bad

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.

How Telstra’s data bank addresses the issue of fairness

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 seems entirely shakes trust and seems entirely unfair.

Survey found that 10% of subscribers don’t trust their telco “at all”, while only less than 5% trust their telco “completely”.

Consumer trust. Source

 

Telstra Long Life Prepaid

Telstra Long Life 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.

Every phone company has 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. However, you will receive ‘Data Bank’ on the data you have allocated to your account on this plan, too.
  • Just another way of access to the Telstra Network
    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, 6 month and 12 month recharge ‘expiry’ period, is just plain confusing. Either plan will get you full access to the Telstra Network.

 

Telstra prepaid vs Telstra SIM Only (postpaid)

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. Remember, using a $30 Telstra prepaid SIM, you can get the same network service at a great price without a long-term commitment.

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. Further, unlike Telstras free sports streaming content, data banks are even more fair because they benefit all subscribers — not just one sector.

 

Although this is good news, Telstra still faces a lot of competition

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.

Telstra’s prepaid plans are right at the top of this Pyramid. If you go with Telstra, you’ll get a lot of value adds, on top of your core Telstra Prepaid Plan.

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.

 

Telstra’s coverage advantage now

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.

Whichever 4G network you get, the proportion of coverage you’ll receive is about the same.

 

Telstra’s coverage footprint advantage

Telstra (cleverly) jealously guards their 3G /4G  network. It’s not even sold in its entirety through their network resellers.

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.

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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How Telstra’s network outages affect its customers

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.

 

Alternatives to Telstra prepaid – Optus and Vodafone prepaid

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 Plus’ 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 inclusions. 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.

Alternatives to Telstra, which offer prepaid plans on the Telstra network, are limited. We recommend you consider Boost Mobile or Belong.