What is a ‘Data Only Plan’ and what’s a ‘Data Led Plan’ ?
Data Only plans are just that. They are SIMs that you get from the phone company which you can only use to download or upload data through their phone network. You can tell them in the table above because they’re marked ‘no voice’ in the voice section. They’re no voice because they’re data only.
Data led plans are plans which are marketed and bought primarily for their data inclusions. For example, a plan with 3GB of data and ‘PAYG’ voice is mostly about data. People that buy it are buying it mostly to get data. They can also make voice calls for a few cents per minute.
How do I receive normal phone calls if I have a ‘Data Only Plan’ ?
This is a natural question. You receive voice calls in the same way you always did. Data only plans still allow you to receive voice network calls free of charge. You can, as you always did, receive as many as you’d like to. They will be free of charge to you ( caller pays. ) Just pick the phone up and say ‘Hello’.
How do I make normal phone calls if I have a ‘Data Only Plan’ or a ‘data led plan’ ?
In this case, we mean ‘normal phone call’ to be over the mobile phone company voice network. (As opposed to through an app like Viber or Skype.)
Typically, data only plans let you make a call for a few cents a minute if you need to. You’ll be charged for this on top of the data you’ve bought. So, for example, if you sign up to a Vaya data plan, you’ll pay $29 per month (for example) and, if you make a couple of calls per week using their voice network, you’ll pay another couple of bucks for voice services in addition. Your total bill (in this example, $31) depends on the number of calls you make.
If I use a data SIM as a data led plan ( as my primary SIM in a smartphone ) how much data will I need ?
As a general guide, you’ll need between 2GB and 3GB. You should also measure your usage regularly using the app on your phone or from your data plan provider (e.g. Vodafone.) You should be particularly careful at the start of your contract. People who use data only plans in this way tend to be high data users anyway. Average usage varies, of course. If you have a newer, 4G phone, you are likely to use more than if you have an older3G phone. For a mid /high user, between 2GB and 3GB is not uncommon.
The truth is, adding a voice and or messaging app (e.g. Viber and Whats App respectively), even if you use them an awful lot will not increase your data usage very much. It’s video downloads which represent the vast majorty of people’s usage. Essentially, You Tube.
Does it make a difference if plans are charged per MB or per Kb ?
Yes, it can. In some cases, this sort of measurement can double the data usage you have.
The simple answer here is that plans which charge per kB are better value than plans which charge per MB.
The crafty phone companies have started ‘rounding up’ to the nearest MB of usage. So, if you’re on a per MB plan and you load a web page which is 300 kB and then shut your phone down, you will be charged for 1MB of usage. If you were on a per Kb plan, you’d have been charged 300 kB.
What is ‘PAYG’
‘PAYG‘ is Pay As You Go. It’s the same as you are charged for your income tax. It just means Pay As You Go. As concerns voice calls, a typical PAYG rate might be 10 cent flagfall and 10 cents per minute. So, a standard 2 minute call would cost you 30 cents. The sum of each of those calls is added to your bill at the end of the month – because you’re Paying As You Go.
The alternative is a Cap or prepaid bundle. Caps or bundles are the typical way of buying phone voice services. You buy, say $500 worth of value. That contains a certain number of minutes of voice use.
Interestingly, when you exceed your bundle allocation for the month, the rates you pay will be PAYG.
If you make a single standard 2 minute call per day you might expect to pay around $5 per month in PAYG rates on most of the PAYG plans in Australia.
Should I be using these SIMs in my tablet or my phone ?
That’s up to you. There are some SIMs you can only use in your tablet. For these, you’ll see a ‘no voice’ comment in the voice value bit of the table we use to compare SIM Only plans, above.
However, there are some data plans which can be used for voice calls too. If you don’t make many voice calls each month (say less than a couple of calls a day) then these plans could make a lot of sense for you. You’ll get a lot more data for your money – which is probably what you want. You’ll still be able to receive all the calls you ever did. And, you’ll be able to make calls at pay as you go rates which are typically only a few cents a minute.
With WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and all the other communication apps which are out there, smart people are moving to data only plans and saving a heap.
How can I tell if my Data Only Plan is per Mb or per Kb ?
The answer to this varies according to phone company and provider. There are 2 reliable ways to find out. First of all, read the CIS – the Customer Information Statement for the plan. You’ll find it somewhere near the plan details on the website. It’ll be a downloadable PDS.
If you like to cheat, go to their website, go to the online store, start a chat and ask the chat representative. They’ll read the CIS for you if they don’t know off the top of their head.
The sad truth is that most plans these days are per MB charged.
If I use these ‘data led plans’ in place of my usual voice + SMS SIM, will I save any money ?
In simple terms, using data from a big bundle for voice calls (through an App like Skype or Viber) is very, very cheap.
Ultimately, everything is data, the phone companies just charge you more to transmit your voice than to transmit the same quantity of data as a picture over the data network.
You can find out more about that in the article on this page. We also provide you with some practical steps on how you can minimize your costs and choose the right plan for you.
Review And Comparison of Australia's Best Data Led Plans
All of these SIMs are ideal for tablets
You can make calls using Viber, Skype or Facetime
Mobile now a real alternative to fixed broadaband
PAYG plans let you make normal voice calls
You can receive a unlimited calls on PAYG plans
Using these as your main SIM is still unusual
WhatPhone’s Mobile Broadband Plan Survey
Our recent survey was designed to give you the insights you need to find the best mobile broadband data plan to suit your need.
WhatPhone conducted an online survey in late August 2017.
The survey was answered by 500 Australian Phone and Broadband users.
Results were collected immediately afterward and posted to WhatPhone in September.
We divided the results between three different articles, based on the focus areas covered by groups of questions.
The goal of the survey was to assist visitors to the site with information related to common questions we receive on this site and to establish unmet customer telecommunication needs.
Key findings :
One of the key developments in mobile data services came in late last year: Suites of a new type of plan. Several phone companies launched Mobile Broadband plans which connect users’ tablets, laptops and, in some cases, TVs, to the internet. Mobile Broadband bundles are now available for 70GB + per month. Prices for these mobile broadband services are now comparable to fixed broadband connections. That’s a dramatic change for the industry.
The most important statistics we found in this mobile broadband survey :
Fixed broadband solutions are not meeting customer needs: 69% of the people we surveyed, wanted to be able to take their broadband connection with them when they left the house. Additionally, the largest number of complaints to the TIO (the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) came from fixed broadband (NBN) installation and connection problems. The new mobile broadband services which are now available completely side-step those issues.
How can this information help you? Mobile broadband can be taken anywhere there is coverage. Fixed broadband solutions can’t. With these new types of mobile broadband plan being now of a comparable price to lower priced fixed broadband solutions and the problems the NBN is generating, now is the time to consider mobile data options.
Speed and reliability are the most important things to internet users: The latest mobile broadband products ( with data bundle sizes which rival fixed) offer ‘double data’ speeds, and are often faster than fixed line competitors. (Although, to a degree, performance of both fixed and mobile solutions depends on which device is accessing the service, how many other people are using it and where access is taking place.)
How can this information help you? In many cases, Mobile Broadband is faster than fixed. And given recent NBN installation headaches, remember, mobile broadband users are online from the second they activate their SIM.
77% of people don’t think they should be charged to reconnect if they move house: People expect fairness in their dealings with companies these days. Reconnection is just one example of costs which can be avoided with the right mobile broadband service. We cover others below. How can this information help you? Consider Mobile Broadband instead of fixed. It may suit your needs better by avoiding some of the costs you take for granted on fixed broadband solutions.
70% of people want to take their mobile broadband service with them.
Remember, with a mobile broadband plan, you won’t pay to move and / or reconnect your service. This can make mobile broadband useful for students, renters and those who move around a lot.
The key fact that will help you: You can have a mobile broadband connection with 25GB-75GB or more data per month, and take it anywhere you like.
Our survey revealed More than two-thirds of broadband users would like a portable component to their broadband connection. Mobile broadband bundles, of a size sufficient to offer a viable alternative to fixed broadband home solutions, are the fastest growing category of product on WhatPhone. They have been available for only a year, but, as words spread, they become ever more popular.
The mobile aspect to this sort of mobile broadband service means it appeals to business people, students, and families. It serves to keep children interested watching YouTube in the back of a car on a long Journey. In fact, Australia having spent so much on the NBN, it appears that these mobile broadband services might be just a little bit too good. Let’s hope we get our money’s worth out of the NBN spend.
Broadband: What are the features of your broadband service which are most important?
Our survey showed that speed, reliability and price were the most important factors to users considering a mobile broadband connection. Importantly, the service is seen as a commodity: The brand of the phone company was not nearly as important to those considering this sort of internet access.
The key fact that will help you: Mobile broadband now operates at ‘double speed.’ That makes it equal to or faster than most fixed broadband solutions.
Double Data speeds: There’s a lot of technology behind this but it can be explained simply. Imagine if your laptop had two aerials and was connecting to the data network with both of them at the same time. That’s how double data speeds work. Your service accesses two frequencies on the 4G network at the same time and downloads data over both, in parallel.
To a degree, we are generalizing here, based on experience. However, most of the people I talk to have had a bad experience with at least one of the bigger phone companies. That reduces the value they would place on taking an (often more expensive) broadband plan from one of these providers. Secondly, of significance too, is the fact that having a ‘known brand’ is of little significance to people. Often, smaller phone companies offer the strongest pricing and use the same mobile networks offered by the larger networks. Since broadband appears to be considered as a commodity by people, prepared to avoid known brands, mobile broadband solutions from smaller phone companies appear to service user needs the best.
Other things to remember :
Whether you’re using a mobile broadband or a fixed broadband connection, you’re not alone. The speeds you get, depending on how many people are accessing it at that time, where you are and which device you’re using to get access. For example, you’ll need the right kind of phone/laptop / dongle to be able to use double data speeds.
There is no fee to reconnect a mobile broadband service when you move location temporarily or permanently.
The final component, of this aspect of our survey, falls under the ‘additional charges’ aspect of broadband solutions. The simple truth is that Mobile Broadband is not subject to many of the same cost exposures that fixed solutions are. In many senses, mobile broadband solutions are fairer.
Specifically, more than three-quarters of respondents would NOT expect to be charged a fee to reconnect their broadband service if they moved house. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common fee for fixed providers. An example is shown below.
The key fact that will help you: Mobile broadband users do not pay a reconnection fee. Users can move their connection anywhere they want with no cost. The nature of mobile services is that the user connects them and uses them where they want to.
Remember, there are other expectations, not examined by the survey, which we can run through the pub test.
Should I be charged for broadband when I’m not using it? If we asked 100 Australians now, whether they should be charged for a broadband service, in the month they were away on holiday, my guess is that many of them might well say ‘no, I shouldn’t be charged if I don’t use it’. Many of these mobile broadband plans can be bought ‘prepaid’. Prepaid services are only recharged when the user wants them to be. They can be left uncharged for short (a small number of months) periods. So, if you’re going away on holiday for a month, there’s a good chance you can save money with a prepaid mobile broadband connection, where, with a fixed broadband solution, you’d pay anyway.
Should I have to wait weeks for my broadband service to be installed? : Again, we didn’t ask this question but, if we did, it’s not hard to guess what people would say. We ran this survey in late 2017, a time during which the NBN rollout had ramped up and dozens of complaints from delays with service installation which lasted weeks, not days. Mobile broadband solutions can be delivered to you in a day or two. Once the SIM is activated, which is usually almost instant because there’s no phone number to ‘port’ , you are up and running straight away and on your own terms.
If there is a single take away from these results, it’s that fixed broadband connections are not addressing the needs and expectations of Australians. Our primary telecommunications service for voice calls is almost always a mobile phone. It seems fixed broadband solutions are being usurped by mobile versions as fixed line phones were a generation ago. People value the mobility aspect of broadband and count speed as more important than picking a known brand. That gives potential users an enormous amount of power.
If there is one additional thing we would advise, it’s that these mobile data bundles are going to get cheaper over time . In 2 years from now, you’ll be getting multiples more data in a mobile version of this plan. And then 5G arrives which is likely to change the cost structure in mobile users’ favour, again. The trend towards mobile broadband and away from fixed, has started to gather momentum and seems set to keep going for some time.
Poor service on the NBN, especially customer disillusionment over installation time frames and the speeds they receive, as well as charging for a service even when you’re away on holiday add to the economic and time-saving benefits of going mobile.
Australian Data plans for Mobile Broadband devices and tablets
Data SIMs are also known as mobile broadband SIMs. They give you and your tablet computer or laptop access to the phone companies’ wireless networks – and the super- fast data you want. With the right package, you’ll get internet data whenever you’re in coverage.
Do you have a cellular enabled tablet, ‘dongle’ or a wireless modem ? An increasing proportion of Australian households and businesses, do. And if you do own one of these devices, you’ll be wanting a SIM you can insert in to those products. Data SIMs meet that requirement. Sometimes, they’re known as mobile broadband SIMs, this type of phone plan gives you access to one of the phone companies’ wireless networks so you can get internet data whenever you’re in coverage.
According to the ACMA, the majority of people, 55% of tablets have a facility to access the phone company networks using the device’s built in mobile data connection. The rest are wifi capable only. However, only one in 6 people have a wireless data plan. Finding a data plan that makes sense is obviously not that easy or cheap. Otherwise everyone would have one.
Here’s a summary of what we think you need to know about the best data plans currently available in Australia. There are more details in the article below.
Data plans are common: Data plans are sold by almost every phone company in Australia – big or small. They have to be. The average Australian household has a plethora of internet connected devices. And many of them need a data SIM. For the phone companies, these devices represent an opportunity to cross sell existing customers who might be with them for their phone connection, for example, to mobile broadband bundles.
The competition means you’ll get a lot for your money: That means there are a variety of competitive data only deals which offer a range of data allowance per customer per month. It is extremely easy to compare mobile broadband plans and bundles. The primary concern, for people choosing one is simply how much data does the plan contain. On the table on this page, you’ll see a list of the cost / data allocation for each provider. the transparency required from phone companies keeps the playing field very competitive.
There are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you get started: Where do I need coverage ? How much data do I need ? And, critically, Do I have a 3G or a 4G device ?
We recommend a minimum of 3GB to 4GB of data for your tablet. The research says that your usage is mostly likely to be below this level. But, beware. Usage tends to increase over time. Luckily, tablet manufacturers are aware of this now. You can see your historical usage in ‘settings’ on most tablets, both Android and Apple, these days.
You probably won’t be able to use the phone company’s ‘voice’ network using your mobile broadband SIM: Mostly, the SIMs you buy for use in a tablet, dongle, computer with an embedded SIM or an ever wider array of hardware will come to you with no voice service. There are exceptions and we highlight them in the table of results on this page. If you do want a phone connection, there are some options available. See ‘PAYG Voice’ on this page.
Use the phone company app to measure and manage your usage: Using apps to monitor your usage is a great way of learning how much data you use each month. We recommend their use to anyone with a SIM. That includes both phone and tablet users.
Data plans are sold by almost every phone company
Every phone company in Australia offers a mobile data plan alongside the more traditional voice, SMS and data plans.
The average Australian family now has 8 internet connected devices. Uptake of this ever expanding range is is being driven by larger, brighter, better resolution screens, user friendly interfaces and content.
Australian Telecos are watching the trend. Data plans are big business for them because people are so mobile. Even within houses, some rooms often have coverage the WiFi doesn’t get to. They’re coming out with competitive products to tap into what is a growing data market. Every phone company in Australia offers a mobile data plan alongside the more traditional voice, SMS and data plans. Shop around and you’ll find a range of plans with big data inclusions at a reasonable monthly rates.
The questions to ask yourself
The good news is that most of these plans are month to month. That means it’s difficult to make a mistake.
The key to picking the right plan is to be informed about your circumstances. You want enough data to let you use your tablet or dongle as you want when you’re mobile. We recommend that you consider at least these three critical questions.
Where do I need coverage ?: Every phone company has a set of data plans. That means that, as is the case for most voice based services, you have coverage options. Whichever network you want, there will be multiple service provider options for you to consider. Smaller phone companies resell the major networks and can give the coverage you need at lower prices. If you need broad, national coverage, then Telstra is probably the best bet. But, as you know, they’re expensive. Take the time to consider what coverage you really need to provide data where you live, travel and work.
Is my tablet 3G or 4G enabled ? : Some older tablets, including earlier iPads, work with 3G SIMs. If you’ve got a 3G SIM ( or you’ve got something newer but are content with slower speeds when you’re mobile with your tablet ), 3G plans will save you a lot of money.
Do I need voice in my plan : You’ll be able to tell from the comparison table on this page that most data SIM Only plans have the voice facility barred. That means you couldn’t take the SIM out of your table and put it in your phone. You would still be able to make voice calls over VoIP services like Skype though.
The good news is that most of these mobile broadband plans are month to month agreements. That means it’s difficult to make a mistake. If these questions don’t take you to a data only SIM plan that’s right for you, there’s very little lost. You’ll be able to change at the end of the month to a plan you prefer somewhere else.
How much data do you need?
Considering average usage, safety margin and changes in the way people use their tablets / dongles, we recommend a minimum of between 3GB and 4GB of data on the data SIMs you get for use in 4G network enabled devices.
This is the age-old question. From person to person, usage varies greatly. Some data only plans are better for one type of consumer. For someone with different patterns, different hardware and different habits, another is the right one. People spend up to a staggering 50 hours a week online. How much data you’ll need to cover that depends entirely on what you do with your 50 hours a week and how much of it is mobile.
As a general rule to use when comparing data plans to each other, it’s a good idea to keep the following guidelines in mind when making your choice.
Know your usage: If this isn’t the first time you’ve obtained a SIM for your tablet / dongle or mobile broadband device, you’ll have a history that could be useful. Check your previous months data usage. It’ll be available for you online through your phone company’s self service portal. Or you can give them a ring. Try to confirm how much data you have recently used. This will allow you to have a good idea of how much you actually need when shopping for a data plan.
Consider what you do online: Think about what sort of data-intensive activities you do on your device, such as browsing the internet, streaming movies or being social on Facebook. We have a section on this below which tells you how each type of usage will impact your data requirements.
Its tough. Tablets have only been available in Australia for the last 5 years but they have caused a real change in the culture of how we relate to the internet. That means it’s hard to judge just how much data each person needs. One of the most common issues Australian data consumers face, is not knowing how much data they have, or even how much data they are using every month. However, considering average usage, safety margin and changes in the way people use their tablets / dongles, we recommend a minimum of between 3GB and 4GB of data in 4G network enabled devices.
Which is the best Data Only plan currently on the market ?
Our advice is that generally, MVNOs provide the best SIM Only data plan deals. Generally, we recommend OVO Mobile and Yomojo for best value data plans – especially for 25GB+ per month allocations
Our suggestion is that you use the comparison table, work through the questions we’ve posed below and shop around. Our advice is that generally, MVNOs provide the best SIM Only data plan deals.
What are some data intensive activities people undertake online ?
A lot of the content we’re watching is video. It’s the elephant in the room. If you use video on your tablet from places like YouTube, Stan or Netflix, you need more a lot more data than someone who doesn’t.
The critical question everyone always asks is how does my behavior indicate the data I need? Here’s an example to give you an idea of what you might be able to do with 3-4GB of data.
Don’t forget this is just the data you use when on the mobile data network and not what you use when in WiFi range.
Video Streaming: A lot of the content we’re watching is video. It’s the elephant in the room. If you use video streamed on to your tablet from places like YouTube, Stan or Netflix, you need more a lot more data than someone who doesn’t. Streaming video is one of the biggest data killers you can have. Taking the average of several YouTube videos, on average you can use up to 2-3MB per minute and if watching a YouTube video in HD, you can use up as much as 6MB per minute. As you can see, if you can stay clear of the data hungry services until you are in WiFi you will wipe off a huge amount of the data usage.
Less critical to determining your needs is an understanding of how these other, alternative activities will influence your data bill.
Uploading Photos: The size of the photos which you upload and the service which you are uploading to determines the amount of data which you will be using. Larger photos of around 8 megapixels in size, taken with modern phones can use up 1.5MB of data each time you transact them across the network.
Social Media – e.g. Facebook: On Facebook, it’s a good idea to disable the auto-play videos in the app settings. (It’s just video and, like we say, video is what spikes the usage meter.) Facebook set video play to ‘on’ by default. It uses up a lot of data. How much more is entirely dependent on how many videos happen to pop up in your news feed that day. On average social media users apparently spend more than 7 hours every month online. This adds up to around 720MB at 1.5MB per minute, if you access your Facebook feed on your smartphone or device. That’s most of a 1GB cap. Heavy Facebook users should definitely keep this in mind.
Internet browsing: General web browsing on your phone will often result in variable data usage, going as low as 1MB per minute up to around 4MB or higher. It all depends though on what sites you visit and how graphical or embedded video intensive they are. Most modern news websites feature auto playing videos after a few seconds and if you browse the news each day, you can end up using a lot more data then you would normally use.
Music & Podcast Streaming: Music streaming service websites such as Spotify, use around 1 or 2MB per minute, when streaming standard quality music or podcasts. In all that’s not a great deal of data usage, but when you add up all the songs which you are continuously streaming, it can add up to a significant amount.
Skype voice calls and WhatsApp: Compared to other services, VoIP applications like Skype and Viber hardly use any data relative. Skype and WhatsApp calls and messages are unlikely to be the culprit should you bust your bundle.
Using the Self Service app
Whichever plan you choose, make sure you install and use the self service app.
In days gone by there was no applications for your smartphone or device which counted your usage. People had to rely on notoriously slow telecom service providers to keep them updated as to how much data was remaining on their monthly account. Thankfully that has changed now and there is a wide selection of self-service apps which consumers can take advantage of to self-monitor their data use and the associated costs.
By using self-managed applications and purchasing a data plan with data you need, there is no longer any reason to suffer from bill shock.
Mobile Broadband as a fixed broadband replacement
Recent weeks and months have seen a new type of phone plan come to the fore. Increasingly, phone companies are offering and people are buying, mobile broadband plans with data allocations of 25GB-30 GB or more. Some plans have inclusions of 75GB per month.
This is a significant change in the way people are buying their data.
The context is important. It’s hard to turn on the news in Australia at the moment without seeing an article on the NBN rollout. The new, Australia wide network is a significant change to the industry and it appears to be having some unexpected results.
In the past, the big phone companies you know had their own fixed broadband infrastructure. Telstra famously sold their copper wires to the government, so they could be used to underpin the NBN network.
The fact that the government now owns the infrastructure which will underpin the provision of fixed broadband in the future makes the economics of fixed broadband a bit different for the telcos. The margins involved, particularly for the bigger players who owned their infrastructure previously, are much smaller with the NBN taking their cut. Huge telcos’ fixed broadband plans are now sold alongside smaller phone company equivalents. The cost structures each face are nearly identical.
For the bigger phone companies which have far higher internal costs, this presents a problem. Why would they want to compete with lower prices, given the cost disadvantage they’re at ? The alternative they have is to offer fixed broadband sized bundles (let’s say 50GB or 75GB a month) over the wireless infrastructure they own. When they do that, their cost are much lower.
What that means is we’re seeing huge data bundles appear in market to compete with fixed NBN offerings. In the not too distant future, we could see an increasing proportion of Australia’s broadband users moving to mobile. Mobile plans have clear advantages over their fixed alternatives. Since modems for them are often built in to the devices accessing the network, mobile broadband plans are often cheaper to set up than fixed alternatives – which, for example, could charge you both for physical installation and a router when you connect. Additionally, mobile plans are, by their nature, portable. Users can take them out of their houses and still get super-fast broadband speeds. This is extremely useful for business users, of course but also serves segments like students very well, too.
What are these huge mobile broadband plans all about ?
These new huge mobile broadband data plans, offer allowances which are usually an order of magnitude more than you’d get in a standard monthly phone plan. In our comparison tables on this page, you will see 4G data bundles in sizes between 25GB and 75GB for very affordable prices.
These are almost unimaginably large quantities of data at those price points. But they’re selling well. Why? Because the way the telcos are pricing these products is creating new demand and encouraging people to move away from some older, typically fixed line, products.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this change. These mobile data allowances are so large they turn big screens like laptops and tablets in to mobile internet connected devices at affordable prices. Here’s why that’s a big deal.
It’s all about screen size and content
The key benefit of these huge mobile broadband plans, is that they allow mobile data users to use mobile data on a big screen. The data allocation is so big that you can afford to watch video on your laptop or tablet and / or use it for proper, heavy business work. It’s basically a fixed line broadband data data size, with the benefits of mobility.
With these plans, you can have a tablet on the bus and watch streamed programming. You can be a student renter in a shared house and manage your own mobile data allowance. They enable you to take your laptop out and about in the real world – where colleagues send you very large file attachments and you need to watch a YouTube video of a competitor product launch.
In essence, the product, data, is the same as what’s been in market for the last 10 years. We’ve had these ‘data only’ plans for a while. However, previously, data bundles typically had an allocation of between 3GB and 15 GB a month and cost Between $10 and $30 for that period. Many people used these facilities in tablets and dongles. But it was for the tech head, the early adopter. It wasn’t a mainstream product.
Mobile data is usually much more expensive than fixed
If you think back to the early days of the internet, everything was all fixed and dial up. Early web services were simple and text based. Your experience of the internet might have been an email or access to a chat room. Images in web pages were rare, very early on and when you did see them, they were of low quality.
Then came home broadband. It’s been with us 20 years in various forms, Cable, ADSL and so on. Through their fixed broadband connection, people got used to having an immediately available access at home and paying a fixed fee for it. Digital images went High Definition and YouTube streamed us video to our desktop computers. We knew what it would cost and we knew the cost would be affordable.
Mobile has always been different. Even from the VERY early days of the mobile internet, BlackBerry, you paid a premium for the mobility aspect of the email service you bought. And that was 10 years after fixed broadband landed.
3G (faster mobile data) came to Australia in 2007 which meant you could download some good quality images and maybe, if you were brave and rich, a video. 4G brought fast video to mobile but it’s still something of a rarity to see anyone but the most cutting edge nerd or high powered business man using a laptop connected to 4G or streaming a TV show.
Who uses / needs Huge Data ?
Who would use a Mobile Broadband Plan with this sort of huge data allocation ?
Renters: Setting up a fixed data connection (home broadband) is a time consuming business. You have to call the telco, arrange to be in while a technician comes around. Often it will take a couple of goes to get technician and renter to the property at the same time. All this costs money (as well as your time). You experience this as a ‘set up’ cost on your first months bill. Connection or set up typically costs in the region of $100. With mobile broadband, there’s none of that. You get your SIM, insert it in to your device (be that a laptop, tablet or dongle) and you’re off. There’s no connection charge, no inconvenience and, best of all, when you move, you don’t even have to tell anyone.
Families: Few people rely on YouTube more than a family with young children. These huge broadband plans mean you can keep the kids entertained in the back of the car (subject to coverage) as you travel around.
Students / student houses: Students also need access to the internet for their studies and tend to move between properties every year. They also don’t want to sign longer term fixed broadband agreements if they can help it.
Businessmen: Pricing for these huge bundles is now so low, especially when it’s considered as a business expense, that business men can legitimately afford to be out and about, working on their laptop if their job requires it.
People that like entertainment: Who doesn’t like entertainment. What differs is the type of entertainment you like. These mobile broadband bundles are now so large users can watch video content on a bigger screen than their phone (say a laptop or tablet, as we’ve said.)
Who has released new data bundles ?
Recently, the number of phone companies offering these huge broadband plans has changed.
Kogan Mobile: Kogan Mobile use the Vodafone 4G network and offer an increasingly sophisticated and successful range of plans. It was only in March ’17 that they upgraded their plans’ data inclusions and in late June, they joined the slew of telcos providing their customers this new type of broadband plan.
OVO Mobile: OVO mobile were early to the big data broadband party but not first. They followed Optus’ Mobile Broadband 70GB bundle release, used the same network, offered some valuable extra service elements and led on prepaid pricing.
Moose telecom: Moose are also new and have smelt the blood in the water on this new service type. They offer postpaid plans which some find more convenient than prepaid.
Optus: It’s really Optus’ wholesale pricing which has changed. Three out of the four main players we’ve identified above use the Optus mobile network. Optus don’t want to miss out and have their own version of these sizeable bundles.
We suspect many more telcos will follow soon. There has been so much activity in this area recently that telco marketing directors will be asking questions of their product teams if plans of this sort are not being worked on.
How do these plans work ?
Just stick the SIM in: The mechanism to get access to these sizable data connections is the same as it’s always been. Buy a SIM and insert it. There are two primary ways of accessing data.
Tablet: Many tablets are shipped these days with both a WiFi and cellular connection facility. On tablets with a cellular (mobile data) connection, you’ll find a SIM tray in to which you can put a SIM enabled with one of these huge data bundle mobile broadband plans.
Wireless adaptor for a laptop: Also called ‘dongles’ by some, these tiny hardware components usually cost in the region of $30. Generally favored by businessmen and laptop users dongles add a wireless cellular data connection to a laptop without the built-in facility.
What do you need to look for when you’re buying one of these plans ?
These plans are hard to misunderstand. They have a price, a network they run on and a data allowance. It’s worth keeping half an eye on the following.
3G or 4G: is really fast data, 3G is OK. There’s a lot technical gubbins behind all this. 4G, for example, is something over 10 mbps. 3G is about a third of that. If it’s in any doubt, you’re going to be subject to some of the same constraints that you’ve seen on your phone for some time. If there are a lot of people on your cell, it’ll slow.
Prepaid or postpaid: Remember, this is the same wireless network you’re using. Keep an eye on the duration you’re given. With prepaid, it’s usually 28 days. Postpaid run month to month.
Zero rating and included entertainment options: Optus, Telstra and OVO lead the way when it comes to providing included entertainment services. They are often ‘zero rated’ (to most people that means something close to free.)
Bring it all together
These new fixed replacement mobile broadband plans are significant. There are a number of factors combining with the new data pricing we’re seeing here. They could literally, potentially, restructure a lot of what we do when it comes to fixed telco services and entertainment.
Support from big business : Microsoft are building more of these in to their laptops every day. Consistent announcements in the industry show that Microsoft, together with silicon chip manufacturers Qualcom and Intel are pushing data bundles built I to laptops hard.
Netflix and Stan are here : People are replacing free to air TV consumption with Netflix, Stan and other ‘On Demand’ streamed entertainment services. These mobile data packs are nearly large enough to enable you to watch TV on your laptop when you’re on the move.
The data will keep getting cheaper: These plans are subject to data deflation, as any other data product is. They are also subject to the same changing in wholesale pricing levels that affect any plans offered by smaller phone companies. From the telco point of view they want to sweat the asset now they have all this extra capacity. Why is that number – another order of magnitude data increase – so important ? Because it’s what we get in 2 and a half years with the launch of 5G.
So what ?
Mobile data is now so cheap, it’s encroaching on what were previously fixed line services. It won’t be long, surely, before we get the elusive ‘unlimited’ connections like some of the more innovative telcos in the USA are offering now.
We’ve seen an order of magnitude change here. One more of those – even a doubling of the data included in these plans would make them an effective fixed broadband family plan. We’re not all the way there yet but getting these huge bundles in the 30- 70 GB level and $50 – $70 a month is the most significant step towards mobile data replacing fixed home connections – ever. We are months away, in my view, from a mobile future which includes everything you’ve ever wanted.
Unfortunately, we, as a country just spent billions on the NBN.Is it really so unlikely that the NBN will be a stillborn White Elephant when a more affordable, more flexible, more tailored and just as fast mobile version of it is for sale on the same website, under a different tab?
Summing up – the future of data plans
The average Australian is using less and less time making calls and sending fewer texts each year. They prefer to browse the internet, send messages through apps and communicate with their friends and family via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They do those things across a range of devices. Often, they use more than one device at once.
Soon, cars will be enabled with data SIMs. It’s likely that many other things will too. You might have heard of the ‘Internet of things’ ( ‘IoT’. ) Mobile data access for sensors and small microprocessors is a key component of delivering the IoT.
Family plans are a step towards the phone companies helping us out here. They are a step in the right direction – towards what we’re all going to have to do. Family plans are the first centralized method of managing multiple data plans, over multiple devices.
With the NBN changing the economics of broadband, creating an unexpected incentive for phone companies to offer mobile broadband plans with huge data bundles and the impending arrival of 5G networks – which could be 100 times faster than we’re used to 4G being – and could arrive as early as 2020, this is a time of change for telco – as always.