Unlimited Phone Plans

Unlimited Phone Plans

  • Plans with Unlimited Voice Minutes and SMSs
  • Now Plans with Unlimited Mobile Data
  • Some 'never ending' data plans are available
  • Peace of mind, no 'Bill Shock' ever again
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Common Questions About Unlimited Plans

Do Unlimited plans include unlimited MMS?

Most of the time Unlimited plans include unlimited MMS’s (Multimedia Messages) within Australia. However there are a few providers that charge extra for this so it is worth reading the small print if picture messaging is important to you.

We have a summary table in the article below which will help you determine if the phone company you are considering offers unlimited MMS.

Do Unlimited plans include 13 and 18 numbers?

This changes depending on the provider. Most Unlimited plans offer 13 and 18 calls within the unlimited call category.  If calls to 13 and 18 numbers are important to you we would advise checking the critical information summary of the specific plan you’re interested in before making your choice.

Again, we include this information in the table below.

What does ‘No excess data charges’ mean?

Excess data charges are charges on top of your regular monthly plan payment. If, for example, your postpaid month to month agreement includes an allowance of 10GB of mobile data in each monthly billing period, and you use 11GB, you might be charged $10 on top of your regular monthly payment. (For the additional GB you used.)

Recently, phone companies have started offering plans with ‘no excess data charges’. Instead of charging you more for data in addition to your plan, they ‘throttle’ the speeds their users receive.

I want a phone plan with unlimited mobile data.

That’s a subject in itself! You can find out everything there is to know in our dedicated article about SIM Only plans with unlimited mobile data.

In truth, while Australia flirted with unlimited data plans in 2018, the phone companies have pulled back on offering unlimited mobile data in their phone plans now. What you will get is ‘speed limited data‘ when you reach your plans inclusions from, for example, Telstra. These plans ‘throttle‘ (slow) the speed of the data you will receive on your phone – but let you use it for as long as you would like to. This new plan feature helps users avoid bill shock – and eliminates your need to pay $10 per GB for data overage.

Who offers the best Unlimited plan for calling while you’re overseas?

We have a special page designed to explain unlimited ‘roaming’ options for when you travel overseas.

Generally, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone tend to offer the best ‘per day’ roaming flat fee plans. Other (smaller) providers sometimes also offer included minutes.

What extras could I be charged for?

Unlimited plans are better value than they’ve ever been and offer products which are versions of increasingly literal Unlimited plan inclusions. You MAY be charged for some of these.

  • International:
    Some plans do not include Unlimited International Minutes to every country in the world.
  • Roaming:
    Making calls on your Australian SIM while you’re in another country can be expensive. No plan has included roaming so you’ll always pay extra for it.
  • Additional services:
    If you add new devices such as Apple Watches to your service, you may be charged more.
  • Extra Data:
    Not all telcos offer ‘no excess data charges’ at this point. Those who do not still often charge $10/GB.

What's good

  • Unlimited calls and texts for 3G or 4G phones
  • Total predictability - no more excessive bills for calls
  • A range of data options for light, medium & heavy users
  • Post-paid and pre-paid options
  • No commitment. Change if a better deal comes out.

What's bad

  • Most expensive type of plan only get it if you need it.

Australian Unlimited Phone Plans

Around 70% of Australians now have Unlimited phone plans.

In this article we:

  • Consider why Unlimited Plans have become so popular.
  • Look at what defines an Unlimited plan.
  • Outline the sort of things that are often excluded from your unlimited plan.
  • Look at the all important data component of what you’re buying.
  • Consider the phone plan entertainment options that are available to you.
  • Show you the best way to minimize the costs of your plan.
  • Finally, we consider the question of unlimited data in a phone plan.

Click here if you want more details on the recent release of Mobile Phone Plans with unlimited data.

This Month’s Hot Offers

Unlimited plans are now the most popular plan in Australia

Around 70% of Australians now have unlimited phone plans. A reduction in the use of phone networks for calls and SMS has led to a drop in the entry price for unlimited plans, raising uptake.

We forget how quickly technology changes sometimes. Unlimited plans now being used by the majority of the Australian population. But this is actually quite a recent phenomenon. The avalanche was started by smaller phone companies offering unlimited voice and SMS but was soon followed by Telstra, Vodafone and the others. Now, almost every phone company offers unlimited plans in some form, assisting users to avoid excess charges. Entry prices for this sort of plan have fallen to the sub $15 a month level.

Some recent research by Deloitte in to Australian mobile usage shows one key trend behind phone companies’ ubiquitous offering of unlimited plans. The proportion of people making phone calls each week is declining year on year.

As usual, there is a business case behind the evolution of the product. In some recent Australian research by the consulting firm Deloitte shows that use of phone company networks for traditional purposes ; to make voice calls or send SMSs is declining steadily. Already, as recently as 2016, only 70% or so of Australians made a voice call in the week preceding the survey. No wonder the phone companies are prepared to ‘give unlimited inclusions away’ when it is of such declining value to their customers.

From a consumer point of view, unlimited plans reflect the broader tide of Australian sentiment away from expensive and complicated towards cheap and manageable. The same rising expectations that gave us Netflix instead of Channel 10 and Spotify instead of waiting for our song to come on the radio have driven users to demand that phone calls be provided on their terms, not the terms phone companies prefer. Now, comparison of the phone plan you want rarely involves consideration of the cost of voice and SMS. As we will see below, the major feature to compare is the data that comes alongside the uncapped voice and text allocation you’ll get.

What are Unlimited plans?

In theory, an unlimited plan is one which gives you an unlimited allocation of at least one phone company service. By far the most common example is an unlimited voice and SMS plan where the unlimited voice and SMS components are for use in Australia only.

The usual format is that you pay a monthly fee and get:

  • Unlimited talk time in Australia to Australian phone numbers:
    Unlimited talk time when calling mobiles and landlines in Australia from a mobile Australian number.
  • As many SMSs as you want :
    Unlimited texts / SMS’s to send to any mobile number in Australia from your Australian phone number. Remember they used to be 25 cents each?
  • An allowance for data :
    The data you’ll get in your plan changes depending on your spend level and is not unlimited. You’ll see options for anything from 1GB to 15 GB and more per month. Data inclusions are a constant source of innovation in telco. You’ll find Unlimited plans with providers offering more data on the weekend , data rollover  and even now, data banks.
  • International calls :
    Unlimited International Calls also become cheaper each year. Competition from Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and other VoIP  known in the industry as Over The Top (OTT) services mean the phone companies are having to lower their prices for unlimited calls. That means you’ll find them in many plans $40 or above. The price of unlimited calls is falling every year, too. The alternative is that you will substitute these free versions of the same service.

Why would I want an Unlimited plan?

Why do 70%+ of Australians choose unlimited phone plans ?

  • They get predictable costs :
    In this sort of plan, calls and texts are unlimited. That means no busting through an allowance and being charged for overage. The result is no bill shock. Even if a plan with unlimited calls costs a little more, most people are happy to pay it for the predictability it gives.
  • No contract required :
    You can get SIM only Unlimited plans on a month to month basis so there is no need to commit to an expensive 12 or 24 month contract. We generally recommend away from contracts of any sort. We explain why, below.
  • Prepay and postpaid options:
    There are post-paid and pre-paid options for unlimited plans so however you want to pay, you can find one to suit you. If cost manageability is the key thing you need, you might also like to include prepaid unlimited plans  which have an extra degree of cost control.
  • Budget options are available:
    This sort of plan is now extremely affordable. Shop around the budget deals and you can get amazing deals from phone companies with unlimited plans for under $15 per month.

Getting the right amount of data in your Unlimited Plan

When you can talk and text as much as you want, the key thing left to talk about is the amount of data you have in your plan. Below is some research we ran in September 2017 in which we asked people how much data they needed.

Considering the data in your unlimited plan. This 500 person survey was run by WhatPhone in September 2017. It shows that there is a broad range of data requirements in Australia. We offer advice, below, on how you can figure out the data package you need alongside your unlimited calls and SMS.

What should you take from that chart?

  • First, there is a broad distribution of the plans people are buying :
    It’s worth being aware that now the cost of calls is off the table, the cost of data makes all the difference to what you’ll pay for your plan. Our suggestion is that you don’t listen to those who try to tell you what average usage looks like (because it doesn’t matter what ‘average’ is, your data usage could match any of the data usage profiles in the chart above – it could be average or it could be well above / below average.) Follow our advice, below, to establish your own data usage requirement.
  • Second, only 20% of people have a bundle with 11GB or more :
    There is an amount of ‘dog whistling’ in the phone industry – misleading marketing and offers which create a false impression. Just because you see a phone plan with ‘45GB of data per month included’ (they are around!) does not mean you would use all of that data if you were given it. Of course, there are always extremes, people who tether their phone  and who might have a legitimate need for such a huge allocation. However, for the vast majority of people, 11GB of less is probably fine for now.
  • If you need help figuring out how much data you need :
    Most people don’t know how much data they use, how much they need or how to figure it out. We have an article dedicated to establishing what your need is.
  • And something which isn’t on the chart :
    The 4G coverage of the different networks is now pretty much the same. That’s a significant piece of information. If you were planning on going to one of the big phone companies to get better 4G data coverage, for example, you may not need to. The best way to find out more about the equivalency that’s happened in data networks is to read our Australian coverage page.

Entertainment in Unlimited plans + Data Free / zero rated data

That’s the basics covered. We’ve looked at unlimited plans, and data you need to add to them. Now let’s talk about the bolt ons; the optional extras which might influence your decision – most importantly, the entertainment options you now have in unlimited phone plans.

Around 10% of Australians  want to watch entertainment (free streamed video or audio) on their phone plans. The only Australian plans which offer entertainment are unlimited plans.

There are a number of major options to consider in the world of entertainment in phone plans and we’ve written about them before. As a quick overview, some phone companies – usually but not always the ones with the most expensive plans – now include some form of entertainment in their phone plans. The data for entertainment options on these plans is usually provided ‘free’ (see next section – it’s called ‘data free.’). Optus and Telstra are the main companies you should consider for entertainment in your plans.

Entertainment may well be the most important  feature in your plan if you like the idea of watching a particular sort of content while you commute or wait at the doctor’s. Our plan chooser  can help you figure out the right plan and allows you to select the type of entertainment you want, if it’s of interest.

What is ‘zero rated’ content or 'data-free' audio / video streaming in an unlimited plan?

We cover the lack of unlimited data plans below. For now, let’s look at the aspects of your unlimited voice and SMS plan which might be ‘data free or ‘zero rated.’

In a sense, ‘zero rated’ or ‘data free’ data is unlimited. However, it’s unlimited data which is restricted to one type of data usage. For example, with Telstra’s plans you’ll get unlimited voice and SMS (in Australia to Australian numbers) plus a standard data allocation. You can also watch as much AFL on your handset as you like, using their app. The data that is used during your AFL watching won’t be counted against your phone plan because it’s ‘data free’ or ‘zero rated’. Any other type of usage will be counted against the standard data inclusion in your plan.

Too complicated ? How about an example. Your Telstra plan has 5GB of data and, that month, you only do two things. First, you watch 30 hours of AFL. At the end of that, you still have 5GB of your standard bundle left. Next, you look at Facebook for hours on end. The data used by your Facebook feed counts against your 5Gb data allowance, running it down until it is used.

Here’s a table showing which telcos offer data-free streaming for audio and video content. We’ve also included info about unlimited mobile data and data banking / rollover:

Data free is something to look out for if you like the content these phone companies are offering. You should be aware, however, that, unless you’re watching hours of TV or sport entertainment on your phone each month, it probably shouldn’t be the criterion on which you base your decision.

Ways to keep costs down in Unlimited Plans

Unlimited plans, as we’ve said, are now extremely affordable. There’s no point in wasting money, however. There are ways to keep any additional costs associated with your unlimited plan, under control.

  • There are usually sign up bonuses :
    When it comes time to move plans, from the one you’re on to one of the others in market, see if you can get a signup bonus. Go for prepaid and move around.
  • Avoid out of bundle data charging :
    28% of people (see the chart below) have been charged $10 or more for data in the last month, on top of their core plan inclusions.

If you’re getting charged $10 per GB, you’re not managing your unlimited plan well enough. You are far better off spending the $10 before you use your data than after, as the chart below shows.

Data is extremely cheap these days. There really is no need to pay $10 penalty rates. Most phone companies will charge you $10 per GB for any data you use on top of your allocated data entitlement. It’s better than $11 / GB but you’ll be much better off if you spend that $10 before you use the data than after, as this chart shows.

Managing the costs of Unlimited Plans comes down to how well you control your data costs. It’s always better value to buy the data before you need it than have it charged as ‘overage’.

Remember too that the way phone companies charge for data differs between them. Moose Mobile  for example, charge per MB for ‘overage’ data on top of your monthly allocation. Some see this as a benefit because their users only pay for what they want. Most of the others charge $10 per GB, sold in GB chunks. You can find out the specifics of the plan you want by looking at the CIS – the Customer Information Statement on the website of the plan you choose.

Should you take out a contract on your unlimited plan ?

There are contract options on SIM Only Unlimited Plans. Telstra, for example, offer ( perhaps even prefer you to take ) both 12 and 24 month SIM Only contracts for their plans.

It would be foolish of us to suggest that you should never even consider these plans. They often include a great deal more data than you’ll get on the month to month option. More importantly, changing phone plans is a hassle that people rarely feel like attempting more than once a year. If you’re looking at your calendar and thinking that in all likelihood, you simply won’t have the time to compare and move plans in the next 12 months, well then you may as well take the contract option.

Just be aware of the fact that the cost of data is falling constantly and very quickly. And, as you can see here, there are often hidden costs for people who do take contract options.

In the example chart above, someone who signs up to a 2 year contract is fine for the first 12 months. Unfortunately, they don’t know their data usage is rising every month, a fact most people don’t realize. After about a year, they’ve started to nudge their usage allocation. Shortly thereafter, the user exceeds their allocated data bundle and starts to get hit with excess data fees, here we’ve used a data overage charge of $10 per GB. In total, their bill, with the average growth in monthly data, is $300 for excess usage over the course of the contract. And remember, when they signed up, they had an allocation which was twice what they needed!

If you want to sign a contract for data, that’s fine. Keep track of your usage and make sure you move up a plan to get more data if you need it, rather than paying for extra data.

When will we get an unlimited data plan ?

We all know what unlimited plans should be. Nearly 40% of people say they want unlimited data included in their plan. There are no unlimited data plans available in Australia at this time although, historically, there have been times when you could get one.

However, telcos now offer throttled data, where your download speeds are slowed down (typically to 1.5mbps), but you can continue to browse at that slow speed until your billing cycle restarts. Telstra and Vodafone plans have this in place, albeit at different speeds.

Vodafone’s new sub-brand / MVNO, Felix Mobile, is the closest thing to unlimited today. The MVNO offers only one plan, and that plan includes unlimited data that is capped at 20mbps.

The problem with unlimited data plans, from a phone company point of view, is that a small number of people misuse them. There are always a few people who hook their phone up to their laptop and torrent films 24 x 7.  Interestingly, as the majority of us start using larger quantities of data, the prominence of this small number of users is diminishing – a factor which may be pushing us closer to the release of an unlimited data plan in Australia.

What Unlimited Plans Should Be? The most common request for a phone plan inclusion ? Unlimited data. As you can see from the above graph, the biggest customer need that phone companies are not delivering, is ‘unlimited data.’ When it comes to ‘fair data management’, the simplest way to articulate it is by offering unlimited data in a plan. The user never has to worry about it again.

In the USA, prices for plans with unlimited data start at $50 and go to $90 depending on where you are in your agreement with the phone company, and the quality of the network. There are restrictions on the plan which the Australian regulators may not allow. For example, tethering laptops, on some plans, excess data is 3G only. Data may be throttled (slowed down) at 32GB or above.

In fact, unlimited plans made up more than 2% of the American market to in 2016, 2 years after Unlimited data plans were re-released. They’re not nearly as popular as you’d think.

Summing it up

There’s never been a better time to get unlimited voice and SMS plans. They start at $15 or less these days. You will likely pay more for plans which have international calls and / or data free entertainment options included.

It won’t be long before we have unlimited data plans over here (we’ve already seen throttled data and Felix Mobile’s unlimited data at 20mbps max speeds). If the experience of our American cousins is anything to go by, even when they’re available, they will service only the highest using proportion of people. For the rest of us, the key to managing the cost of your plan is, as always in knowing and managing your data usage.