Let’s start at the beginning. What actually is an ‘Unlimited plan’?
Unlimited plans are the solution to a problem many of us face: running out of data and being charged extra!
Unlimited Plans mean you never have to check your usage or compare around to ensure you’re getting the best offer. If it includes unlimited data, you can watch that film at the airport and not worry about exhausting your mobile data. Having an unlimited plan means you can feel secure that you’re never going to get a larger bill than the one you were expecting.
Key points when considering “Unlimited Plans.”
- Almost all phone plans now include Unlimited Domestic Calls and SMS:
For some time in Australia, mobile phone plans have included free unlimited calls to other Australian mobiles and landlines.
- People tend to mean ‘Unlimited Mobile Data’:
When people say ‘Unlimited Plan’ these days, they typically mean a phone plan with unlimited mobile data for use in Australia.
- Unlimited Plans are More expensive typically postpaid phone plans:
By definition, unlimited plans include more mobile data than plans. They are naturally among the more expensive plans you will find.
- Plans often include ‘throttling’:
Typically, users who buy this sort of plan get an allowance of mobile data, which, once reached, triggers the speed to slow down.
- Other ‘Network Services’ can be limited:
(Network services are the phone company facilities you take for granted, like making a call using your phone or downloading an MMS.) Read your plan’s associated Customer Information Statement (CIS) to ensure that ‘everything’ is truly unlimited in your phone plan. There is no standard industry-wide set of terms across the phone companies you could choose. Sometimes MMS, 13 or 18 numbers, roaming, international charges, and so on vary.
What is ‘throttling’?
Throttling is a technical limit that phone companies put on the speed you can download mobile data from their network.
To most people, the data throttling limits by phone companies don’t negatively impact how most people use their phones.
You probably won’t even notice the speed difference if you’re just browsing the web.
Do unlimited plans include unlimited MMS?
Whether or not unlimited MMS were included in your plan used to be a 50/50 split. Some plans offered this feature for free, and some didn’t. These days, with the advent of WhatsApp, almost all of the time, there’s no real need to send images and videos as MMS’s
However, a few providers charge extra for this, so it’s worth reading the fine print if picture messaging is essential 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?
Almost all unlimited plans offer 13 and 18 calls within the unlimited call category. In rare cases, this is not the case. If you want to check and confirm, your phone company’s T&C’s will break down the details of your SIM plan and its inclusions. CIS statements are displayed around the details section of the phone plan you’re looking at on the operator’s website. The regulator makes them do this so everything is nice and clear.
What does ‘No excess data charges’ mean?
Excess data charges are costs you’ll pay 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.) Phone companies have recently started offering plans with ‘no excess data charges.’ Instead of charging you more for data in addition to your plan, they cap the speeds their users receive. If your SIM plan includes ‘Unlimited Mobile Data’ or ‘throttling,’ you won’t be charged for excess data while in Australia.
What is ‘speed-limited data’?
There are now a few plans in Australia available with ‘speed-limited data‘ when you reach your plans inclusion limit from, for example, Telstra.
These plans slow the speed of the data you will receive on your phone – but let you use it for as long as you want.
Who offers the best unlimited plan for calling while you’re overseas?
We have a special page explaining unlimited ‘roaming’ options when travelling overseas.
Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone generally offer the best ‘per day’ roaming flat fee plans. Other (smaller) providers sometimes also offer included minutes.
With eSIMs becoming more predominant, you could consider picking one up when you land in your destination. The only drawback is people can’t contact your Aussie number when you’ve switched.
What extras could I be charged for outside my unlimited plan?
Unlimited plans offer better value than ever, including products that are versions of increasingly literal Unlimited plan inclusions. You MAY be charged for some of these.
Some plans do not include Unlimited International Minutes for calls to every country worldwide.
Making calls on your Australian SIM in another country can be expensive. No plan includes roaming, so you’ll always pay extra.
- Additional services:
If you add new devices, such as mobile data for your Apple Watch, to your account, you may be charged more.
What is ‘data rollover’?
Data rollover is a feature of phone plans which do not have unlimited mobile data. You shouldn’t need to worry about this if you’ve got an unlimited plan.
Can I get a prepaid plan with unlimited mobile data?
However, remember that your download speeds cannot exceed 20Mbps because Felix has capped data speeds. Also, although Felix offers a prepaid plan, it automatically renews by charging your card on your plan’s expiry date unless you pause or cancel.
- Unlimited calls and texts for 4G phones, and now 5G phones
- Some plans with unlimited mobile data now available in Australia
- Total predictability - no more excessive bills for calls
- Often no commitment, so you can change if a better deal comes out
- It is often the most expensive type of plan; only get it if you need it
- Plans may have some exceptions and exclusions
There are now some genuinely unlimited phone plans in Australia, i.e., SIMs offering unlimited mobile SMS, voice calls, and, finally, unlimited mobile data in Australia.
In this article we:
- Australia now has genuine unlimited phone plans
- Why did it take so long to get a genuinely unlimited plan?
- So, Erm, What Exactly Is an Unlimited plan?
- Why would I want an Unlimited plan?
- Key Terms To Understand When You’re Picking An Australian Unlimited Plan
- But do you need an Unlimited Plan?
Click here if you want more details on the recent release of mobile phone plans with unlimited data.
This Month’s Hot Offers
The definition of what exactly can be called an Unlimited Plan has changed a fair deal over that time.
From a phone company’s point of view, the problem with unlimited data plans is that some people misuse them and have, historically, taken advantage of the situation. Put an unlimited plan in the market and there will always be one user on the network who downloads terabytes of data making the whole thing too risky and who and ruins it for everyone.
A few people hook their phones up to their laptops and torrent films 24 x 7. They’re often ex-telco employees prepared to argue over network services agreements’ semantics and hidden meanings.
As a result, phone companies, having had their hands bitten for offering unlimited mobile data plans (by those who take advantage), then cut back and offered only unlimited voice and SMS.
We saw an example of this recently in Vodafone’s about-face on unlimited data. The telco recently launched a SIM only plan which included truly unlimited data – that is, full speed data that never gets exhausted. We hailed the plan as a great step towards fairness, but the telco simply could not sustain it. Vodafone recently abandoned the said unlimited data plan and moved back to its throttled ‘endless data’ model.
In time, demand for voice calls made from mobiles changed. The avalanche was started by smaller phone companies offering unlimited voice and SMS but was soon followed by Telstra, Vodafone, and others. Now, almost every phone company offers unlimited plans in some form, assisting users in avoiding excess charges. Entry prices for such plans have fallen to the sub $10 a month level.
Competition lowered the price of phone plans just as people’s reliance on mobile internet technology increased. As a result, phone companies needed to push the ceiling higher and offer more and more data at any price point to keep and grow their customer bases.
There have been sociological and technological innovations, too. WhatsApp, for example, came along and replaced SMS to a large degree. Since WhatsApp is simply mobile data in a different form, SMSs became less valuable to people who used to pay a lot for them (when I was a teenager, we used to pay 25 pence per SMS in the UK)!
Behaviour changed, too. People made fewer calls but used more mobile data.
Competition has lowered the price of phone plans (including unlimited plans) over time. Prices have fallen, but the level of inclusions has also risen. In simple terms, you’re getting a lot more for your money.
As competition increased, so did usage. It was the product of these two overlapping trends which caused the steep decline in the monthly price of unlimited phone plans.
Over time, the major problem with a phone plan became, How do I make sure I can use mobile data all the time in a way that doesn’t cost too much?
Acknowledging then that the definition of an unlimited plan has changed over time, it’s essential to start by being clear on what precisely an unlimited plan is. Our definition of an ‘Unlimited Plan’ includes unrestricted access to the following within Australia:
- Unlimited talk time in Australia to Australian phone numbers:
Unlimited talk time refers to using an Australian mobile number to call mobiles and landlines within Australia without time limits.
- As many SMS as you want to send in Australia to Australian numbers:
Unlimited texts / SMS to send to any mobile number in Australia from your Australian phone number. Remember they used to be 25 cents each?
- Unlimited data:
We don’t care if the speed is capped, if you can download as much as you want it’s unlimted.
You’ll notice that several things are not necessarily included in your unlimited allowance. International Calls and Roaming are two good examples. Remember, plans which include unlimited international calls or allow you to use your phone without constraint when you’re overseas are not in our definition of Unlimited.
This Month’s Hot Offers
Why do so many Australians choose unlimited phone plans? What motivates people to buy an unlimited plan? What makes this type of plan important?
- They get predictable costs:
The key thing people buy when they choose an unlimited plan is peace of mind. They know that if they buy a SIM plan with unlimited allowances, that’s one less thing they need to worry about. They can’t be charged more than they were expecting. Their phone bill won’t go up that month – or any other month, for that matter. And their phones will connect them to the Internet whenever they are in coverage!
- 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
- Budget options are available:
This sort of plan is now very affordable. Shop around the budget deals, and you can get amazing deals from phone companies with unlimited mobile data plans for under $35 per month.
Note there is more information on each of these in the FAQs above on this page.
Tethering is also known as hot-spotting. Phone companies now offer throttled data, where your download speeds are slowed (typically to 1.5mbps), but you can continue browsing at that slow speed until your billing cycle restarts. Telstra and Vodafone plans have this in place, albeit at different download speeds. Also, Vodafone’s new sub-brand, Felix Mobile, is the closest MVNO to unlimited today – Felix offers a single prepaid plan and includes unlimited data capped at 20mbps.
- 13/18 numbers:
Companies often use phone numbers as entrances into their call centres and, through them, their company’s products and services. These are often marketed as ‘freephone’ numbers – but you want to be sure you are not paying anything for them on top of your monthly fee for your unlimited plan.
- Domestic MMS:
Widely forgotten about now, having been replaced by WhatsApp and other services that use data.
- Data Banking / Rollover:
These valuable new services allow you to keep the mobile data you bought and use later after your recharge or billing cycle expires. Data Banking turns the notion of a time-limited service on its head and lets you keep the data you’ve paid for forever.
A simple question sits among all the noise and excitement about unlimited plans.
Do you need an unlimited plan?
I’ve explained the problem. People are too busy and looking for a quick way out of the complexity of picking a phone plan. Unlimited plans get them off the hook. The only thing is unlimited plans can run pricier than the phone plan they would otherwise buy.
So why don’t they get the cheaper phone plan which gives them just what they need?
Most people don’t know how much data they use, how much they need, or how to figure it out. The truth is, it’s easy! We have an article dedicated to establishing what your need is.
If you do compare, there is every chance you’ll save yourself $10 or more a month.
SUMMING IT UP
The definition of an unlimited plan has changed, but the motivation to invest in one has always been a constant. People have too much to worry about in their lives already. Feeling like a fool when you pick up your mobile phone bill at the end of the month because you used more of a phone plan’s features than you were expecting to (and now have to pay through the nose for it) is a feeling most people have had and which most don’t want to repeat.
As our reliance on mobile phones and the mobile Internet has increased, phone companies have begun charging for faster speeds, selling you more services with eSIMs for your Apple watch, etc. The question for the telcos, of course, is, What next? With Felix launching a $35 unlimited plan, one could argue that they have set a limit on what telcos can charge.
Unlimited plans made up only approximately 2% of the American market when we checked, and that was years after Unlimited data plans were re-released. They’re not nearly as popular as you’d think.
To restate our final advice: In all likelihood, you don’t need a phone plan with unlimited mobile data. Use our reference articles to figure out how much data you use each month or year, to trend the usage, and to anticipate how much mobile data you’ll need each month. Add a small safety margin and buy the plan you need. Most people still use less than 30GB of mobile data a month.