Vodafone, once nicknamed Vodafail, has done a lot over the last two years to reverse the state of its fortunes, with some success. But how is it doing in comparison with the other two big telcos when it comes to 4G coverage? 5G is just around the corner, so if Vodafone can’t get its act together with 4G, it might just be.
The three main telcos have all invested heavily in 4G infrastructure, with Telstra predictably in the lead in 2011, but Optus and Vodafone were soon in hot pursuit.
As of May 2017, Telstra claims to reach 98% of the Australian population so is well on its way to achieving its goal of reaching 99% of the population by the middle of this year (2017).
Optus is not far behind Telstra, claiming that it now reaches 95% of the population. It lies somewhere between Telstra and Vodafone in the sense that it has begun to penetrate the regional market more effectively than Vodafone, but nowhere near as widely as Telstra. That means that the straightforward comparison between Telstra and Optus (98% to 95%) belies the fact that all three telcos can much more easily provide coverage to metropolitan areas. It is in the regional areas that the differences are starker. Optus, in fact, has been investing heavily in regional centres after first introducing 4G to Newcastle and then to other major cities.
Vodafone has almost the same 4G coverage as the other two telcos in all the main cities but is well behind in regional areas. Vodafone claims that it now reaches 96.9% of metro customers. Read that again and you see the difference between the figures. Opus and Telstra’s coverage stats are for the entire population.
Vodafone was pinning its hopes on the recent ACCC decision about domestic roaming. If the consumer watchdog had ruled in favour of domestic roaming, which it didn’t, it would have meant that Vodafone and the MVNOs that use its network could have piggybacked a lot more easily into the regions using both Telstra’s and Optus infrastructure. Obviously that wouldn’t have pleased them and it seems that Telstra has made a convincing enough case to persuade the ACCC that domestic roaming would not have in the end benefited rural customers as the telco may have decided to reduce its long term investment on rural infrastructure.
Vodafone pushes variety of 4G SIM only plans
Vodafone may be out of the running at the moment for best coverage, but they have made up for it to some extent by providing one of the best SIM only 4G plans for BYO customers.
Here’s what Vodafone offers:
- Seven unique SIM only plans which range from $30 to $60 a month
- All plans come with unlimited national talk and text
- Choice of plans with more or less international calls
- Choice of data caps from 2GB for $30 to 8GB for $40, 12GB for $50 and 17GB for $60 a month.
How Optus compares
- Unlimited national calls and texts with every plan
- 2GB of data for $30, 15GB for $55, 25GB for $70
- Special offer of 12GB for $40 now not available!
- Excess data is $10 per GB after monthly cap exceeded.
How Telstra compares
- four different BYO plans available but all for 12 months minimum
- 500MB for $35 a month, 5GB for $40, 8GB for $50 and 15GB for $70.
- additional data packs available if you need more data from 2GB for $15 right up to 8GB for $55.
All the telcos and most MVNOs are now offering a variety of streaming options. There is music, movies and sport to choose from. Data streaming does not affect your normal data allowance you have paid for. These data streaming options are changing almost by the week, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what is available. Things are going to get interesting when eSIMS are introduced into Australia as consumers will be able to switch from one telco to another depending on which plan suits them best rather than have to by yet another SIM.
The recent ACCC decision on domestic roaming has hit Vodafone’s chances of competing with Telstra and Optus outside the cities, but it is probably outpacing its main rivals when it comes to variety of SIM only plans available.