What is Telstra’s 3G Network ?

Most People Don’t Know The Difference Between The Telstra 3G and 4G Networks

  • Australian network coverage is remarkably good, whichever network you choose.
  • However, Telstra are renowned for charging a premium for their network.
  • But do you need to pay it ?You have (at least) 3 alternative networks that you could use.
  • Unless you buy direct from Telstra themselves, or a brand called Boost Mobile, you won’t get access to the full footprint of the Telstra 3G and 4G network.
  • There are other companies which resell ‘The Telstra Mobile Network’ but (apart from Boost) they don’t get access to the full coverage.
  • Your alternatives will, however cover almost the same number of people as Telstra.
  • We explain your options, the specifics of the network coverage involved and their costs, below.

Introduction to the Telstra 3G network

Telstra is a strategically smart company. But then you’d expect that. They have around 50% of the total market for mobile phones in Australia. And they employee more telecommunications experts than anyone else in Australia. They hire smart people and set ambitious goals. Talking to the guys and girls who work there, only the best ideas float to the top. Many, many ideas die on the way.

The smartest manifestation of their strategic brilliance is in the way they sell their network. They keep their full network coverage for themselves. The Full Telstra Mobile Network covers 2.4 . That means that they cover up to 99.50% of the Australian population with their 3G signal. They cover 99.50% of the Australian population of the population with a 4G signal.

Australia’s big, however. You might be surprised to hear that Telstra themselves only claim to cover 28% of Australia’s landmass. And knowing that puts a slightly different complexion on the comparisons between Telstra and the alternatives.

What’s the difference between 3G and 4G, ‘Next G’ and ‘4GX’

Whatever they tell you and however distinct terms like 3G and 4G sound, there is actually a lot of disagreement, even in the industry, about what speeds are standard for each technology – 3G and 4G. They do agree that 4G is, on the whole and most of the time faster than 3G.

The truth is that it’s more generally accurate to suggest that the data speeds you will get are along a spectrum of performance. The subject is further muddled because the data speeds depends on the quality of your phone, Ariel, processor speed.

  • 3G means slower data. It is almost universally cheaper :
    If you have a 3G phone, there is little point in paying more for a price plan which includes a 4G data allowance. We have explained how to get the most out of an Australian 3G plan in this article.
  • 4G is faster data :
    Don’t get hung up on the specifics. We’ve covered the details extensively in a separate article in what is 4G ?
  • ‘Telstra ‘Next G’ and ‘4GX’ :
    These are just names for (mostly standard products that (mostly) all the telcos around the world have. They’ve just been branded by Telstra to make them sound a bit different. 4GX is called Carrier Aggregation in some parts of the world. Technically, it means sending 4G data signals across two frequencies at the same time to your phone. That obviously speeds up the download. More technical names for Carrier Aggregation include LTE-A, LTE-B and 4.5G.

The difference between Telstra and Telstra wholesalers

  • Telstra:
    Telstra restrict access to their full network. If you go direct to Telstra, you’ll be provided access to the Telstra ‘Retail’ network. The only other company which has access to the full 3G and 4G coverage footprint of the Telstra network is Boost Mobile.
  • Smaller phone companies:
    Do not own their own network. We have written about them extensively too. Smaller phone companies resell their network and differentiate themselves from Telstra on service, inclusions and price.

The primary difference is in the number of square Kilometers / proportion of the population that is covered by the resold network. Naming conventions ( about the network they use ) are not even clear and consistent among the smaller phone companies. Each has a deal with Telstra and knows it is important not to have their integrity questioned ( or worse yet, be dragged in to court by Telstra’s substantial legal team. )

Who resells ‘parts of’ Telstra’s 3G network ?

  • Belong Mobile:
    Belong Mobile are a postpaid plan provider which resell access to the Telstra Mobile network. We actually think they have the industry’s fairest way of dealing with data in phone plans.
  • Woolworths :
    The household brand moved from Optus 2015. Woolworths resell ‘Parts of The Telstra 3G Network.’ You can read our review of Woolworths if you’d like to.
  • TeleChoice :
    Used to be an Optus reseller too. They have a high street presence (retail stores) dedicated to phones. They also use ‘Parts of the Telstra 3G network.’ You can read our review of TeleChoice if you’d like to.
  • Aldi Mobile :
    We don’t recommend Aldi’s plans but we have compared them to the better value alternatives.

Who resells Telstra’s 4G network ?

Note : Telstra have publically announced that they will make their 4G network available to their other network resellers, including those we mention above, in July of 2016. We will update this article when that happens.

There is currently only one Telstra network reseller with 4G facilities.

  • Boost Mobile :
    Since moving to 4G, they have become the number 1 most clicked partner on this website. By some way. You can read a more detailed review here. Boost Mobile say they use the Telstra Mobile Network – now with 4G ! Boost are the only phone company which offer the same network footprint as other Telstra resellers have.

How does Telstra’s network coverage compare ?

Telstra reports it’s network status (expressed in number of 4G users, square Kilometers covered and) around once a quarter (every 3 months) We have a centralized data base that we update with these facts regularly.

The All Important Table Comparison

 Square Kilometers Covered%age Population Covered
Telstra Full 3G Network



Telstra 4G NetworkNot reported

99.50% of the Australian population

Telstra Network Resold By Smaller Companies

2.5m square Kms


Optus Full 3G Network



Optus 4G networkNot reported

98.5% of the Australian population

Optus Network Sold by Smaller Companies



Vodafone Full 3G Network


96.00 %

Vodafone 4G NetworkNot reported

91% of metro areas

Vodafone Network Resold by Smaller Companies


96.00 %


  • As you can see, Telstra are the only tier 1 phone company who do not resell their entire network.
  • While the number of square Kilometers covered is a sizable difference between the phone networks, population coverage, perhaps the most important statistic to most people, is very similar indeed, between them.
  • The exception, of course, is to the 0.8% of the population of Australia which live in an area which is currently, only serviced by Telstra. They are the ones who are required to pay a premium for network coverage and are offered no alternative.
  • Note, for everyone else, Optus coverage / coverage from any of Optus’ network resellers will do just fine.

Summing up

There is a big difference in the number of square Kilometers offered by each of these phone companies. But, as we’ve seen, there is not much difference in the proportion of people covered.

Telstra is strategically brilliant for many reasons and partly because they’re so big. They decided long ago to segregate their own network from the competition. You can only get Telstra network coverage from Telstra and for 0.8% of the Australian population that is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because any mobile phone coverage is good mobile phone coverage. You’d rather have some than none. It’s a curse because Telstra charge a premium to get it.

We always point out that there is nothing more personal than the experience you have of your network. The fact is, unless you live in very rural Australia, companies like Boost (if you have a 4G phone), Woolworths or Telstra (for those of you with a 3G phone) cover almost everyone in Australia. Equivalently, resellers on the Optus network like Amaysim and Vaya also offer you an alternative.

You can only use these network coverage statistics as a guide anyway. The different networks’ claims and counter claims include the fact that some of them measure coverage using a car kit and some don’t. Which clearly has an enormous impact on performances. We always advise you try any service you are considering joining up to with a prepaid service for a few days. This way, you will know for sure if you are getting the coverage you need where you live and work.

We have other network information resources available. You can also find out more about the future in our article on 5G.  And if you’d like more information on coverage in general, you can find it in our network coverage article.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.