A brief comparison of Australian mobile phone plans

Written by Gary on May 23rd, 2011

Australian mobile phone carriers and their service plans:

Here I will be looking at the average user looking to spend less than $50 per month on their mobile plan. Unless you are a business, most people should be able to manage with such a plan – the less you spend, the less you have to work!

These plans change very frequently so please go to their websites to see the latest. These are as at May 2011.

You should seriously consider getting a mobile with NextG compatibility (ie. HSPA+ 850MHz – this is NOT GSM 850!) if you are at all considering using Telstra or Vodafone, and, preferably with 900Mz coverage as well so you can swap to Vodafone/Optus regional 3G slow broadband if you change carriers.


  • Telstra gives the widest coverage and generally best mobile internet services, and if you have a compatible phone, access to their NextG mobile internet service.
  • If your phone is not compatible with NextG, you can access Telstra’s older 3G 2100GSM data service but this has limited coverage (mainly to capital cities) and will cease in Jan 2012, you will then only be able to access the much slower 2G network for your internet, and will not be able to do video calls and your internet access will be very limited.
  • You may be able to save some money by bundling plans with your home land line phone service.
  • Whilst Telstra do have casual, “member plans” and “mobile plans” which start at $10,$15 (after $5 member credit) and $30/month respectively, they have very limited included calls (far less than $29 cap plans on other services), very expensive data costs, no caps, BUT they may suit some users who do not want data access (although one can add a 1Gb $10/mth browsing pack to solve this issue), and can make great use of one  (and only one) of their bonus options such as:
    • 20c for 1st 10min to eligible phones at 8pm-7am
    • free 1st 3min to a chosen Telstra mobile or landline number 24/7
    • 200 free SMS to Telstra mobile 8pm-7am
    • 50 free SMS to any mobile anytime
    • nominate an hour of the day or night and calls during that hour are free for 1st 20min
    • per second call charging instead of 30 sec blocks
  • Their cheapest cap plan is the $49/month Freedom Connect cap which currently includes $450 calls/text at 90c/min. calls and 1Gb data on a 24 month contract with various phones, but if you have your own phone, you can get this as a 12 month contract with $550 calls/text and 1.5Gb data. No discounted calls to landline or same service mobiles.
  • Unfortunately, for some reason they do not offer a $29 cap, nor do they offer a discounted cap for bringing your own phone – these omissions may be big reasons NOT to choose Telstra!
  • You also have the option of purchasing extra data such as $10/month for extra 1Gb/month for post-paid plans, but unfortunately you need the Browser Pack Plus for prepaid plans and this costs a lot more eg. $10/mth will only get you 200Mb
  • Telstra do offer some free WiFi access in certain hotspots at intersections in CBD’s of capital cities to those on postpaid plans only.
  • Telstra also allow free download of their Bigpond Unmetered internet content to those on data plans.
  • Telstra do not have any special deals for International roaming such as Three’s very attractive Three-like-home rates for use in certain countries such as UK, Italy, etc.
  • Telstra’s mobile broadband offers great coverage, but is expensive when you consider the prepaid rates are $40/month for 1Gb, and you can achieve this with your $49 cap mobile plan and use your phone to tether to your laptop instead of using a USB broadband wireless modem. A potentially more cost effective option is the $150/year recharge which gives you 10Gb per year (ie. you don’t waste unused amounts each month like on almost every other data plan). Alterntively you could choose a Bigpond Liberty 24 month broadband plan at $29.95 for 3Gb/month.


  • If you want the cheapest plans and best European International roaming rates (Three Like Home – not on prepaid though), then Three is the service.
  • Unfortunately, Three has very poor data coverage outside of the central metropolitan areas, and is likely to disappear soon, subsumed by its parent company, Vodafone – if you look at 3’s websites and 3’s upgrade offers to existing customers, you will see they are pushing for you to select Vodafone contracts instead of 3 contracts.
  • Some metropolitan areas may not have good coverage, partly due to saturation of the network – don’t rely on their online coverage maps – go to their stores to find out actual coverage – especially if you are wanting broadband internet (VHA’s 3G 2100GSM network).
  • 3 and Vodafone share regional 3G roaming on a UMTS 850MHz network but data in 3G regional roaming (ie. not within VHA’s 3G 2100GSM network in capital cities) is not included in the plans and you will be charged an exorbitant fee of 50c/Mb!
  • most plans include unlimited social networking within Australia such as Facebook
  • There are several plans that are of great interest at 3:
    • $29 combo cap – unlimited free talk to 3 mobiles; $180 included talk/text at 90c/min; 200Mb mobile internet on phone; 1Gb broadband data with free laptop modem;
    • $49 combo cap – unlimited free talk to 3 mobiles; $500 included talk/text; 1.5Gb mobile internet on phone; 2Gb broadband data with free laptop modem;
    • $20 SIM only month-to-month plan – $200 included calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles; $150 included talk/text at 90c/min; 100Mb mobile internet on phone;
    • $35 SIM only month-to-month plan – unlimited free talk to 3/Vodafone mobiles; $350 included talk/text at 90c/min; 500Mb mobile internet on phone;
    • they also do a similar prepaid SIM only offer but prepaid does not allow International roaming.


  • unfortunately Vodafone has been getting a bad rap lately in the media due to its alleged poor mobile service, and although they will be taking over 3’s contracts eventually, they do not offer the same cheap plans as 3.
  • Vodafone, 3 and currently Telstra share a VHA owned 3G 2100GSM broadband network but this is confined to capital cities and Geelong, Gold Coast. Telstra will cease using it in Jan 2011. Download speeds are typically 300Kbps – 3Mbps if you can get it.
  • Vodafone and Optus share a 900MHz 3G regional broadband service but this offers relatively slow 300Kbps – 1.5Mbps download speeds
  • Vodafone is rolling out a new 850MHz 3G network in 2011 but it is quite fragmented and may not give reliable internet access indoors if i have read their  coverage maps correctly. Most current phones are not compatible except the iPhone and a few Nokia phones. I expect the Galaxy II will be.
  • they do not offer 3 Like Home International roaming cheap rates as do 3.
  • most plans include unlimited social networking within Australia such as Facebook
  • some plans that may be of interest:
    • 365day recharge prepaid plans may be of interest to those not needing data and not needing to make many calls or just make calls to other Vodafone mobiles. Great for those who rarely make calls. For instance you could keep your phone available to receive calls at just $20 per year – now that is cheap! Unlike many other prepaid plans or cap plans, you can even use your credit on international roaming.
    • $19 cap – $70 included calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles, $70 calls/text, 100Mb data
    • $29 cap – unlimited calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles, $180 calls/text, 200Mb data – ie. similar to 3 but no laptop broadband and no 3 Like Home rates.
    • $30 prepaid TXT and Data – unlimited calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles, $30 calls; unlimited text, 500Mb data. Not a bad option for those who don’t make many calls but want a reasonable amount of mobile internet usage.
    • $35 SIM only cap – unlimited calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles, $350 calls/text; 500Mb data.
    • $49 cap – unlimited calls to 3/Vodafone mobiles, $500 calls/text, 1.5Gb data – ie. similar to 3 but no laptop broadband and no 3 Like Home rates.
    • $20 and $35 SIM only caps – same as 3’s caps but no 3 Like Home rates.
    • Infinite $45 SIM only plan – unlimited standard calls to Australian mobiles or landline phones in Australia; unlimited text to personal Australian mobiles in Australia; 500Mb data. Not great vaue for money when you can get the same on a 12month contract and get a free phone as well, for instance, you can get a Nexus S on a 24 month $45 infinite plan, although Three offer the same phone on a $29 cap plan.


  • Optus mobile internet utilises its Open Network system of 3G dual band (2100MHz in cities rolled out in 2008, and 900MHz in regional areas which was rolled out in 2009-2011).
  • most plans include unlimited social networking within Australia such as Facebook
  • some plans of interest:
    • $10 BYO cap 12 month plan:  $20 included calls; 100 included SMS;
    • $19 BYO cap 12 month plan:  $70 included calls/text; $80 BYO bonus inclusions; 100Mb data;
    • $29 BYO cap 12 month plan:  $180 included calls/text; $120 BYO bonus inclusions; 200Mb data;
    • $49 BYO cap 12 month plan:  $500 included calls/text; $150 BYO bonus inclusions plus unlimited SMS to Australian GSM mobiles; 1.5Gb data;
    • they also have a month-to-month plan instead of 12 month contract
    • $29 phone cap plan: $180 included calls/text; 200Mb data;

Some suggestions:

Main priority is quality 1Gb internet access:

  • Telstra $10 casual plan + $10 browsing pack = $20/month and you get 1Gb data but almost no calls + ability to change plans each month
  • Telstra $20 member plan + $10 browsing pack = $25/month and you get $20 calls/text +  1Gb data plus one of the Telstra bonus options
  • Telstra $30 prepaid = $30/month and you get $30 calls/text with 1c SMS to Telstra + 200 free SMS to non-Telstra plus 500Mb data
  • Telstra $30 mobile plan + $10 browsing pack = $40/month and you get 1Gb data plus $30 calls plus one of the Telstra bonus options including mobile phone contract
  • Telstra $49 Freedom Connect cap = $49/mth and you get $450-550 calls, 1-1.5Gb data depending if a phone contract or BYO phone.
  • If you want an iPhone 4 16Gb on a plan, the Telstra $59 Freedom Connect + $10/mth handset = $69/mth gets you $550 calls + 1.5Gb data – more expensive than on Three but the internet will be much more reliable and you will have far more broadband coverage, and means internet tethering to laptop or iPad is more feasable too. That means the iPhone will in effect cost you $480 more than a $49 cap plan but you will have to commit to a 24mth plan and the iPhone 4 still retails over $800, so this can be quite cost effective.
  • NB. to get Telstra internet (NextG) your mobile needs to be compatible and most are not except for the iPhones and a few others!
  • also consider Optus $49 cap = $49/mth and you get $500-650 calls depending if a phone contract or BYO phone and 1.5Gb data.

Main priority is cheap International roaming to UK, Italy, Sweden, Denmark:

  • no brainer – go with Three while you still can (but not a prepaid plan)
  • alternatively, buy a prepaid SIM in each country you need to go to, as long as your phone is unlocked and is compatible with the networks
  • alternatively, use Skype on your smartphone via free WiFi access points

Cheap as possible, mainly to just receive calls or keep your number active while overseas:

  • Vodafone $20/yr 365 day prepaid recharge – recharge credits can even be used to pay international roaming call charges!

Calls mainly to family on same network:

  • many cheap Three and Vodafone plans offer unlimited calls and text to mobiles in these networks.
  • for example, Vodafone’s $30 prepaid TXT and Data also gives $30 calls/text to other phones and 500mb data – not a bad deal.
  • 3’s $29 Combo Cap is another great deal for this (see below)
  • Telstra does not offer any special deals on calls to other Telstra mobiles other than the bonus option (see under Telstra above), or the 1c SMS texts on prepaid plans, or the $15-25 free calls/mth in Reward Options when you also have a Telstra landline on the same bill and the calls are between those numbers listed on your bill.

$29 cap plan with 200mb mobile phone data:

  • Three’s $29 Combo Cap gives the best extras by far such as a free laptop broadband modem and 1Gb laptop data – awesome on paper, but coverage and internet access may be an issue, as well as potential to be forced to a Vodafone contract at some stage.
    • consider also 3’s and Vodafone’s $35 SIM only month-by-month plan which gives you  $350 calls, unlimited calls to 3 /Vodafone phones, 500Mb mobile internet.
  • If coverage is an issue, you may have to settle for Vodafone or Optus $29 cap plans, both give 200Mb data and $180 calls.

$45/mth unlimited calls with 500Mb data:

  • Vodafone’s $45 Infinite $45 plan gives you unlimited calls and text to Australian mobiles, landline phones plus a very usable 500mb data, but you may as well go for a 12 month phone contract rather than Sim-only plan.
  • consider also Three’s $49 combo cap – not unlimited calls but at least unlimited to 3 phones,  plus 1.5Gb data plus 2Gb broadband laptop data and you get a wealth of other extras while it lasts. Or, for $10/mth extra you can get the iPhone 4 16Gb (but not the laptop modem) – perhaps the cheapest way to get one on a plan  (It will cost you $69/mth on Telstra’s $59 cap).

$55/mth unlimited calls with 1Gb data prepaid:

  • Vodafone’s $55 All Time Recharge is a 30 day prepaid option which gives unlimited national calls, and texts plus 1Gb data plus $55 flexible credit for PXT,  International SMS/calls, or excess data usage (50c/Mb)

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