On Phone Plans & Wireless Data

Recently I’ve been looking into my mobile phone account, since I’m sure I’m not getting the best deal. Currently I’m with Telstra on a prepaid plan. There’s nothing wrong with it, except that it’s generally expensive.

I’m only a light caller (we’re talking a couple of sub-minute calls a week, tops), and only a couple of SMS’ a day. On the other hand, I use a significant amount of data. Every month I use at least 100MiB, and sometimes I go up to a gigabyte. For various personal reasons, I’m expecting to use even more than this over the Australian summer.

So I went through the options, with the goal of paying less (a good thing) or getting more for my money (also a good thing). I currently pay somewhere between $30 and $50 AUD a month.

Telstra – I like Telstra a lot. Signal can be found pretty much everywhere in Australia, and a 3G signal can be found in all the major towns and cities. Call quality is very good also. However, they are very expensive. The Telstra plans I looked at (in particular the Mobile Member Plan) confirmed this, being even worse value for me than my prepaid plan. Data usage (most important for me) is charged at $59 for 1GB, then 25c/MB after that (more info). This is HUGELY expensive. Even with a low-cost $20 plan though, I do get a new phone (but no data).

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve also had a Telstra Prepaid Wireless Broadband dongle in the past. I liked it a lot and found it very functional, but the prices were very high. This is still the case, and the prices are about the same as they were 6 months to a year ago. I’d prefer not to have to have a seperate plan for data, but it is an option.

TPGTPG have one of the cheapest post-paid plans on the market. It’s $9.99, includes $150 of cap value, with call charges being very reasonable rates. However, at this cheap price, data suffers. Data usage is $5/MB, which is much more expensive than Optus, Virgin, or even Telstra!

TPG’s more expensive plans ($49.99 and $79.99) do include data (500MB and 2GB respectively) as well as free calls to other TPG users in off-peak hours. However, at this price, other providers are cheaper anyway. In addition, none of TPG’s plans include a new phone (although for that price, you can’t blame them).

3 After a friend’s experience with their accounts department, I’ll never go to them in my life. I haven’t even looked what the prices are, let alone care.

Virgin – Virgin Movile was one of the providers I looked at very closely. For $25 on their Rollover Caps Plus plan, I get more calls and texts than I’ll ever use in a month, as well as 300MB data, which is more than I use in an average month. Also included is a new phone, free voicemail, and free calls and texts to other Virgin Mobile customers (though this is nobody I know, making it a dud offer). It goes straight on the shortlist. If I do use over the 300MB in a month, I can buy a data pack which gives me 1GB (up to a total of 1300MB) for an extra $15 a month. There’s also the Velocity points I earn, but they amount to two parts of nothing.

Also worth consideration is the Beancounter prepaid plan. This has the benefit of really cheap calls and texts to everybody (10c SMS’ to anybody in Australia is very tempting), but falls down in the data department; I have to buy a seperate data pack ($10 for 300MB) seperately.

OptusThe ‘yes’ Cap plans have similar value to Virgin’s post-paid offerings, but without the possible bonus of free calls to other customers of the same telco. With regards to data, Optus is slightly more expensive than Virgin at $19.95 for 1GB. Virgin uses the Optus network (in fact, Virgin is owned fully by Optus, not by the Virgin Group as you would expect) so reception and signal quality should be very similar, at about 96% of the continent’s population at the present date.

Vodafone – Last but not least is Vodafone. They have two series of plans. The first is the SIM Only Contract Caps, starting at $20. This has quite reasonable value at $150, but my research indicates it comes with no data. A data pack can be added, $9.95 for 200MB. This would cover my needs most months, but leave me high and dry in a few.

Their other line of plans is the Contract Caps, starting at $29. These include a new mobile, and for the more expensive plans, some data as well (quite a lot of it, in fact). However, for the cheaper plans it’s the same $9.95 for 200MB as the SIM Only plans.

Another thing to be mentioned about Vodafone is that their network in Tasmania, from experience, sucks. It’s getting better all the time, and in other states is probably quite fine, but is still lagging behind the other networks in Tasmania.


So which one to choose? It’s a hard choice to make. Most of my friends are with Telstra, and would either kill me or not message me anymore if I moved away to another provider. On the other hand, being with Telstra is definitely the most expensive option for me (except for possibly TPG). I won’t go Optus, since I may as well go Virgin. I also won’t go Vodafone, since I like my phone to work around the places I live. 3 is ruled out for being incompetent. That leaves staying with Telstra or moving to TPG or Virgin.

I have no idea what I’ll do yet. I’ll let you know when I decide.

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4 thoughts on “On Phone Plans & Wireless Data”

  1. From my research on Whirlpool and Wikipedia, it seems TPG run off Optus’ network, which is fairly decent in Tasmania. It is always nice to have a provider that actually operates where you want the service. Being able to walk into a shop is very underated.

  2. Thanks for the info but I have a situation. I am posted out in beautiful Albany (WA) which is the southern most town and the closest we’ve got to Hobart (but not as scenic). Anyway, I bought a Telstra dongle turbo 7, and found it way expensive. It has cost me $149 for the dongle, then $170 of internet for just 3.5 weeks! Like your blog, I need to get in touch with the rest of the world. So I paid $100 to unlock my dongle (which until now I don’t know if it was a right move but I figured it’s cheaper to get out now than to be locked in this service for the next six months!) Do you know of any SIM only plans which can work with the Telstra dongle? I read that Optus and Vodafone require you use only their dongle. What’s your experience?

  3. I don’t have a lot of experience in these dongles, apart from owning a Telstra one about a year or so ago. So as far as my knowledge of the subject goes:

    There’s actually two high-speed mobile networks in Australia; one run by Telstra on one frequency and the other is run on another frequency. I remember the frequencies being 850MHz and 900MHz, but I can’t remember who owns what. This is a problem for you, mainly because the Telstra dongle you have will only run at 3G/HSPA speeds on the Telstra network, and not on the other network that Optus/Vodafone/3 use. It will work, but only at 2.5G/EDGE speeds. If all you want to do is check your email, this will be fine. But watching videos and so on will probably be painfully slow.

    The reason above is why Optus et. al. want you to use their dongles. Seeing as the dongle you have is unlocked, it will work on any network in Australia, just not at full speed. As for plans, I’ve been happy with Virgin for my phone, and they offer a BYO broadband service as well: http://www.virginmobile.com.au/broadband/pre-paid-mobile-broadband/ (I assume they do it in postpaid as well).

    Note that I’m not 100% confident in any of this, it’s only what I’ve read and researched personally. Good luck!

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