Compare Big 3 Australian Mobile Providers: Vodafone v Telstra v Optus


There’s a lot of choice on the mobile market these days. Familiar names that have been around since the calling card era. Veteran providers still going strong. Dozens of newbie companies selling all kinds of mobile plans at competitive prices. Having options is good. So is it still worth it to pay a little extra for one of the big three providers? And which one is best? We investigate.

Ever since the retail mobile provider market was opened up to third-party entrants, prices have kept coming down. Technology has helped. With massive networks already built and internet-based technologies making cross-country and international communication cheaper than ever, the days of dollar-a-minute long-distance calls are far behind us. But all of those third party providers rely on one of the “big three” networks – Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone.

Compare Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone Mobile Plans

These three companies own the physical mobile networks every other provider makes use of. So we’re basically talking about three vast networks of mobile towers, base stations, and exchanges. All trying to span the huge land mass of Australia in an attempt to get coverage out to as much of the population as possible.

Hence, you’d think that the best option would be to connect directly with one of the “big three” companies’ networks. And you’d be right, in many cases. Customers on the “big three” networks get full access to everything those networks have to offer. Meanwhile, third-party providers may be limited to certain parts of the network. That’s not usually a problem with voice calls, but can have an impact of data speeds, especially on 4G.

There’s also new tech available you’ll only find on the big three networks for the time being. For instance VoLTE, a 4G voice call system that gives you Skype-like call quality and many other benefits.

But is it viable money-wise to head for the “big three” for your mobile service? A few years ago, the answer would have been no. These days, with fierce competition in play, there’s real value to be had by going to the top of the mobile food chain. Let’s take a look at the three networks and the best of what they have to offer.

What Does Telstra Mobile Offer?

Still the biggest mobile network in Australia, veteran Telstra Mobile also has long had a reputation for being the most expensive. Until recently, anyway. Being able to boast the best coverage in the country has always been one of Telstra’s biggest goals. And they’ve succeeded – you’ll get Telstra coverage in many places the other two big providers simply can’t reach.

If you’re bringing your own phone to Telstra, you’re now spoilt for choice when it comes to plans. The one to head for if you want the best combination of price and value? The Small plan, which is packed with lots of data and freebies to boot. At only $50 per month, the Small plan gives you unlimited calls, texts, and 15GB worth of data. You can also choose to get unlimited international calls and SMS to 45 destinations for only $10/month. Telstra is really rising to the challenge set by some of the third-party providers in that department.

As for data, the Small plan gives you 15GB a month, a hefty chunk of data on what is arguably the fastest 4G network right now. Speaking of network, you also get a free trial access to the new 5G network — an offer that’s only available until June 2020. If you’re after a new phone, there are plenty of deals to choose from as well, all more affordable than ever.

For simply getting your smartphone onto the Telstra network, though, it’s hard to go past the BYO plans. Especially when you consider the perks. The list includes data-free music streaming with Apple Music, data-free live sport streaming, free Telstra Air public Wi-Fi access, and more.

Key Telstra Mobile Features

  • 5G Free Trial — Special offer until June 2020 only.
  • No lock-in contract — Telstra now gives you the choice to cancel your plan anytime with month to month flexibility.
  • Data-Free Sports Streaming — Stream AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball and the Hyundai A-League this 2019 season live, fast and data-free
  • Data-Free Music Streaming — Enjoy data-free music streaming of Apple Music, only with Telstra. Access over 50 million songs, totally ad-free. Apple Music requires an additional subscription
  • Free Telstra Air Wi-Fi — Access free Wi-Fi data at more than 1 million Telstra Air hotspots across Australia, and 19 million Fon Spots overseas
  • International Pack Option — International Calling Pack for unlimited calls and SMS to selected countries from Australia, for $10 per month

Telstra Mobile Plans

Mobile Plan Large
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 100GB Data
$80/mth
Min Cost - $80 over 1 month + extra handset fee over 24 or 36 months

Mobile Plan Small
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 15GB Data
$50/mth
Min Cost - $50 over 1 month + extra handset fee over 24 or 36 months

Mobile Plan Medium
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 60GB Data
$60/mth
Min Cost - $60 over 1 month + extra handset fee over 24 or 36 months

What Does Optus Mobile Offer?

It’s pretty clear the big three want to compete with the rapid rise of the smart BYO-SIM third-party providers. They realised that a big part of their target audience is mostly happy with the phone they’ve got and want a better deal on a better network. Not surprisingly, Optus Mobile – with its 4G Plus network that broke speed records for data downloads before their competitors had even set theirs up – is all about the tasty offers. Their online-only offers frequently change, so it’s well worth a visit to their site.

Optus offers a great range of SIM only mobile plans that pack a whole lot of data and some seriously good entertainment options. The base plan already gives you 10GB worth of data for only $39/month on a 12-month plan, and comes with unlimited standard calls and text, plus some extra entertainment like free Apple Music streaming, free subscription to Optus Sport (for live English Premier League and more), and access to National Geographic content via the Optus-exclusive app.

If you’re looking for a no lock-in option, Optus offers a $40/month plan that gives you 3GB data. You can easily add more data for $10/1GB data. Downside of this plan, though, is that it doesn’t give you the same perks as the 12-month plans.

Key Optus Mobile Features

  • Free Apple Music Streaming — Get a free 6-month trial of ad-free music streaming
  • Access to Optus Sport — With 24/7 football coverage, Optus Sport is the only place to catch all the action including every Premier League and UEFA Champions League match live on the Optus Sport App
  • National Geographic Content — Enjoy free National Geographic content including docos, photo stories, and articles until June 2020
  • Data Pooling — Bring together eligible plans onto the one bill so the data is pooled and shared across all your devices
  • My Optus app — Get speedy, simple service on the go with My Optus app. The best place to speak to Optus experts, pay bills, recharge and track your usage

What Does Vodafone Mobile Offer?

Yes, they came under fire a few years ago for poor network performance. But ever since, Vodafone’s poured millions of dollars on upgrades. They now have a bunch of very happy customers enjoying a 4G network that’s being run on the very latest hardware.

Vodafone offers a great deal of mobile plans that offer a whole lot of flexibility and money-saving options. Our top pick is the smallest Red Plus Plan, which for only $45/month on a 12-month plan, already gives you a generous 30GB worth of data. On top of that, Vodafone also now offers endless data across all Plus plans, which lets you continue using your mobile internet connection with speeds up to 1.5Mbps after you’ve used up your data at Max Speed.

With Vodafone, you can also get access to no lock-in contract plans with the lowest plan priced at $35/month gives you 1GB data, in which you can add more data for $10/1GB. Both 12-month and month-to-month plans do offer the option for you to save 5 to 20% off plan fees when you bundle a plan with other eligible plans under just one account.

Key Vodafone Mobile Features

  • Endless Data for SIM Plans — Once you’ve used Your Max Speed data, you can then keep using as much data as you want at speeds of up to 1.5Mbps on Red Plus Plans
  • Bundle & Save — Bundle any SIM Only Plus plan with other eligible plans under one account and save on all plan fees
  • 30-Day Network Satisfaction Guarantee — Freely leave the network if you’re not happy within the first 30 days of usage

Vodafone Mobile Plans

$55 SIM Only Plan – Month to Month
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 15GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$55/mth
Min Cost - $55 over 1 mth

$45 SIM Only Plan – Month to Month
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 5GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$45/mth
Min Cost - $45

$35 SIM Only Plan – Month to Month
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 1GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$35/mth
Min Cost - $35

Which Mobile Provider to Pick?

When you’re connecting to one of the “big three” you’ll be confident you’re getting the best of what that particular network can offer. These companies don’t hold anything back for their direct customers. But choosing between them is about more than features and perks – it’s about coverage as well. If you aren’t sure what the coverage in your area from one of the providers is like, invite some friends over to give you a chance to see how each network performs in your part of Australia. In inner-city areas, you’re not going to have any worries. But the further out you get, the more coverage becomes an important factor. When you get really far from big population centres, Telstra’s more likely to have solid coverage – though both Optus and Vodafone have been making massive efforts to change that.

The odds really are in your favour right now. All three telcos want you as a customer and they’re constantly coming up with ways to entice you. So keep an eye on this site as well as the providers’ own for deals, and remember – unless you’re getting a phone, try to stay away from contracts longer than 12 months. A lot changes in a year, and prices are not going anywhere but down!

Check Out Other Mobile Providers

While many people will appreciate the perks and greater network access that comes from signing up with one of the “big three”, remember, there are incredible deals available with third-party providers on the same excellent networks. You can get hooked up with the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone networks without a contract for a fraction of the cost of going with even the current great deals from the big providers. And if most of your mobile usage is calls and text, that’s perhaps a better way to go. However, if coverage and data speed – as well as some first-class perks – matter to you, then give the big three another look. Because now, more than ever, they want you!

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