Nobody wants to spend more money than they have to – for anything. When it comes to our day to day communications, we’re in a great position here in Australia – there’s a ton of very active competition between companies that are selling the same basic services, broadband internet and mobile phone plans.
Many people will take the easy route and just sign up with the biggest-name company they think of first – and there’s nothing wrong with that, since the big names all provide a solid level of quality and service. But if you’re looking to save money, it can become a bit of a minefield. In the budget-minded area of the communications world there are many smaller companies to sift through to find the gems. Because even though all mobile providers use one of three networks, and NBN broadband providers all share the backbone of the Australian internet, not every company delivers in the areas that really count. You want a good price, you want generous limits and you want solid customer support.
What Makes Exetel and Belong Different?
These two companies, which have both emerged as big players in this budget-priced-but-high-quality category, have a lot to offer for the prices they charge. On one side, there’s Aussie telco Exetel, a company which has remained independent for its entire existence and has taken the value fight to the big providers by offering low prices, keen value and solid customer support. On the other side we have Belong – a lean, mean, no-frills company that’s backed by the resources and network of the mighty Telstra. Which one’s the better bet for you? We’ll take a look at some use cases and find out!
It’s no exaggeration to say that broadband internet has become an essential utility in today’s world, and so you’ll be connecting to it no matter who you are or what you do. Belong and Exetel are (like most broadband providers now) mainly selling plans on the National Broadband Network (the NBN) which is nearing completion of its rollout. Both, though, also sell plans for ADSL if you’re still waiting for the NBN to be connected at your home – and both, of course, offer seamless transition from ADSL to NBN when the time comes at no cost to you.
Exetel’s NBN plans keep things really simple and incredibly affordable, with their base offering being at the NBN 50 speed – 50 Mbps downloads with much faster uploads than lower speeds. That’s a great middle ground to suit everyone – streaming, gaming, multiple family members doing stuff, it’ll be capable of handling it. With unlimited data, Exetel prices very keenly at $59.99/month on a 12-month contract, and you get a wi-fi modem and the first two months thrown in for free. Those wanting to avoid contracts can opt for no lock in plans for a little more per month.
Belong, meanwhile, prices their unlimited data NBN plan at “Standard Plus” speed – also 50 Mbps – at $65 per month, with a free wi-fi modem thrown in. But you also get $80 of credit towards a Belong mobile service, so that can actually tip the scales in favour of the Belong option if you’re looking to get a mobile service as well. Month-to-month is also available, and it work out at almost exactly the same price as Exetel in that case.
When it comes to mobile SIM only plans, neither of these companies is messing around when it comes to value – though in this case you have another decision to make as well. Exetel’s mobile service runs on the Optus 4G Plus network, which is perfect for cities and busy towns but not as comprehensive coverage-wise in remote areas as the Telstra 4G network, which Belong uses. Ultimately, though, neither provider asks you to agree to a contract, so you’re free to try both out for yourself without breaking the bank, to see what works best for your needs and coverage area.
The Exetel mobile plans offer incredible value, ranging from $8.99 to $29.99 a month and from 2GB to 18GB in data allowances. Every plan offers unlimited calls, texts and MMS messages within Australia, and three of the plans also come with international call allowances. At the base level, $8.99/month for unlimited calls and texts is one of the best deals in the business.
Belong’s no slouch either, though, cruising along on Telstra’s extensive 4G network. Belong offers three mobile plans with very different data limits – 1GB, 10GB and 30GB. These plans are priced smartly at $10, $25 and $40 per month respectively, and it would be tempting to give the value victory to Exetel right away – except for the fact that it’s not the exact same playing field. Belong’s cheapest plan only offers half the data Exetel does for a dollar less, sure – but their 10GB medium plan is the exact same price as Exetel, and the large 30GB plan has no equal at the competition (and this data-heavy plan also offers unlimited international calls and text to major countries).
What About Pensioners and Seniors?
It’s a much closer call than you’d think, with both companies providing stellar services at very affordable and flexible prices. We know that people on pensions and our senior Australians don’t want to waste money on services they’ll never use, and the great news is that both Exetel and Belong offer plans that let you get connected to broadband without spending a fortune – and even better, incredibly cheap mobile plans that will let you use a mobile phone as though it were a portable home phone, with no need to ever worry about call costs.
For mobile, we’d recommend seniors go for the $8.99 Exetel or $10 Belong plans. Both a great value, and if you put them to use on what’s called a “feature phone” – basically, a mobile phone that’s just a phone, which you can pick up cheap at your local supermarket – they’re perfect.
For broadband, Belong offers a basic speed connection – perfect for general usage – at $55 per month, while Exetel will cost $50 for a basic setup. And though Exetel’s connection will be faster (not a big requirement for most seniors) Belong offers unlimited data versus Exetel’s 100GB at that price point, so Belong has that extra peace of mind. Both are great value, though if you’re a senior that’s discovered Netflix, we’d lean towards Exetel as a better choice at the price.
Contract or No Contract?
Both Belong and Exetel will provide you a choice between a 12-month contract or month-to-month on broadband, and both give you a modest monthly discount for choosing to sign up for the long haul. You’ll also get a free wi-fi modem with both on their 12-month plans, whereas on month-to-month you’ll need to bring your own (not always a great idea with the NBN) or pay for one at $60 from Belong, and $59 with Exetel.
Tipping the scales slightly in Exetel’s favour is their offer of the first 2 months of your 12-month contract free (and even on month-to-month plans they’ll give you a free first month).
For most of us, it’s vitally important that we have access to good customer service with our broadband and mobile providers. Ideally, you’ll never need to call at all, but if you do need help, you want it to be at the ready.
Both Belong and Exetel offer mobile phone and tablet apps for iOS and Android that let you monitor and manage your accounts and services and get directly connected to the right people if you need support. Those apps are backed up by customer service phone teams based overseas (in the case of Belong) and both in Australia and overseas (Exetel).
Exetel is confident enough in its customer support team to offer real-time stats on the number of calls waiting and the estimated wait time right on their web site, so you know what sort of demand there is before you call. That’s a feature we’d love to see more providers put in place!
Which One’s the Best Choice for You – Exetel or Belong?
There’s a lot to like about both of these companies, which are playing in the same sections of the market with some clear winners in specific areas, but no clear champion overall. Both provide excellent value for money, real customer choice when it comes to agreeing to a contract or not, and both are backed by solid, reliable networks.
For mobile plans, if you’re looking for the clear budget-priced winner, that’ll be Exetel – but if you’re a data-hungry power user you’ll find superb value and big data with Belong. For broadband, Exetel’s high speeds and great pricing are hard to beat, but Belong swings in with a valuable mobile tie-in offer if you’re looking to connect to both at the same time.
Ultimately, it’s brilliant that we, the customers, have such well-priced choices available – it wasn’t all that many years ago when both broadband and mobile services had little to offer in terms of value or choice. Be sure to check out our reviews of Exetel and Belong’s services and get a look at the details of what each one offers, then enjoy buy nice things with the money you’ll save!