There was a time – and it wasn’t all that long ago – when making a phone call to an overseas destination was incredibly expensive. Charged by the minute, international calls could quickly rack up large costs. Especially if the purpose of the call was to have a relaxed conversation with family or friends, rather than just a quick “hi and bye”. In Australia, anyone with friends or relatives overseas had the even greater disadvantage of distance. Connecting a phone call halfway across the planet wasn’t cheap. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. International phone plans are now more accessible than ever.
Things changed for the better in two ways – both thanks to the rapid growth of global internet. Companies sprang up offering cheap international call rates via a “calling card” system. You dialled in to their central number and the call was placed for you. This usually occurred via VOIP connections to overseas servers where the call could be connected at local rates. And then there was the rise of Skype, the now Microsoft-owned app that lets you have online conversations with anyone in the world. You can also place calls to landline and mobile phones anywhere using a similar strategy. Get the call to the destination country via the internet, then call the phone from there to save money.
International calling made easy – and free!
Calling cards and Skype, hugely popular as they were (and, to some extent, still are) were just a workaround for an annoyance that became more pronounced as the mobile market exploded. After all, you could pick up your mobile phone, call anywhere in Australia and, on many plans, talk for as long as you liked. Yet, call outside the country and you could expect some hefty call charges on your next bill. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to merge the VOIP functionality of Skype and calling cards with your own phone service? That way, you could just pick up the phone and call without keeping an eye on the clock.
The good news is that those days are finally here thanks to several mobile providers’ international calling plans. All your calling and texting needs are covered by the one service, for the one price, with no surprises – assuming, of course, that you’re calling one of the supported countries (more on that in a moment).
The better news is that you don’t have to pay tons of money for a plan with unlimited international calls. Several providers have put together packages – both prepaid and post-paid – that bundle international calls and texts as a standard feature. At the same time, they offer incredible value on the everyday stuff – calls, texts and data within Australia.
While there’s variance between providers when it comes to which international countries are included in their offer of unlimited calls, there’s a group of ten countries that are mentioned on almost every plan. Fortunately, they’re usually the countries that a huge number of people would want to call; whether it’s to talk to family back home or to keep in touch with loved ones while travelling around Australia.
Where can you call?
Amaysim’s mobile plans, for example, offer a set batch of ten countries as standard on every plan. Right down to their cheapest offering. All plans cover talk (to both landline and mobile phones) and text to China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, UK and USA. They add another 22 countries to the mix on some of their higher plans, giving you unlimited texts (and also MMS for photo messaging) to those countries and offering 5 hours of talk time to mobiles and landlines within them. That you can chat away for 300 minutes each to countries from Japan to Bangladesh for under $50 is remarkable. Just a few short years ago, doing this would have set you back hundreds of dollars.
Lebara, meanwhile, takes things a step further with their Unlimited International Plan. This one ups the ante to an incredible 60 countries available for unlimited calls. However, the plan doesn’t include international texts. Also, with some of the included countries like key destinations such as Greece, Russia and Japan, calls are only unlimited when calling landlines. Still, if you’re regularly calling one of the supported destinations, it can be an absolute bargain.
Next, Boost Mobile includes unlimited international calls at their $40 recharge tier. Plans support calls and texts to the telco’s own list of “top ten” countries, replacing Thailand with Canada. That’s the thing with unlimited-international plans, whether prepaid or post-paid. You want to start your shopping around with a solid idea of the countries you’ll be calling and texting.
How about big providers?
Telstra offers unlimited international calls and texts to China, India, UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, USA and Canada. These are offered on all of its “L” plans and above. That includes phone plans. So if the Telstra network with its fast 4G is what you’re after, the option is there to add unlimited international calls and texts. It won’t be as cheap as the competition, but you get the advantage of full Telstra network access within Australia. Plus a hefty data allowance and Telstra’s various freebies. For instance, you get a year’s free access to Apple Music. Plus six month’s subscription to the HD tier of Netflix. You’ve got $360 of real value right there if you use those services.
What about international-allowance plans?
There’s still plenty of providers that offer plans with a set about of international calls per month, measured in dollars. They can be great value – but only if the per-minute rate to the countries you want to call is reasonable. Calling India, for example, could cost twice more per minute as calling the USA. Kind of makes these plans seem less appealing for someone calling family back home in New Delhi.
Ideally, you want a balance between a good monthly rate and the call inclusions you need. When calling the more popular countries, you’ll have a wealth of providers and plans to choose from. Are your calling destinations less common? Shop around and read the fine print so you know exactly what you’ll be getting. And remember, if you choose a prepaid plan you are under no obligation to stay with that provider if you’re not happy with the cost or the quality. Your mobile number is yours to take to any provider you like.
Do these plans include roaming?
The whole purpose of international phone plans is to give you access from Australia to countries around the world where you have friends and family. Providers don’t design these plans for travellers who need mobile phone access while globe-hopping. That’s an entirely different (and often very expensive) topic. Just keep in mind that all of these unlimited international phone plans are for use while you’re in Australia, not overseas.
Are they worth it?
Even if you make the occasional international call or send a text now and then to another country, you will get phenomenal value from the latest range of international phone plans. They’re essentially just excellent Australian mobile plans (with the usual unlimited local calls and text and generous data allowances) with free international calls add on as an extra. It’s a buyer’s market. Be sure to weigh up the available plans using our handy comparison tool to see which one’s the right fit for you, whether you’re calling the other side of town or across the globe.