The sheer speed and reliability of 4G mobile networks in Australia is something we should all praise more often. You can browse web sites, check Facebook or stream music from your phone with ease. But when you’re looking for mobile broadband access for your laptop or tablet, the data limits of typical plans can start to bite. You’re dealing with full-size web sites rather than their trimmed-down mobile versions. You’re also accessing files larger than you’d normally handle on a mobile device. Streaming Netflix to keep yourself amused while you’re away from home can also take a huge toll on your allowance. The solution? A data-only SIM.
For starters, it’s great to have a second account to handle the data needs of your larger mobile devices. No more checking your data usage every couple of hours. But beyond that, a data-only SIM can give you extraordinary value when it comes to the basic cost per megabyte.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start. There are no unlimited mobile data plans of any kind available in Australia. Not yet, anyway. You may have heard about them being available overseas – and they are, but with a lot of fine print. Streaming video gets downsized. Downloads above a certain amount get slowed down. Plus, you’d be sitting on a very crowded network where everything takes far longer than it should to load. Australia’s 4G mobile networks have their data limits for a very good reason. They’re meant to keep everyone connected at a decent speed. Just look at the free-data days that Telstra did last year to see how unlimited data usage can cripple the performance of a mobile network!
When you’re looking for data only SIM plans, though, you’ll notice that there’s some very generous allowances available if you shop around. Generally, we’re talking about an amount of data that’ll be more than enough for your everyday needs. If your plan is to stream video on the go, you’re going to be disappointed, but there’s a way around that. Both Netflix and Stan now offer the ability to download shows and movies to your device at home. That way, you can watch them lter with no internet connection at all. YouTube offers the same functionality if you subscribe to their YouTube Premium service (or to Google Play Music) for $11.99 per month. And they remove all the ads too! So it’s best not to factor streaming video into the equation. You’ve got the tools to deal with that already, letting you focus on the mobile data you need for more general mobile internet use.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the best-value mobile data plans out there.
Running on the fast Optus 4G Plus network, Yomojo’s data-only plans start off modestly and end up huge. They’re all prepaid but do auto-renew every 30 days unless you cancel. Keep that in mind. You can grab a 10GB plan for $25.90, which is great for modest laptop or tablet usage. But our pick – if you need the headroom – is the 25GB plan. At $45.90, it represents a great balance between price and allowance. There’s also a 40GB plan at $65.90. Obviously, you can swap between these at any time as there’s no contract.
Boasting their own sports streaming network as a free part of every plan, Ovo Mobile is unique in the increasingly busy world of mobile providers. Data only SIM customers get access to OvoPlay and can enjoy free streaming of sports from V8 Supercars to gymnastics. Running on the Optus 4G Plus network, Ovo offers five tiers of data-only plans – though one is a bit special. For 30-day prepaid data, their killer plan is the $59.95 50GB monster. It will give you enough data to do pretty much anything you need over 30 days.
The lower-limit plans are similar in allowance and price to Yomojo’s. However, Ovo also offers a 365-day plan for those who want to get their device connected but aren’t going to be all that data-hungry. The plans gives you 15GB to use over the course of a whole year for $99.95. That translates to a bit over 8 bucks a month to keep your tablet connected for occasional use.
You’re going to pay a bit more to access Telstra’s 4G network on your laptop or tablet. But the sheer speed, performance and reach of the network is worhty of some extra cash. You can get onto the Telstra network for $15 a month but will only get 1GB of data – okay for occasional usage. If you want to stretch your wings more, 10GB will cost you $45 per month. That’s on a 12-month contract. However, the offer includes 6 months of Apple Music subscription (worth $72), 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage and free access to Telstra Air wi-fi hotspots in Australia and Fon spots overseas.
Optus includes entertainment options as part of their plans. Music streaming from Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio is quota-free across all plans. The sweet-spot plan for Optus is the one for heavier users – 25GB for $50 per month.
You can pool that data with your Optus mobile service if you want, too. That way, your phone and tablet/laptop all share the same total amount of data. In this case the cheaper plans might be worth considering (such as 10GB for $35), but they don’t represent great overall value.
There’s a vast amount of mobile data plans out there for the choosing, so it can seem overwhelming to dig them out on every provider’s site. We’ve made the task of shopping for a plan a lot easier. Just check out our mobile data plans comparison page.
That being said, it’s important to remember that the best plan starts with you. How much data do you use each month? Your mobile device usually has an info page to tell you. And how much do you want to spend? That’ll depend on whether you need data access on your tablet or laptop only occasionally, or as a vital part of your life.
Our advice? Start off with a prepaid plan with no commitments, and you can fine-tune your spending on data month by month. That way, you get the best value. Also, always keep an eye on the latest data plans and their prices. They just keep getting cheaper!