Unlimited data phone plans review – too good to be true?

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We live in a world that’s all about data. Having a mobile phone once meant spending time holding the thing up to your ear and chatting away, and you’d send the occasional text message in between. Today it’s rare to see many people actually talking on their mobile phone. Instead they’re walking, travelling or relaxing with their eyes glued to the screen. Thanks to 4G data plans, and apps for just about everything, the internet is now at our high-speed disposal wherever and whenever we want it.


Mobile data allowances are a very different thing to data cap you might get on your home broadband connection. We’re used to the idea of unlimited data at home – no more checking the month’s usage and holding off on those big downloads – download as much as you like without the worry of an excess usage bill at the end.

It seems logical that you’d also want to find the best unlimited data plan for your smartphone or tablet. Here’s the problem: in Australia, unlimited data phone plans simply do not exist – they never have, and most probably never will. Here’s why.


Making data work for everyone


Unlike fixed broadband, where you can add extra cables or hardware to increase capacity, the mobile network is limited by one very unmovable thing – the amount of wireless connections in one area. If there’s too many wireless connections things start to get too crowded to work properly – or work at all. If you’ve ever been to a sporting event or concert and everyone’s trying to use their phones, you’ll have experienced this already. Providers can add extra capacity, like extra towers (or even compact “cells” to expand capacity for big events) but there’s only so much space available in the frequency band used by mobile phones. If everyone’s trying to crowd into it at the same time, then some can’t get access at all – even if there’s extra capacity for those lucky enough to make it in.

When Telstra offered free data Sundays in 2016, it showed us why unlimited mobile data really doesn’t exist. Their mighty 4G network – especially in cities – coped with the demand for connections but slowed to a crawl.

The limits placed on 4G data plans are there for a reason. If you want to download a 20GB file for your latest project, you’d better do so on a fixed broadband connection. That volume of data is trivial – both for the provider and the capacity of the network. A lack of unlimited mobile data plans is one of the reasons why, no matter which provider you choose, you’re almost guaranteed to get fast, reliable mobile data at almost any time of the day or night.


But they have unlimited data overseas!


Yes, they do – and that’s led to heavy network congestion and a bunch of stealthy workarounds to allow providers to offer unlimited data in countries where it’s available.

Take the USA, for example. Huge providers like T-Mobile and Sprint have offered unlimited 4G data plans – but with conditions buried in the fine print. Providers there may advertise unlimited data, but once you go past a certain threshold your connection is “throttled” – slowed down to a crawl for the rest of the month, very much like some home broadband providers have done for years here in Australia. The catch is, you never really know when this is happening – there’s no indication – it’s only applied when you connect to a mobile tower that’s near capacity, and you’re bumped to the bottom of the priority list.

Advertising this sort of plan as “unlimited” was outlawed in Australia some time ago. You won’t see providers here trying stunts like that – or the other tactic used in the US, which is limiting streaming video to 480p low-def on unlimited plans, then charging you extra to stream at a higher quality. Super annoying when you’re trying to watch a YouTube video on a tablet or phone screen that yawns at 1080p HD! Providers such as Sprint also throttle music and gaming data on “unlimited” plans, delivering a lower-quality end result to the user to keep costs down.

By comparison, if you want HD video in Australia you can have it. Your music is always streamed at its original quality and our 4G mobile networks are snappy enough to support gaming when you need it. It’s just a matter of getting past that perceived need for “unlimited” – because, in all likelihood, you don’t actually need unlimited mobile data.


Australia gets it right


The fast 4G mobile data services available from Australian providers really are state of the art when it comes to the quality, speed and reliability of the service offered. You can get yourself a hefty chunk of data allowance per month along with unlimited calls, texts and MMS messages for much less than overseas customers pay for their mobile services. That’s right – it’s often cheaper to get your mobile online here!

When you compare data plans, you might look at the limits advertised alongside unlimited voice calls and think you’re up against low data allowances. But you’re really not – as long as you’re just using the data on your phone (and not streaming Netflix in HD every day on the way to work!)

Sure, data limits advertised on mobile plans may look stingy compared to what’s offered by home broadband. Remember that mobile data – from apps, web browsing, even playing music – uses a lot less data than you’d think. A 5GB data allowance sounds like a punishing limitation, but it’s actually hard to get through it all on a mobile device in a month, even with daily use. This is even more the case with the free streaming offered by some providers – like Telstra’s free Apple Music streaming.

Telstra Mobile’s plans also offer a free subscription to Apple Music so you literally get your travelling soundtrack for free for 6 months – and up to 10GB of data to use outside of that, when you’re not using the free Telstra Air wi-fi hotspots!

Telstra Mobile Plans

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

See all Telstra packages

Meanwhile, Boost Mobile offers nice hefty data allowances on prepaid, with a bonus 1GB of data thrown onto your account every weekend. This gives you extra room to move at the busiest time of the week for smartphone users. Their plans (with the extra data) run up to a hefty 11GB per month – again, hard to actually use up unless you’re watching the Hobbit trilogy on the way to work!

Boost Mobile Plans

$40 Prepaid
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 45GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$40/28 days

$30 Prepaid
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 35GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$30/28 days

$20 Prepaid
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 5GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$20/28 days

See all Boost packages

It’s a similar picture over at amaysim. Their plans bundle unlimited calls and texts around Australia and to 10 international countries, and throw in a nicely huge data allowance on the Optus 4G Plus network; up to 9GB per month for not much more than ten bucks a week.

See all amaysim packages


Or there’s Yomojo – which does offer set data and call plans ranging up to a 12GB data pool – and allowing you to tailor your plan to the balance of calls and data you think you’re going to use – so you’re not paying for calls or data you don’t need.

Yomojo Mobile Plans

Kids Plan + 1GB Data
  • 200 mins Calls
  • 1GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
Min Cost - $9.90 over 1 month

Unlimited Talk & Text - 2GB
  • Unlimited Calls & Text
  • 2GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
Min Cost - $15.90 over 1 month

Mobile Broadband 2GB
  • 2GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
Min Cost - $14.90 over 1 month

See all Yomojo packages

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