If you want Telstra's coverage without the cost, there are great ways to save with an MVNO on the Telstra network.
It's widely accepted that Telstra's mobile network is the best in the country in terms of speed and coverage, but that benefit comes with a cost. Telstra charges premium rates for its network and that can directly affect your wallet. However, you don't have to simply settle for paying Telstra's rates if all you want is access to the network, thanks to the wide variety of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that use parts of Telstra's 4G and 3G networks.
Using a Telstra MVNO can be a great way to save serious money, although in most cases, you'll need to already own the handset you want to use on the network. Some Telstra MVNOs, most notably Woolworths Mobile, do offer contract phones on 24-month contracts.
What's the catch with a Telstra MVNO?
You can save some serious money by using a Telstra MVNO, but it's not a direct 1:1 comparison to Telstra's range of services. At a technical level, Telstra doesn't offer full access to its "4GX" network to its MVNO partners. Instead, it sells access to "parts of Telstra's 4G and 3G network". What that means in practical terms is that you're only accessing 4G speeds at best, with a top ceiling of 200Mbps presuming your handset is compatible with that speed. The practical upshot for most users is that you shouldn't worry too much about these speeds unless you have very particular needs.
The other small catch is that the wholesale network that Telstra sells to MVNOs uses a marginally smaller coverage map than the full Telstra 4GX network. This is most apparent at the very far reaches of the network in more-remote regional areas. If you're in a regional centre or the suburbs of any Australian city the majority of the time, you should be just fine with the smaller footprint.
The other aspect that you'd miss out on not being a direct Telstra customer is the extra bonuses that Telstra adds to its plans, such as data-free streaming of Apple Music, access to its Telstra Air network and free access and streaming to AFL, NRL and netball games live on your mobile device for customers spending over $30 per month on their mobile plans.
We’ve written a guide to MVNOs on the big three mobile networks with more information.
Current Telstra network providers
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Best Telstra MVNO plans
The reality is that there's no one "best" plan for everybody because we all use our phones in different ways and different situations. For Telstra MVNOs, the sweet spot for getting the most out of that coverage with the minimum of pain in your wallet is arguably in plans with moderate data usage.
If you're looking to save money with a Telstra MVNO, data is the key criteria to compare. Most mobile providers will offer unlimited standard national calls and texts for relatively little money, but in the smartphone age, data is king.
The key reason to opt for a Telstra MVNO is to save money and that generally means that you're eschewing other bonuses, although some MVNOs do offer them. Boost Mobile, for example, offers data-free streaming of Apple Music on its plans, the same as Telstra.
ALDImobile's 2GB prepaid plan is a top choice for budget-conscious phone users wanting the speed and coverage of Telstra's network. At just $15 per recharge, it's not only one of the cheapest Telstra MVNO plans on the market, it comes with the added freedom of a no-lock-in contract plus the protection against excess charges that prepaid plans afford. Unlimited standard talk and text lets you keep in touch with friends and family at all times, and the 2GB of included data is sufficient for light web browsing.
10GB is a decent chunk of monthly data and with Telechoice's Live 25 plan, you can have it for just $25 a month. Whether you're streaming Netflix on your morning commute or listening to Spotify on your travels, 10GB should be ample for most of your mobile data needs. The only catch is that you need to commit to a 12-month contract, so be sure 10GB is sufficient for you by using our mobile data usage calculator first.
If you want plenty of data but aren't ready to commit to a long-term contract, ALDImobile's Value Pack L comes with a solid 9GB for the same $25 a month as Telechoice's plan. You also get unlimited international calls to 15 countries plus an allotment of free international SMS, making it a good deal for travellers too.
Quite a few Telstra MVNOs offer international call inclusions with their plans, but the clear winner here is Belong. Its Large SIM-only plan gets you unlimited international calls to an impressive 36 countries including the UK and the USA as well as Japan, France, Italy and India, to name just a few. Coupled with 15GB of data and a no-lock-in month-to-month contract, it's a top choice for those with friends and family overseas.
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