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What is an MVNO?

MVNOs are smaller network operators that allow you to still connect to Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, but for a lower price.

What you need to know

  • MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operator.
  • Signing up to an MVNO means you can still get access to the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone mobile networks, usually for a cheaper price.
  • Plans from MVNOs are usually lighter on features and benefits than plans directly from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone.

What is an MVNO?

An MVNO is a mobile virtual network operator. These providers offer mobile services without owning their own mobile spectrum or infrastructure. Instead they purchase mobile network services from a company that does and then resell it to consumers.

In Australia, there are only 3 telcos that have their own mobile network – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. That means all other smaller mobile providers, the MVNOs, use one of those networks.

Most MVNOs are independent companies, but some are owned by the big 3 telcos themselves.

  • Good to know: Just 11% of mobile services in Australia come from MVNOs. The remaining 89% belong to Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

Do MVNOs have the same coverage as the bigger mobile providers?

It depends which mobile network the MVNO has access to as to whether it has the same coverage as the bigger mobile providers.

MVNOs that use the Optus and Vodafone mobile networks have the same coverage as Optus and Vodafone themselves, as they use the full network.

With Telstra MVNOs, things are slightly different. Most of these only use the Telstra Wholesale Network, which claims to cover 98.8% of the Australian population. Telstra's full network covers 99.5% of Australians, so those with a Telstra MVNO will lose out on a bit of coverage, mostly in rural and regional areas.

  • Keep in mind: Even though they use the same mobile network, some MVNOs don't offer 5G plans. They may only offer plans that use a provider's 4G network.

Telstra MVNOs

The majority of Telstra MVNOs use the Telstra wholesale mobile network, which covers 98.8% of Australians. Telstra's own network reaches 99.5% of the population.

The only 3 MVNOs in Australia that use Telstra's full network are Boost Mobile, JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys.

Even though it's slightly less coverage, the Telstra wholesale mobile network still reaches more people than the full Optus and Vodafone networks.

Compare plans from Telstra MVNOs

Name Product Data Price Apply Price
Belong 40GB
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Belong 40GB
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Wholesale Telstra 5G/4G network
40GB
No excess data charges
$35
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
40GB
Data
$35
per month
Belong 25GB
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Belong 25GB
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Wholesale Telstra 5G/4G network
25GB
No excess data charges
$29
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
25GB
Data
$29
per month
Belong 100GB
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Belong 100GB
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Wholesale Telstra 5G/4G network
100GB
No excess data charges
$45
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
100GB
Data
$45
per month
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Optus MVNOs

Optus MVNOs use the full Optus mobile network, which means 98.5% of Australians are covered.

This means the coverage you get with an Optus MVNO is the same as signing up to a mobile plan from Optus itself.

Compare plans from Optus MVNOs

Name Product Data Price Apply Price
Optus Flex Plus $35
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
$35 SIM for $12. Ends 9.5.24. Activate by 3.6.24 for 60GB on 1st, 40GB for 2nd & 3rd recharges, then 20GB/recharge. Excludes eSIM. New services only. T&Cs apply
Optus Flex Plus $35
Prepaid
$35 SIM for $12. Ends 9.5.24. Activate by 3.6.24 for 60GB on 1st, 40GB for 2nd & 3rd recharges, then 20GB/recharge. Excludes eSIM. New services only. T&Cs apply
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
20GB
$35
per 28 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • $35 SIM for $12. Ends 9.5.24. Activate by 3.6.24 for 60GB on 1st, 40GB for 2nd & 3rd recharges, then 20GB/recharge. Excludes eSIM. New services only. T&Cs apply
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
20 GB
Data
$35
per 28 days expiry
Southern Phone Finder Exclusive
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
100GB for $20/mth for the first 3 months, then 100GB for $25/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 29.4.24
Southern Phone Finder Exclusive
Postpaid
100GB for $20/mth for the first 3 months, then 100GB for $25/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 29.4.24
Exclusive
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 4G/3G network
100GB
$20
per month
Go to site
View details
Exclusive
  • 100GB for $20/mth for the first 3 months, then 100GB for $25/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 29.4.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
100 GB
Data
$20
per month
amaysim 32GB Plan
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
amaysim 32GB Plan
Prepaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
32GB
$30
per 28 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
32GB
Data
$30
per 28 days expiry
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Vodafone MVNOs

The MVNOs that use the Vodafone mobile network have full access to it, which offers coverage to 96% of the Australian population.

MVNOs on the Vodafone network mostly offer 4G coverage, with certain plans with trial 5G access.

Compare plans from Vodafone MVNOs

Name Product Data Price Apply Price
felix Subscription Unlimited
SubscriptionNo lock-in contract
$20/mth for the first 3 months, then $40/mth with code FELIX50. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 30.6.24
felix Subscription Unlimited
Subscription
$20/mth for the first 3 months, then $40/mth with code FELIX50. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 30.6.24
Finder Award
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 4G network
Unlimited data
At speeds up to 20Mbps
$20
per month
Go to site
View details
GREEN COMPANY
  • $20/mth for the first 3 months, then $40/mth with code FELIX50. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 30.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
Unlimited data
At speeds up to 20Mbps
$20
per month
iiNet Medium Plan
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
$12.50/mth for the first 6 months, then $24.99/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
iiNet Medium Plan
Prepaid
$12.50/mth for the first 6 months, then $24.99/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 4G/3G network
16GB
$12.50
per month
Go to site
View details
-50%
  • $12.50/mth for the first 6 months, then $24.99/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
16 GB
Data
$12.50
per month
TPG Large
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
$15/mth for the first 6 months, then $30/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
TPG Large
Prepaid
$15/mth for the first 6 months, then $30/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
Finder Award
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 4G network
45GB
$15
per month
Go to site
View details
-50%
  • $15/mth for the first 6 months, then $30/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply.
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
45 GB
Data
$15
per month
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Is it worth it to switch to an MVNO?

There are a couple of things to consider to see if it's worth switching to an MVNO.

Pros

  • MVNO plans are generally cheaper
  • No-frills SIM only plans
  • Bigger choice of plans available

Cons

  • Not as many perks or added extras with plans
  • 5G plans not always available
  • Fewer customer service options

Everyone has different needs when it comes to mobile plans, but there are many compelling reasons as to why it's worth switching to an MVNO.

The main reason is MVNOs offer cheaper plans.

The ACCC Communications Market Report released in December 2023 found that the median advertised plan price for the big 3 mobile network operators was $58 in 2022–23. For MVNOs, the average was $30.

That's a total difference of $336 over a year signing up with an MVNO instead of 1 of the big 3 mobile operators.

If you're looking for a basic mobile plan and don't need too many bells and whistles, then MVNOs offer lots of affordable options for this.

MVNOs are also worth switching if you don't need a new phone. If you're just after a basic SIM only plan with enough data, MVNOs are a strong option for this.

Finder survey: Which mobile carrier do Australians trust most?

In a survey of 1,110 Australians, the major brands (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) were found to be more trustworthy than MVNOs. While these larger providers do not always offer the most affordable plans, it could still be worth signing up with them if brand matters to you.

Response
Telstra60%
Vodafone30.63%
Optus29.46%
TPG14.14%
None of the above12.88%
Belong10.99%
Amaysim7.75%
Boost Mobile6.85%
Other6.67%
Moose Mobile1.17%
Lebara1.08%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

Why are MVNOs cheaper?

The main reason MVNOs can offer you a cheaper deal on phone plans than any of the big 3 telcos is because they don't have to pay the costs for building and maintaining the actual mobile networks themselves.

MVNOs are also smaller companies and hence don't spend as much on advertising either.

Which MVNOs have 5G mobile plans?

MVNOs in Australia that offer 5G plans include:

  • AGL
  • ALDImobile
  • amaysim
  • Aussie Broadband Mobile
  • Belong Mobile
  • Boost Mobile
  • CMobile Blue
  • Exetel Mobile
  • Goodtel Mobile
  • JB Hi-Fi
  • Konec Mobile
  • Lebara Mobile
  • Mate
  • Moose Mobile
  • More
  • numobile
  • Pennytel
  • Southern Phone
  • SpinTel
  • Superloop
  • Tangerine Telecom Mobile
  • Telsim
  • Everyday Mobile (Woolworths)

Frequently asked questions


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