Number of Australians on SIM-only plans doubles

Angus Kidman 19 February 2016

SIM-only plans

Worldpanel ComTech data shows a shift away from basic prepaid to no-contract deals.

Australian phone owners are increasingly turning to no-contract SIM-only plans rather than basic prepaid deals with fewer inclusions or long-term contracts with a handset included.

The percentage of Australians on a SIM-only plan almost doubled between December 2014 and December 2015, jumping from 7.3% to 14%, according to survey data from Worldpanel ComTech.

That growth came mainly at the expense of basic prepaid plans, which saw market share drop from 58.7% to 53.6% over the same period. Despite that, prepaid remains the most common form of plan for Australians. The figures only measure the primary phone used by an individual over the age of 16; they do not count additional plans for tablets and dongles. According to the survey data, a whopping 82% of Australians now own a smartphone.

Contract plan sales dropped slightly from 34% to 32.4% of sales. The figures show that Android phones dominate the Australian market. Cheaper Android phones are more readily available than the more expensive iPhone, which is often bought on contract.

Plan typeDecember 2015December 2014
Contract32.4%34.0%
Prepaid53.6%58.7%
SIM-only14.0%7.3%

The big three carriers – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – continue to account for the majority of sales, but there are changes afoot. The biggest growth has been for Optus (up from 21.5% to 22.8%), amaysim (up from 3.6% to 3.9%) and ALDImobile (up from 1.7% to 2.5%). amaysim runs on Optus' 4G network, while ALDImobile uses parts of Telstra's 3G network.

The news isn't so good for Optus-owned Virgin Mobile, with market share falling from 6.8% to 5.3%. Vodafone is also down from 16.8% to 14.8%. (Incidentally, Vodafone's figures include customers on Crazy John's and three plans, which are no longer sold but have been "grandfathered" for existing customers who don't want to switch.)

Total % shareDecember 2015December 2014
Telstra39.3%39.5%
Optus22.8%21.5%
Vodafone14.8%16.8%
Virgin5.3%6.8%
amaysim3.9%3.6%
ALDImobile2.5%1.7%
TPG2.3%2.8%
Other MVNOs9.1%7.3%

Prepaid vs SIM-only vs contract

Those patterns vary slightly when you look at the different types of plans. In the prepaid market, where the average recharge spend is $33, Telstra saw an increase in market share from 37.3% to 40.3%, driven by increased data allowances on many of its prepaid plans. The other big gainer in prepaid was ALDImobile, up from 4.4% to 5.9% of the market.

Prepaid % shareDecember 2015December 2014
Telstra40.3%37.3%
Optus22.0%22.2%
Vodafone15.1%15.5%
amaysim6.2%6.2%
ALDImobile5.9%4.4%
Virgin3.8%5.8%
TPG1.0%1.6%
Other MVNOs6.6%7.0%

In the SIM-only space, while Telstra dominates, its market share lead is smaller than in the other sectors. Both amaysim and TPG have a significant share of this market, although TPG (which switched to Vodafone's 4G network last year) has seen a slight drop.

SIM only % shareDecember 2015December 2014
Telstra29.7%28.5%
Optus19.8%20.4%
Vodafone12.0%11.2%
amaysim8.2%8.2%
TPG7.2%7.7%
Virgin6.1%6.3%
ALDImobile1.8%1.6%
Other MVNOs15.2%16.0%

For contract phones, Optus saw the biggest gain, up from 21.2% to 24.1%. Telstra was relatively stable while Vodafone declined.

Contract % shareDecember 2015December 2014
Telstra41.2%42.1%
Optus24.1%21.2%
Vodafone15.3%18.3%
Virgin6.1%7.5%
TPG1.8%2.9%
amaysim1.3%1.4%
ALDImobile1.2%2.0%
Other MVNOs9.0%6.4%

Whatever type of plan you're after, finder's plan comparison tool can help you find the right match, with the ability to compare every plan in Australia and work out whether it's cheaper to buy a phone on contract or outright with a SIM-only or prepaid deal.

Picture: PomInOz / Shutterstock.com

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