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How do Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s Unlimited Data plans compare?

Posted: 1 May 2018 2:11 pm
News

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone now offer mobile plans with "unlimited" data, but which one offers better value?

Both Vodafone and Telstra announced unlimited mobile data plans today, a day after Optus' trial "unleashed" plans (which were only ever offered on an invite basis) were taken off the market.

Vodafone's unlimited plans will be available from 2 May 2018, while Telstra's offering arrives a day later on 3 May 2018. Both telcos will offer mobile plans on 12 month terms with unlimited data inclusions.

However, as was the case with Optus, that's an unlimited quantity of data, but not at the highest possible speeds.

Optus' plans were offered on a trial basis through to 30 April 2018, and were only offered to "eligible" Optus customers. All of which means you can't sign up for them anymore. However, with both of its rivals announcing new plans today, it seems unlikely that Optus won't respond with similar, if not identical plans to a wider consumer group relatively rapidly. For now, we've compared the currently available Telstra and Vodafone plans in our comparison engine below.

However, there are differences between the approaches that Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are taking that could make one or the other a better match for your needs if the allure of unlimited data draws you in. We're using the details around Optus' initial "unleashed" plans here, but it could change them when and if it goes wider with those plans. We'll update when and if it does.

Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone Unlimited: Just the numbers

Plan NameMonthly costIncluded dataMinimum 12 month cost
Vodafone Unlimited $60$6030GB+10GB bonus data$720
Vodafone Unlimited $80$8060GB+10GB bonus data$960
Vodafone Unlimited $100$100100GB+20GB bonus data$1,200
Optus Unleashed Single SIM$60N/A$720
Optus Unleashed 2nd SIM (cost added to first SIM)$50N/A$1,320
Optus Unleashed 3rd, 4th or 5th SIM (costs added to 1st and 2nd SIMs)$40N/A$1,800/$2,280/$2,760
Telstra Endless Data BYO Plan$6940GB$828

Both Optus and Vodafone's entry-level plans are priced identically, but there are substantial differences if you want more data (on the Vodafone side) or additional SIMs (on Optus).

Telstra's only plan costs more than either Optus or Vodafone, but comes with more data to use up before you start seeing your data speeds shaped.

Telstra Unlimited Plans: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Unlimited data: As with Optus or Vodafone, the big key appeal of these plans is that you'd never incur an excess data usage charge again.
  • Includes data quota: It seems counterintuitive, but like Vodafone, you get a quantity of data to burn through first. The benefit here is that this data isn't speed shaped in any way, so you can use it as fast as it can come down the mobile data stream to you.
  • Sports streaming included: Telstra's deals with the AFL, NRL and Netball apply to its unlimited plan, so you can stream those at no additional charge, and without affecting your download quota either.

Cons:

  • Limited speed: As with other providers, you're getting unlimited data, but not at the peak speeds the network may be capable of once you've exhausted your data quota. What's more, you face the prospect of further speed limits "during busy periods", although Telstra isn't clear about what those limits are or when it consider a "busy" time.
  • Only one data tier: Telstra's sole plan gives you 40GB. It's a fair bet that anyone who wants an "unlimited" plan intends to use plenty of data, but there's no option, unlike Vodafone, to pay for a larger upfront data quota.
  • Smartphones only: Telstra has rather explicitly stated that its unlimited plans are for smartphones only, so you can't throw the SIM into a tablet or hotspot.

Vodafone Unlimited Plans: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Unlimited data: Well, yes. Use as much data as you like within your contract month and never once see an excess data charge.
  • More full speed data: Vodafone announced its plans and then upped the data limits prior to launch, with "bonus" data to use for the life of the plan.
  • Includes data: It may seem odd for an "unlimited" plan, but the inclusion of full-speed data for any activity you choose gives Vodafone's plans flexibility, because you're only put on slower speeds once your data is exhausted.
  • Can use any device: Vodafone isn't limiting the devices that you can put one of its unlimited SIMs into. Want to use it as a hotspot device to share around? You totally can.
  • Includes international calling inclusions: This might not be a value selling point for some, but if you do call for business or personal reasons, each tier of the Vodafone unlimited plans comes with calling minutes to use.

Cons:

  • No discount for multiple SIMs: Want to get the whole family onto an unlimited data plan? You'll pay the same for each SIM, unlike with Optus.
  • You're still getting slower data: It's unlimited in quantity, but not in speed. 1.5Mbps is going to feel like slow going from the moment you run out of your regular data quota.

Optus Unlimited Plans: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Unlimited data: Just like Vodafone's deal, you're never going to see an excess data bill for usage within Australia on these plans.
  • Discount for multiple SIMs: Optus' big selling point for its unleashed plans is that you can sign up additional SIMs at a lower cost for each SIM added, up to a maximum of five.

Cons:

  • Very limited speed: Optus' plans offer "unlimited" data, but it engages in speed shaping for many activities. Video streaming and data tethering always operate at 1.5Mbps, and heavy users may be further shaped during peak periods.

What about other providers?

TPG has announced that it will trial "unlimited" mobile data plans on its new network in the second half of 2018, priced at just $9.99 per month. It's a shift from the Optus/Vodafone/Telstra model, however, as they will be monthly SIM-only plans that give you 1GB of data to use per day before you're capped down to just 1Mbps speed limits. You can read more about TPG's unlimited mobile data plans here.

So far, none of Telstra, Optus or Vodafone's MVNO partners has announced "unlimited" data deals, and there's still the spectre of the ACCC looming over all of these plans. Historically it has taken a dim view of the use of the word "unlimited" where limits exist, which is certainly why all three carriers have chosen to highlight the data inclusions on these plans.

Even after that hurdle is jumped, it's likely to be a while before MVNOs are given the opportunity to sell these kinds of packages, as the primary networks are likely to want to grab as many customers as possible first.


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