What are my choices for an unlimited mobile data plan?

Unlimited calls and texts are the norm these days, but truly unlimited data is tough to come by. Here are your options if you hate excess data bills.


Unlimited mobile data: Is it here?

Telstra announced an overhaul of their plans on 24 July 2018 as well as what seems to be the first truly unlimited mobile data plan available on the market – although that plan comes at a cost of $199 per month. For those who can't afford $199 per month, they also have an unlimited data but speed-capped option called "Peace of Mind Data". For $10 extra per month on certain contract and BYO phone plans, users can enjoy unlimited data – but after you reach your data allowance, speeds are slowed to 1.5Mbps. Check out the news piece here or our analysis below.

These days, it's quite easy to score a mobile phone plan that includes unlimited calls and texts without having to spend any great sum. If you regularly need to call overseas, it's even pretty easy to score a plan with unlimited calls to select international locations.

What about unlimited data, though? You have options that offer near-unlimited data, but you've got to be aware of the catches with each approach.

"Unlimited" plans with speed limits available

Up until quite recently, you couldn't score an unlimited data mobile plan anywhere in Australia. Most carriers stated that they weren't interested in providing one, citing the heavy load it would introduce on limited mobile network capacity.

Optus changed the story early in 2018 by soft-launching its "unleashed" plans, which offer unlimited data for $60 per month on a single SIM, with unlimited standard national calls and texts.

The offer from Optus was only open to their "eligible" customers on a trial basis, but in early May, Optus rivals Telstra and Vodafone both announced similar "unlimited" plans on a 12-month SIM basis. Telstra has now followed that up with what it calls "Peace of Mind" plans that offer "unlimited" data once your quota is exhausted. They're available on both SIM-only contract and with bundled handsets, and we've examined them in depth here.

At the same time, Telstra also announced a $199 "Ultimate" plan that actually does offer unlimited data as long as you're happy paying $199 per month for it. For most folks, that'll be outside their acceptable price range.

TPG followed suit announcing plans for an unlimited data plan trial in the second half of 2018 for invited customers.

So, problem solved, right?

Not so fast. Literally.

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Unlimited streaming carriers

Streaming entertainment, especially video, is extremely data intensive. It's often what trips up mobile users when it comes to excess charges. The good news here is that there are multiple providers that offer "data free" streaming of specific content, whether it's Netflix, sports or music.

The benefit with these plans is that your most intensive activities won't count against your data cap, although many do limit the visual quality or screen size of what you can stream without incurring data charges. They're not truly "unlimited" plans, either, but they may fit your needs a little better.

Vodafone

You also have the option if you're a Vodafone customer to sign up to its "Vodafone Pass" option. Pricing varies as to your usage, with options for chat, social, music and video streaming, but there are some significant limitations to the Vodafone Pass system that are worth keeping in mind. We've outlined everything you need to know about Vodafone Pass here.

Optus

"Mobile TV Streaming" as well as a music streaming option have been available on select Optus plans for some time now. For a fee, new or existing Optus customers can activate the unmetered service on their accounts, allowing data-free streaming on certain apps and platforms. Fetch, Stan, Netflix, ABC iview and more are available (subscriptions not included) – but be wary of Optus's usage terms and conditions. Check out our Optus provider page here for a breakdown of their plans.

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High data mobile data plans

If you're not fussed about mobility, a better solution would be a competitive, high-speed NBN plan with more than 1TB (or preferably unlimited data), especially with the prevalence of Wi-Fi.

However, that's going to tether you to your home or business when what you want is mobility. What that means for now, unless a slowed-down-at-times unlimited plan makes sense for you, is that your best bet is to latch onto a plan with a large data allowance.

To help, we've compared mobile plans with unlimited talk and text and more than 20GB per month in the table below:

Why is data limited anyway?

The issue for data is largely an economic one. When mobile phones were a relatively new concept and the sunk costs of the networks designed to support them were massive, something as simple as a phone call could cost you serious money.

Decades later, those costs have been captured, and intense market pressure from the big three carrier networks and the numerous Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) has meant that the cost of a national mobile call has tumbled. Today, we're at the point where unlimited call plans have more or less become the norm. Text costs for telcos were always marginal, and for a long while were a cash cow for providers, so making them unlimited was pretty much inevitable.

While we may see very small improvements in voice on new network technologies, the focus and spend is on improving data speeds, and that costs money to implement. Anything that costs a business money flows down to the customers unless that business actively wants to go bankrupt and, as such, for as long as data networks continue to improve, it’s likely we’ll see charges for data.

The good news here is that competition, combined with an increasing appetite for mobile data, has put a lot of downwards pressure on outright data pricing. All of the big network providers and many MVNOs now adhere to a $10/GB pricing structure for contract mobile excess usage, which is a huge drop in real terms from years gone past.

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Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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10 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    GlenSeptember 24, 2017

    I note Amaysim seems t have dropped off the radar? As an Amaysim customer seeking a better deal am I missing something?
    I am after unlimited calls. An account billing per month and approx 15 Gb data per month? Help please
    Regards Glen

    • finder Customer Care
      RenchSeptember 26, 2017Staff

      Hi Glen,

      Thanks for your inquiry. Please note that we are not affiliated with any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      You can also go to this page and make use of the search filter according to what you need in a mobile plan. You may adjust the features and it will show you a list of mobile plans that you can compare.

      Cheers,
      Rench

  2. Default Gravatar
    TimApril 11, 2017

    Three.ie unlimited data and no throttling. While calls and texts are limited depending on plan, everyone uses data to communicate.

    • Default Gravatar
      nickAugust 2, 2017

      Ok Sorry but the reaaoning given by the 3 telcos is a load of nonsense. A modern city like HK with a third the population of Australia ALWAYS has unlimited data and plenty of call time in all their plans. There is NO difficult decision to make or justifiable reason why the telcos here can t offer unlimited data. The ONLY reason is pure GREED. Comparing the situation to the very scattered and poorly serviced US network smacks of a cover up. Your writers can do better than that.

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanAugust 4, 2017

      Hello Nick,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      We appreciate your sharing on this matter. Indeed many Australians are looking forward for that day when we can use unlimited data on our mobile phone plans. Just to clarify some points though, it is not only US that uses “capping” on their unlimited offers. Many providers, including the ones in Australia, are doing that in compliance with Fair Usage Policy (FUP), that will ensure equal distribution of network resources to all customers.

      While no signs can be seen yet if Australian providers will give this, your options will be to use home/office wifi, use public wifi, if you’re a Telstra fixed broadband customer you can use Telstra Air, pre-load your content if you’re watching videos, or use mobile broadband device.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  3. Default Gravatar
    StevenApril 7, 2017

    What about Vivid Wireless?
    They have an Unlimited Internet Plan for $89 per month.
    Vividwireless LTE internet service provides up to 10mbps download and 1 mbps upload.

    • finder Customer Care
      JasonApril 8, 2017Staff

      Hi Steven,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      The technology of Vividwireless is purpose built for data rather than mobile phone services, which means they do not include call or text services. They would fall under the mobile broadband category instead.
      Please check out this link for the monthly plans of Vividwireless mobile broadband.

      Kind regards,
      Jason

  4. Default Gravatar
    OptusNovember 20, 2016

    I’m on 2dollars a day plan with Optus pre-paid it’s unlimited everything for 2buks a day. The catch is if use ur credit it will charge 2 dollars but only 2dollars for that day. I don’t know if they still have this plan. Since I’ve had it for years now no doubt the best pre-paid plan Iv found all up 60 bucks a month but has unlimited internet. I use my hotspot all day and it only charges me 2 dollars. I don’t know Wat ur on about for not having unlimited in Australia

    • Default Gravatar
      MattieboyMarch 13, 2017

      Yes i am on the Optus $2 a day 3G ready plan. Had it for years and still loving it. I use it for personal hotspots and letting my friends go crazy on it. I use up to 30-50 gigs a month. Imagine the cost in comparison to today’s plans?

    • finder Customer Care
      MayNovember 30, 2016Staff

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, as of this writing, Optus is still having the $2 Prepaid product with 4G Coverage, however, the data allowance included is only at 500MB (counted in 1KB increments) for use within Australia with 7-day expiry. Please note though that this offer and plan may change in the future.

      Most networks nowadays are generally not having unlimited data on their mobile data plans due to the huge number of mobile data users, which in turn could impair providers economically. Companies find that improving the data speed is costly to maintain. Although the data is not unlimited, most of these companies have dropped the outright data pricing and one example for that is the $2 Prepaid from Optus.

      Cheers,
      May

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