Why you won’t get an unlimited data phone plan for $60

Angus Kidman 31 October 2016

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Prices are dropping, but they won't be dropping that far.

I'm sorry, Australia, but you're a bunch of delusional cheapskates. When finder.com.au surveyed 2,005 of you about how much you'd be prepared to pay for a mobile plan which included unlimited data, calls and texts, the average answer was a not very impressive $60.46. There was a slight difference in the maximum that men were prepared to pay ($52.72)compared to women ($58.07), but none of these figures are remotely realistic.

The battle is all about data. Unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers are found on most plans these days, and you can easily score a deal that includes that for $20 a month. But data is a very different story.

Taking a quick look at our Mobile Plan Finder database, the most data that you're going to get in a sub-$60 plan is the $50 Mammoth 30GB plan from Jeenee Mobile. 30GB is a generous allowance, but there's a catch: this is on Optus' slower and older 3G network, not its faster 4G network.

Pushing people onto a slower network in return for more data is quite a common trade-off. In the US, it's not uncommon to see plans "shaped" so that you get (for instance) 5GB of high-speed 4G data, and then drop onto the 2G network for the rest of the month. As anyone who has been on a shaped home broadband connection can tell you, this loss of speed is no fun.

However, in Australia it seems unlikely that this will become a common strategy. In part this is because telcos are now actively switching off their 2G networks, so there wouldn't be anywhere to send them. And it's partly because phone companies would rather keep charging you $10 per extra gigabyte whenever you exceed the limits, which happens around 20% of the time.

Unlimited is the "new normal" for broadband, but I wouldn't expect that to become the case with mobile plans for many years. The best you're going to see is unmetered data for specific services, like Telstra's sports simulcasts or Optus prepaid customers watching Netflix, Stan and iView.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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