It used to be that mobile broadband was for a very specific kind of person. A road warrior who needed to stay connected between sales meetings or nights away from home, for example. But with the price of data dropping all the time, the rise of tablets, and with the prevalence of features like Data Sharing, mobile broadband is enjoying increased popularity.
It also helps that the NBN is such a sore point for many.
A Data SIM might also be your best option for an internet connection at all. If you’re renting a house and likely to move frequently, or you just don’t want to share with your douchey roommates, then mobile broadband might suit you better than a fixed-line connection.
It’s still comparably expensive, but the price of mobile data is beginning to come down. We’re seeing the dollar-to-data ratio creeping towards a place we think is fair, if not actually good value.
So let’s take a look at the best mobile broadband plans available now, broken down into a few different categories.
You might be surprised to see this, but there are now a couple of plans with data allowances that resemble fixed-line connections. Vividewireless has been around for several years and has a pretty competitive plan with unlimited downloads, and Optus has its (relatively) new Home Wireless Broadband product.
Both options aren’t entirely mobile, with modems that require a power outlet, and a limited network service footprint in the case of Vividwireless. Both services are also speed limited: Vivid at 10Mbps and Optus at 12Mbps. These are very usable speeds, but not what you might expect from a 4G connection.
Telstra also has a Home Wireless Broadband plan, and while it is portable and it isn’t speed limited, the plans prices are eye-opening.
More than a little (50GB or more)
If your net usage at home is moderate, than you might get by with a plan including 50GB of data per month. Unlike the Vividwireless and Optus plans above, these are full-blown 4G services, and most are no contract or prepaid plans. This does mean that you will have to BYO modem, but the value speaks for itself.
A bit here and there (5GB or more)
If you’ve got internet access and home and you’re just looking for an easy connection for you daily commute, or something to take away with you on holidays, there are still plenty of low data options. Plans tend to start from about 1GB, but the best value at this end of the spectrum tends to be for plans with about 10GB costing between $30 and $40.
We mentioned this at the top, but it bears repeating. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer data sharing features for mobile services, which means you can pool the data from multiple phone plans and data SIMs and share the total data across all of your devices.
This way, if you find a great deal on a phone plan, you can choose a cheap Data SIM but take advantage of the phone plan data to get your laptop or smart TV online. This helps to make plans like the new Optus 100GB phone plan make sense. By itself it seems absurd that you’d want 100GB to use on a phone each month, but this could be your entire monthly internet spend for all your devices if you set it up properly.
Joe Hanlon is Publisher at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website. He’s been writing about phones and plans for far too long.