Telstra is making some sweeping plan changes soon: all SIM-only postpaid plans will be replaced by the telco’s new Upfront options. So how do these new plans compare to what’s being offered by Optus and Vodafone?
What are Telstra upfront plans?
We have a full explainer of the new plans here, but here’s a quick summary:
Upfront plans are a little more like prepaid. Instead of signing up for a plan, being issued a bill, and then having two weeks to pay, you’ll make your first Upfront payment as soon as your service is activated. You’ll be billed automatically on the same day each month, and don’t have the chance not to recharge.
A new billing structure isn’t the only change, however. While the plans have the same kind of pricing and data inclusions as Telstra’s previous range, Big T has tweaked other plan features. You’ll now get some international calls out of the box, data sharing is a thing again, but some perks like Telstra Air are gone.
To start, here is Telstra’s Upfront range of plans:
Now let’s compare pricing between the big three telcos
Telstra’s new range of Upfront plans haven’t changed when it comes to price or data inclusions, so the same old story holds true – Big T is more expensive than Optus and Vodafone.
Vodafone’s SIM-only plans currently start at $35 per month with 50GB thanks to a discount. This pricing lasts for your first year, after which you’ll pay $40 per month. Anyone under 25 can save a further 10% on Vodafone plan fees for their first 12 months.
Optus follows with a $39 per month plan with 10GB. Its 60GB plan with $49 per month is much better value, however.
Telstra’s Upfront plans start at $55 per month with 40GB.
All three telcos are currently offering deep discounts on their top-tier plans, however. Vodafone is offering 500GB for $60 per month for your first year, and $120 per month thereafter. Optus is doing 500GB for $65 per month for your first year, and $119 per month thereafter. And Telstra has its 180GB plan available for $65 per month for your first year, and $115 per month thereafter.
These plans are all contract-free, so you’re free to leave whenever.
What about unlimited data with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone?
Telstra’s Upfront plans and Optus postpaid plans both have unlimited data at speeds of 1.5Mbps for when you go over your plan’s data allowance.
Vodafone offers unlimited data at speeds between 2Mbps and 25Mbps, depending on how much you’re spending on your plan.
The more expensive the plan, the higher your unlimited data speed when you go over your allowance. Of course, the more you’re spending, the more data you have, and the less likely you are to hit your cap.
After axing it a few years ago, Telstra has brought back data sharing on Upfront plans, allowing you to pool the data allowance of up to ten Upfront plans on the same account. Optus and Vodafone both also have data sharing for postpaid plans on the same account.
In addition, Vodafone gives customers who bundle multiple plans a discount. You’ll save 5% off your total bill for each plan on your account after the first, up to a maximum of 20%. This encompasses mobile plans, mobile broadband, tablet, and NBN.
All of Telstra’s Upfront plans include unlimited SMS and MMS to all international numbers and 30 minutes of calls to any standard international number.
If you want to make more than 30 minutes of international calls in a month, you’ll need to add on a $10 per month International Calling Pack. Telstra’s previous range of SIM-only plans did not include any international inclusions unless you paid extra.
For comparison, Optus includes unlimited international talk and text to 35 selected countries on its plans worth at least $49 per month or more.
Vodafone plans start to get international calling inclusions from the $45 per month and up mark. These are typically broken down into Zone 1 and Zone 2 destinations.
For example, Vodafone’s $55 per month plan includes 1,000 minutes to Zone 1 destinations and 100 minutes to Zone 2. All Vodafone postpaid plans include unlimited standard international SMS.
We might not be going overseas any time soon, but it’s still worth covering how Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone treat international roaming.
Telstra’s new Upfront plans list international roaming as “coming soon”, so we’re not 100% sure as to how Telstra will charge for the service. Telstra does however say that customers on Upfront plans going overseas can get in touch to arrange a solution.
On current Telstra postpaid plans, you’ll pay $10 per day for any eligible destination. This gets you 200MB of data plus unlimited talk and text.
If you burn through your 200MB allowance, you’ll pay a further $10 for an extra 500MB with a 31-day expiry. You’ll be able to tap into this data on any day you exceed your 200MB. If you’re travelling to New Zealand you’ll only pay $5 per day.
Optus has a similar approach to international roaming: you’ll pay $10 per day for 1GB of data for use in any “Zone 1” country (predominantly Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America). If you exceed 1GB, another $10 1GB top-up will be added, and the 24-hour timer will reset.
Optus’ pricier plans include a monthly roaming data inclusion. For example, Optus’ $59 per month plan has 2GB of roaming data per month for Zone 1 countries. This will save you from paying the standard $10 per day charge, well, unless you go over your allowance.
Of course, Vodafone still has the best roaming offer of any telco. For $5 per day, you can use your Australian inclusions overseas. You’re not stuck with trying to manage just 200MB or 1GB per day.
Optus and Vodafone both include 5G on every single postpaid mobile plan. To get 5G on a Telstra Upfront plan, you need to spend to be on at least the $65 per month Medium plan.
That being said, the $55 per month Small plan has 5G network access included as a bonus until February 16, but that’s so limited it may as well not have it.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone coverage compared
Coverage is of course a major differentiator between the Big Three telcos: Telstra covers 99% of the population, Optus covers 98.5%, and Vodafone covers 96%. If you’re in a city or larger town, you shouldn’t have any problems getting service with any of the trio.
Population isn’t necessarily the best way to judge network coverage, given the density of cities. However, Telstra says its network covers more than 2.5 million square km, whereas Optus covers around 1.5 million square km. Vodafone hasn’t disclosed its geographic coverage.
If you normally stick to urban areas, you shouldn’t have any issue with coverage from any of the three networks. If you live further out or are into outback adventures, Telstra has the edge.
When it comes to 5G, Telstra says it currently covers over 50% of the population with the goal of hitting 75% in the middle of the year. Optus has over 1,000 5G sites that cover over 700,000 homes. And Vodafone plans to cover 85% of the population in the six most populous cities by the end of the year.
You can use this interactive map below to compare coverage:
At this stage, we do not have Vodafone 5G coverage maps.
On top of talk, text, and data, plans from the Big Three all include a couple of extras.
Telstra plans get you discounted movie tickets from Event Cinemas and data-free access to Apple Music. You’ll need to join Telstra Plus if you want cheap movie tickets, however.
Joining Telstra Plus also earns 10 points for every dollar you spend on your monthly bill as part of a Frequent Flyer style rewards scheme. You can spend these points on selected gadgets or use the points discounts on devices. Telstra Plus is free to join.
Telstra’s Upfront plans are however a little lighter on perks than they used to be however. Upfront plans no longer include access to Telstra Air, and Telstra has also axed AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball, and Hyundai A-League Live Passes from all plans.
Optus customers get free access to Optus Sports and access to the Optus Perks program, which can get you discounted tickets for Hoyts cinemas.
Vodafone’s plans are a little, but select plans get you three months of access to Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Music if you subscribe before the end of March.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.