When it Comes to Mobile Data Plans, ‘Unlimited’ Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited

When it Comes to Mobile Data Plans, ‘Unlimited’ Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited
Image: Fox

Australian mobile plans have had ‘unlimited’ data for a number of years, but it’s not exactly as straightforward as it is with NBN plans. On an NBN plan, unlimited is truly unlimited. All you can eat data at full speeds. On a mobile plan, that’s not always the case.

While the telco industry also loves to throw around terms like endless and infinite, unlimited mobile data always has a catch. This typically relates to the speed you can use your data at. In almost every case, unlimited mobile data is going to be slower than the actual speeds you can get over a 4G or 5G network. To make matters more complicated, each telco has a different implementation.

So, if you’re thinking about a plan with unlimited mobile data, here’s what you need to know. We’re covering providers ranked by speed.

Vodafone plans with unlimited data

Vodafone is the only provider with a truly unlimited plan that’s almost free from catches. For $85 per month, you’ll get unlimited data at the maximum speeds the network is capable of in your area. The only catch is you can’t use your unlimited data when you’re tethering your phone. You get a seperate 30GB per month allowance instead.

Vodafone’s cheaper plans have speed caps that kick in when you go over your primary allowance, but these get faster on more expensive plans. You’ll get 2Mbps on the telco’s $40 per month and $45 per month plans, and 10Mbps on its $55 and $65 per month plans.

Vodafone’s prepaid plans also have unlimited data at speeds of 1.5Mbps for when you go over your primary data allowance.

Felix mobile plans with unlimited data

Owned by TPG and powered by the Vodafone network, Felix mobile is one of Australia’s newer small providers. Felix keeps it simple with just a single option: a $35 per month plan with unlimited data. Obviously, there’s a catch. The plan is capped to speeds of 20Mbps. For comparison, 4G networks should easily be able to attain speeds of at least 50Mbps in metro areas.

20Mbps should still be fast enough for most mobile activities, whether you’re streaming video on Netflix, downloading apps, or flicking through socials. It’s not dissimilar to an NBN 25 connection.

If you’re not sure if 20Mbps is fast enough, Felix has a seven-day happiness guarantee. If you decide the plan isn’t for you within your first week with Felix, you can get a full refund. You can also currently get your first month entirely free with the promo code FLX10. This offer runs until December 3.

Telstra plans with unlimited data

Every Telstra Upfront plan has unlimited data for when you exceed your primary allowance, albeit at a capped speed. As with most of Vodafone’s plans, you’ll still buy a certain amount of data you can use at full speeds, but then you’ll be restricted to 1.5Mbps if you go over it. That’s still fast enough to stream Netflix on your phone, but the overall experience will definitely feel slower.

If you’ve run out of data and need faster speeds, Telstra lets you change plans once per month. If you upgrade your data on a Telstra Upfront plan, you’ll get the higher data limit instantly, but you won’t pay any extra until next month’s payment date. You can then drop back down to a cheaper plan the following month, but you’ll keep your higher data allowance until the end of the billing month.

Optus plans with unlimited data

Every Optus postpaid plan has unlimited data. As with Telstra, you’ll get capped to speeds of 1.5Mbps if you go over your primary data allowance. If you hit your speed cap but want extra full speed data, you can nab an add-on. Pricing for extra data is as follows:

  • 2GB: $5
  • 10GB: $10
  • 30GB: $20

If you’re after truly unlimited data, Optus also has an Unlimited Data Day add-on which you can purchase for $5 through the My Optus app. This gets you 24 hours of unlimited data at full network speeds. This is available on postpaid plans and Epic Data prepaid recharges worth $30 or more.

Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.