Best 4G network: Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone

LTE now the norm for many Australians

Australia has always been at the forefront of new mobile technology rollouts, and 4G is no exception. Initially rolled out by Telstra late in 2011, both Optus and Vodafone quickly followed suit rolling out their own versions of LTE technology.

Over the past few years, all three telcos have committed to massively expanding their 4G networks to not only reach more and more people across the country, but also introduce new technologies to offer faster downloads, while new features like Voice over LTE and LTE-Broadcast are beginning to make an appearance.

The transition to 4G was fairly quick, really, given the Australian thirst for faster speeds. But now that 4G has become a standard rather than just a new and exciting feature, the battle lines now seem to be drawn over not just coverage areas, but device compatability, download speeds and 4G features.

With that in mind, what do these networks have up their sleeves for the immediate future? Here is our run down on what you can expect.

Best 4G Coverage

Let's face it, 4G is going to be of no use to you if you don't have access to it. Telstra had quite the head start in the rollout, and has over 3,800 4G-enabled sites across the country's capital cities, plus many suburban areas and over 600 regional towns. At present, over 90 percent of the Australian population can get Telstra 4G.

But Telstra has committed to expanding that number to 99 percent by the middle of 2017. To do this, the country's largest telco will be expanding 4G to over 9,000 sites (including 750 brand new sites).

Optus took a slightly different approach to its 4G rollout, launching exclusively around the Newcastle area in April 2012. Since then, the service was expanded to capital cities and key regional hubs, around the country. Optus now claims that 90 per cent of Australians can use its 4G service, and has spent a big chunk of 2015 expanding its 4G offering to regional hubs around the country.

Vodafone was the last telco to join the 4G competition, and is a little bit more cautious with its claims of market reach. However, the telco has said that its 4G network reaches 96.9 percent of the country's metropolitan customers, and while Vodafone 4G is available in a number of regional areas, Vodafone isn't quite as vocal about it as its competitors.

What Vodafone has instead focussed on is its contiguous spectrum, which allows for greater bandwidth. This means that it can easily support category 4 devices like the Huawei MediaPad 10 Link tablet, as well as coping better under strain.

Best 4G price

The best part about 4G in Australia is that none of the networks is charging a premium for the faster speeds. In most cases, all you need is a 4G smartphone like the Galaxy S6 or Xperia Z5 to enjoy the faster speeds, although some customers with older SIM cards might need to upgrade.

The biggest challenge with 4G in Australia is the limitation on data caps. Despite the fact that data speeds have been drastically increasing thanks to 4G technology, the data allowance on plans has actually went down as the networks were being rolled out.

The good news is that bundled data has slowly been on the rise again in 2015, which is a trend we can hopefully see continue into 2016 and beyond.

Telcos are also starting to actively change the way they charge for excess usage.

Telstra's Every Day Connect plans start at $55 a month, including 1GB of data. $70 a month will get you 2.5GB of data, while $95 a month offers 7GB of data. If you want more than that, you'll have to spring $135 a month, which includes 15GB of data.


Editor (Australia)

Nick (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Australian editor, covering all the latest news and reviews from the Great Southern Land. Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.