Best phone plans in Australia: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and more compared

iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Now more than ever, Australia has a wealth of phone plans to choose from. Whether it's the big three telcos (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) or one of many smaller telcos competing for your attention, the options are vast.

The perfect plan for your needs will depend on how much data you truly use, how important widespread coverage is, and of course, your budget. While more expensive plans will obviously offer more in the way of data and inclusions, there's thankfully a heap of affordable options that will satisfy most Aussie phone users out there.

On this page, we've assessed both prepaid and postpaid plans, picking out the best cheap options, the best with big data inclusions, and the best overall value. You'll notice the big three telcos won't get mentioned quite as much in our lists, as Australia's MVNOs (more on this term at the bottom of the page) are incredibly competitive in the local market and typically offer the same coverage that their parent network uses – with the exception of 5G access, which for most people honestly isn't yet essential.

With that said, if you want the warm glow that comes from a big brand, we've also compared plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone lower in the page, as well as taking a quick look at some of the most popular phones on the market.

If you need a new phone to go with your plan, be sure to check out our page for the best phones in Australia, or if you're after something a little lighter on the wallet, we've pulled together a list of the best cheap phones available as well.

Best overall postpaid plan

Belong Mobile | 40GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$25p/m (opens in new tab)

Belong Mobile | 40GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$25p/m (opens in new tab)

This plan from Gomo offers a healthy balance of solid data (40GB) at a very reasonable AU$25 per month. Any unused data will be rolled over (up to a maximum of 200GB), and if you've got an eSIM-compatible device, signing up via this service nets you your first month free.

Total minimum cost is AU$25

Best cheap postpaid plan

iiNet Mobile | 40GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$15p/m (first 6 months, then AU$29.99p/m) (opens in new tab)

iiNet Mobile | 40GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$15p/m (first 6 months, then AU$29.99p/m) (opens in new tab)

This half-price offer from iiNet is the best cheap postpaid plan going at the moment, with its very healthy serving of 40GB of data exceptionally good for this price. You can even get an extra 80GB of monthly bonus data if you bundle this plan with an iiNet internet offering. Even once it reverts to its AU$29.99 pricing, it's still decent, but you can find cheaper plans afterwards if you're looking to save extra dosh.

Total minimum cost is AU$15

Best big-data postpaid plan

Circles.Life | 100GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$23p/m (first 6 months, then AU$45p/m) (opens in new tab)

Circles.Life | 100GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$23p/m (first 6 months, then AU$45p/m) (opens in new tab)

Circles.Life is another smaller telco, and it’s often our best overall pick for a big data option because it gets you a huge 100GB of data for just AU$45. The telco will reduce your plan fees by a massive AU$22 per month for the first six months, so you’ll instead pay AU$28 each billing. You can cancel the service any time without a fee, and it uses the Optus 4G Plus network. Just enter the code 100EOEOFY to snag the welcome discount.

Total minimum cost is AU$23

Best overall prepaid plan

Gomo | 40GB data | AU$25 per renewal (opens in new tab)

Gomo | 40GB data | AU$25 per renewal (opens in new tab)

Thanks to Gomo's data rollover (up to 200GB maximum), this prepaid plan makes a lot of sense. You'll get 40GB of data (which we reckon is the sweet spot) for just AU$25 per renewal, and while there's no flashy promotions or introductory offers, the cost-to-value ratio is already perfect, so you won't be tripped up by price hikes down the line.

Total minimum cost is AU$25

Best long-expiry prepaid plan

Amaysim | 150GB data | Unlimited national calls and SMS | 6-month expiry | AU$119 (AU$150 after first renewal) (opens in new tab)

Amaysim | 150GB data | Unlimited national calls and SMS | 6-month expiry | AU$119 (AU$150 after first renewal) (opens in new tab)

If you're looking to only pay for what you use, this six month expiry option from Amaysim nets you 150GB to use over the course of your first half-year, allowing you to pay only when you need to top up your data or if the expiry period runs out. If you're fine with less data but are after an even longer expiry, Amaysim also offers 60GB for AU$120 with a 1-year expiry (opens in new tab)

Total minimum cost: AU$119

Best Telstra plan

Telstra | 180GB data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$68p/m (opens in new tab)

Telstra | 180GB data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$68p/m (opens in new tab)

This Telstra Medium plan offers the best balance of inclusions and cost for Australia's biggest telco right now. A very healthy 180GB of data will help you use the telco's 5G network to its fullest, and the AU$68 monthly fee is the most reasonable middle-ground before jumping closer to the hundred mark with its 300GB plan. You'll also score a free month of both Foxtel Now and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Total minimum cost: AU$68

Best Optus plan

Optus | 80GB data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$55p/m (opens in new tab)

Optus | 80GB data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$55p/m (opens in new tab)

Where Optus really shines is in its small-to-medium plan offerings, with this 80GB plan weighing in at just AU$55p/m being a great balance of healthy data with a monthly fee that won't break the bank. You can save AU$10 monthly if you're fine with a 20GB limit instead (opens in new tab) (as most Aussies will be). 

Best Vodafone plan

Vodafone Ultra+ plan | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$65p/m (opens in new tab)

Vodafone Ultra+ plan | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | 5G access | AU$65p/m (opens in new tab)

Vodafone relatively fresh unlimited data SIM-only plan is the only one of its kind in Australia, so we've picked it as the standout offering from this telco. It’ll give you the top available speeds no matter how much you’ve already downloaded. It comes at a cost of AU$65 a month, reduced from its usual AU$85 price, and the discount will remain "until withdrawn", according to Vodafone. You’ll also get unlimited calls and text in Australia and unlimited calls and text to countries in Zone 1 (opens in new tab). It includes 5G coverage (opens in new tab) (if it’s available in your area).

Total minimum cost is AU$65

Mobile phone deals FAQ

What do you need to know about buying your new phone?

Of course you want to find the cheapest price for your new smartphone – and our comparison chart at the top of the page will narrow that down for you – but we know there are likely to be dozens more questions you'll want answering. Keep reading below, where we answer some of the key commonly asked questions about buying a new mobile.

What phone network is best?

Each phone network has its own advantages and disadvantages. There isn't necessarily a wrong choice – it just depends on what's most important to you. Whether that's sweet inclusions, solid coverage, cheap prices or good global-roaming options. 

While loyalty may be an admirable trait, it's essentially useless in the realm of phone providers, so we highly recommend shopping around once your contract has finished.

Telstra: The big T has earned a name for itself for being Australia's leading telco when it comes to network coverage, and that's still the case. It's also on the cutting edge when it comes to new technologies, completely dominating 5G coverage compared to both Optus and Vodafone. While Telstra plans are typically more expensive than the competition, you'll get the best coverage available in Australia and, often, some included extras to sweeten the deal.

Check out our selection of the best-value Telstra plans

Optus: While Telstra may be better known for its coverage, Optus tends to have the lead in overall value. Ever since Virgin Mobile was absorbed into the Optus name, the telco has become a good degree more affordable than its main competitor, and can often provide equivalent plans for less than half the price of Telstra thanks to its frequent deals. Optus of course has its own 5G network by this point, and while Telstra has a leg up on how widespread it is, the gap is closing.

Check out our editor-recommended Optus mobile plans

Vodafone: The third major player in Australian networks, despite having been rather uncompetitive in the past, it's now offering better value than ever thanks to frequent sales, so it's worth checking out for sure! Plus, thanks to a recent merger with TPG, we're expecting this telco to offer even better value in the future. While Voda does have a 5G network in Australia, it's considerably more infant than Telstra and Optus, but check the telco's latest information regarding coverage because you might be in one of the areas that is already receiving it.

Check out our selection of the best Vodafone plans in Australia

What is an MVNO?

An MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator, is a company that utilises a larger carrier's network – i.e. Telstra, Optus or Vodafone – to run their service. These carriers are typically much smaller in size and popularity, but can still offer some exceptional deals.

For instance, Belong, Circles.Life, Amaysim, and Woolworths Mobile all run their service via either the Optus or Telstra network, which gives them similar advantages and disadvantages when it comes to coverage as the major telcos themselves. 

The bigger providers may charge a little more, but they come with the usual advantages of bigger businesses, which can include better customer care resources, the ability to bundle other products and services and a guarantee that they'll always have the latest flagship handsets.

Do I need 5G?

As with plans of different sizes and data caps, deciding on whether to prioritise 5G coverage is going to be slightly different depending on your needs.

The main benefits of 5G connectivity are improved download and upload speeds, so if you're finding that the 4G speeds you're currently getting are plenty fast for streaming video, browsing and other everyday tasks, then there's every chance you won't need 5G.

If you need to upload or download large files on the regular, or like to stream hi-res content, then 5G might be a good choice. In these cases, you're likely going to want a plan with high data regardless, and most (albeit not all) of the good ones are with telcos that already offer 5G, which makes for a good combo.

Generally speaking, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are the only ones offering 5G as standard, although some MVNOs (such as Spintel) are beginning to offer it to their customers as well. 

Each telco will have different coverage as the network continues to roll out, so be sure to check to see if your area is already covered before making a decision based on this new network.

Should I pair my phone with a plan or buy outright?

When trying to find a new phone contract, there are more options now than there used to be. You could get a phone on a 12- or 24-month contract, or purchase a handset outright and combine that with a SIM-only plan, but there's also the option of repayments.

This last option has been widely adopted by the major telcos (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone are all doing it) and it represents a kind of middle ground. You're able to get a brand new handset and pay it off over the course of 12, 24, or 36 months while also signing up for a mobile plan that you pay for monthly and can leave at any time. 

Alternatively, if you've got the cash up front, it can sometimes be more sensible to purchase the phone you're after and pair it with one of the excellent SIM-only plans available, which are getting much more compelling as time goes on – offering exponentially more data at lower prices than they have in the past.

How much data do I need on my phone plan?

  • 1-15GB: If you like to scroll through your social media feeds and emails while out and about and stream a moderate amount of music but aren't using your handset for anything much more intensive than that, then this option will be enough for you.
  • 16-80GB: This bracket should be more than enough for the vast majority of users and generally presents great value. Loads of data for streaming music, downloading podcasts and enjoying videos.
  • 81-500GB: Big data for the big phone user. Perfect for those that use their device to hotspot, those that frequently stream Netflix and other services on their devices, and for those that download large files often. And these plans often have extra freebies thrown in, too.
Harry is an Australian Journalist for TechRadar with an ear to the ground for future tech, and the other in front of a vintage amplifier. He likes stories told in charming ways, and content consumed through massive screens. He also likes to get his hands dirty with the ethics of the tech.