Aussies pay way too much for mobile data, ACCC says

Woman using mobile phone looking frustrated
(Image credit: Jamie Grill / Getty Images)

Recent research by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has shown that the big three telcos – that’s Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – have all increased their mobile plan prices in the past year. 

Those price increases have come alongside larger data caps in most cases, but the ACCC’s research has found that the average phone user in Australia uses less than 15GB of data each month.

If this is the case, you won’t find a data cap that low from the big three. Both Telstra and Vodafone start their offering with 40GB a month – though you’ll pay AU$40 each billing from Vodafone and AU$55 from Telstra. Optus does offer a 20GB plan, but you’ll pay AU$45 a month for the pleasure.

Each of the carriers bump the data allowance up to 80GB a month in their next cheapest plans, and you’ll pay between AU$5 and AU$10 extra a month to get there. But the ACCC suggests this is the behaviour of big telcos which aren’t worried about losing customers to smaller rivals.

What are the alternatives?

First, take a look at your mobile data usage and consider if you’re really using what you’re paying for. If you could do with less data on a cheaper plan, you might be better off with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

MVNOs are smaller providers that buy network coverage from the big three and resell it onto their customers, often at much lower prices. These smaller telcos mostly only offer 4G network coverage (although some do have 5G), and in most cases, they’re SIM-only – though some such as Woolworths Mobile and Circles.Life do offer handsets on a plan.

These smaller providers can be a cheaper alternative, though most don’t provide added extras such as streaming service add-ons, international data roaming and 5G network access.

Even if you find yourself burning through your data each month, switching to a smaller telco could still be a good option. Circles.Life, for example, often features in our picks for the best SIM-only plans because it offers 100GB for just AU$30 a month.

If you’re still set on staying with one of the big three, our advice is to take advantage of any discounts and offers available.

You’ll find that Vodafone has upped the data available across all of its plans for as long as you stay connected, though this is only available to new customers or additional services. Vodafone’s also offering three months of Amazon Music Unlimited for free, while Optus has perks such as Optus Sport included for the life of your plan.

Telstra doesn’t have offers going at the moment, though you can get small bonuses such as data-free streaming of Apple Music (if you’ve got a paid subscription) and streaming service add-ons such as Binge and Kayo (Telstra customers can get three months of Binge for free, and AU$10 off Kayo for the first 12 months).

With the immense amount of unused mobile data and plan features that Aussies are paying for, it's wise to take a good look at your current plan and see just how much you could be saving with an alternative.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce editor

Jasmine Gearie is an ecommerce editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers cut through the jargon to find the best mobile and internet plans for their needs. She crunches the numbers to maintain dedicated guides to the latest phones, NBN and broadband plans of all types, and covers the important telco industry news. She also hunts down tech deals on laptops, phones, gaming consoles and more, so readers know where to buy the products they want for the cheapest prices.