Planhacker: What You Pay Per Megabyte For Postpaid 3G Broadband

If you're on a postpaid 3G broadband plan, then it's always tempting to go for the biggest possible download limit. However, that can prove expensive if you don't use most of that data. Planhacker analyses the real cost of choosing a higher download limit by calculating the real per-megabyte cost for different usage levels.

We've recently looked at postpaid 3G broadband plans for Planhacker, but we're taking a slightly different tack here. If you're on a postpaid plan, then your usage is likely to be a little more predictable than prepaid plans, which are useful for intermittent travel use and as an emergency backup (and which we've covered before).

In the table below, we've ranked how much you'll effectively pay per megabyte to the nearest tenth of a cent on contract broadband plans for a range of monthly usage patterns: 100MB, 500MB, and 1GB through 10GB in one-gigabyte increments.

Obviously, if you regularly exceed the monthly limit, it will be cheaper to go to a higher-priced plan. However, if you regularly fall below what you're entitled to, the effective cost of usage can go up significantly, especially on the cheapest plans. We've bolded the price point which offers the best per-megabyte charge at each price level for each carrier.

Making those calculations isn't always straightforward. Shaping is proving an increasingly common option on 3G broadband plans, with Optus, Primus and Telstra all offering that option. We haven't calculated the per-megabyte cost once you cross the shaping limit, since it's not a fair direct comparison: you won't be paying, but you may well be working at less than optimum speeds.

Internode doesn't offer shaping, but doesn't have direct excess usage charges either: instead, users can purchase additional "data blocks" if they go over their monthly limit. We've used these to calculate the relevant costs, choosing the best-priced option for that usage level, which sometimes involves multiple blocks at different prices. This means the Internode prices don't follow an entirely predictable pattern, especially with cheaper plans.

Optus charges $0.08 per megabyte during "peak" periods, and $0.04 during "off-peak" (midnight to 7am), and quotes a total dollar value for each plan rather than a fixed download limit. For the table, we've assumed the higher charge (given the relative unlikelihood that you'll actually be using it during those midnight hours) and calculated how much data that actually gives you.

Click on the link below to access the table in PDF format:

Planhacker Postpaid 3G By Usage Charges

Of course, data cost is just one factor in choosing a provider: network coverage also plays a crucial role. But this analysis does show the dangers in buying a plan that costs more than you need. Given that providers are often happy to let you upgrade to a higher usage level but may balk at reducing your monthly usage, starting on a lower download level may well be a sensible choice — but don't aim too low or you'll also end up paying too much.

As ever, plans with high excess data charges aren't good value. Blink is particularly poor in this respect, and Dodo (which we generally recommend avoiding anyway) is only marginally better.

Hit the links below for the details of each plan direct from the providers:

Spotted a mistake in the table? Got your own metric for measuring broadband value? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.


Comments

    Why don't you people discriminate between Telstra and Bigpond. Both have separate 3g plans, yet when one clicks on Telstra from the list above, it takes me to Bigpond. One would have thought it you click on Telstra, you would go to Telstra plans. Then you can add a Bigpond link. Or is it you are not aware the two have separate plans?

    If you don't your research is pretty poor and one should take the results in the table with a grain of salt.

      Frank, Bigpond is a brand used by Telstra for its Internet products. I don't discriminate between them because they are the same company :-)

      Indeed, if you go from this wireless postpaid broadband page on the Telstra site to the plans and offers link, it goes to the BigPond site, and lists the plans I've listed here. I just cut out that step because it doesn't help anyone much!

      Telstra also offers Telstra-branded business 3G broadband, but this listing covers personal plans only, across all companies, not just Telstra. Telstra's prepaid plans display prices on the Telstra site (rather than the BigPond one), but it still calls them BigPond plans -- and in any case, this article isn't about prepaid.
      '

        In regards to your statement "Telstra’s prepaid plans display prices on the Telstra site (rather than the BigPond one), but it still calls them BigPond plans — and in any case, this article isn’t about prepaid."

        The prepaid devices and plans are not referred to in any way, shape or form as 'Bigpond' products. They in every essence of the product are Telstra.

        Also to be technical, Telstra do also offer consumer data plans that are not related to Bigpond as well. They are simply member plans with data packs added to them. Whilst they are expensive it is the method used to allow consumers that own laptops (or wish to purchase) with embedded capbilities access to the internet.

        Just to keep it in the spirit of consumer plans, so yes it does help to do your research.

        Oh and by the way, those Tesltra branded datapacks are able to be used in the TMB USB devices with out any issue.

          As I've already said once, this article lists postpaid plans. What Telstra does with its prepaid plans or its data packs isn't really relevant!

    I find it hard to make any sense of the table, it is just a grid of numbers without column or row headings.

      Are you clicking on the PDF link or just looking at the picture at the top?

    Exetel's plans look the best - especially the $5 per month one!

      Yep. Exetel's got good rates for fairly low volume wireless internet. I have the $5 + 1.5c/MB plan for my phone. I don't use it for many phone calls, etc, so the call rates aren't a problem for me.

      The only thing that sucks about Exetel's wireless plans is the lack of plans over 5GB. It would be nice if there was a 10GB, even if it's price was double the 5GB price. It would save having to track 2x5GB plans and swap SIMs.

    Interesting, but not all that easy to make use of.

    I did however spot a mistake, on Exetel's 5000MB plan with 5GB usage, it should be $0.005/MB not $0.055

    its not working with firefox

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