Want to take advantage of 4G but don't want to sign up for a phone on a long-term contract? We've rounded up all the available BYO month-to-month offers in an interactive spreadsheet to help you pick the best option for your needs.
BYO picture from Shutterstock
With Vodafone revising its high-end plan options and Gizmodo in the middle of its 4G Week, revisiting 4G pricing seems timely. In Australia, there's no premium charged for a 4G plan; provided you have a 4G-capable device, you'll be able to access 4G speeds for data. There are plenty of 4G devices available to choose from, and you don't have to tie yourself to a 24-month contract to get one. With a BYO plan, you'll have flexibility to change phones (or carriers) if something better comes along.
All three of the major network carriers — Optus, Telstra and Vodafone — now offer 4G coverage in capital cities, and a handful of MVNOs on Optus (Exetel, iiNet, Live Connected, Virgin Mobile and Vaya). Their coverage outside those locations varies, with Telstra having the widest coverage. As with any phone plan, it's worth testing the specific coverage in your area and seeking assurances from your provider before you sign up. That said, Every carrier here operates month-to-month, so there's no long term cost to calculate and switching is relatively straightforward if the reception turns out to be useless where you live.
For each plan, we've listed what you'll pay per month for the plan; how much data is included per month and what you'll pay for excess data; the included data and "call credit", if applicable; the flag fall and per-minute cost for calls to Australian phone numbers; the cost of text messages to Australian numbers; how much a 2-minute call will cost on the included plan; and the maximum number of 2-minute calls you could make with the included credit. The top-priced plans offer unlimited calls and texts, but no provider offers more than 3GB of data per month on a month-to-month plan other than Vodafone's top-priced Red plan, which includes 5GB. (You can often get more data with a prepaid plan, but you won't get 4G for that in most cases.) Most of the providers offer free calls to other users of the same network on all but the cheapest plans. You'll usually pay around $20 as a setup fee for the initial SIM.
All the details are in the spreadsheet below. You can filter and sort by right-clicking the headings on each category, so you can (for example) filter out all the plans for an individual provider, choose only plans for a specific provider, or sort every plan by total cost. We've offered some supplementary notes for every provider after the listing. Click the maximise button in the bottom corner to view the spreadsheet full-screen.
Exetel is unusual in varying its data rates for excess usage; you'll pay less on the more expensive plans (though the gap between 2 cents and 5 cents might not matter for light users). All plans except the $19.95 include free calls to other Exetel users.
iiNet's plans are only offered to customers of its broadband services — so while you might dodge a contract here, you won't altogether. The same deals (and rates) are also available to other iiNet-owned companies (most notably Internode and Westnet).
Live Connected once offered rather cheaper BYO plans, but now concentrates on deals including phones. Calls to other Live Connected customers are free on all but the $12,90 plan.
Optus has shifted from charging flag falls and per-minute in favour of an 'included minute' approach. While that's potentially easier to understand, the actual number of calls you can make is actually slightly lower than it used to be. Also, rather than charging per MB for excess data, it upgrades users automatically in tiers, where an extra $10 gets you an extra 1GB. That's expensive if you only exceed your allowance slightly.
Telstra's 4G coverage is the broadest and most reliable of any provider, but our ongoing speed tests suggest that as more people use it, the speed advantages aren't as pronounced as they might be. It's also, by a considerable measure, the most expensive carrier on offer. At least it now has no-contract options.
Vaya's 'Skinny' plans have only 100MB of data, which is painfully skinny, the 'Power' plans have more to offer.
While Virgin Mobile is owned by Optus, its plans are generally cheaper than those Optus offers. It now has very high excess data rates (the highest of anyone listed here).
Vodafone's $35 plan lets you choose between unlimited texting or unlimited Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls; we've listed the former option in the table. Its full-priced Red plan has more data than any other plan listed here.
If you insist on Telstra's network, you have no alternative choices and you'll pay a premium. The same applies to Vodafone, but its deal is a lot more generous.
There are plenty of choices on Optus' network, but the pricing is actually remarkably similar. Knowing your usage remains vital; paying extra for data (or calls) you don't use is pointless.
Spotted a 4G BYO month-to-month plan we've missed, or an error in the data? (It happens.) Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.