Planhacker: BYO 4G Plans Compared

Planhacker: BYO 4G Plans Compared

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.

Plan Details


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

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.

Virgin Mobile

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.

Our Verdict

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.


  • Telstra Pre-Paid Cap Encore
    $50 per month
    $50 recharge + $950 cap credit
    800MB of data + $49 from recharge for 3GB of data (plus pack)

    3.8GB of 4G data for $50 per month, with more than enough credit for calls / text. Much better value than the Telstra plans that you mention.

    • i really like this plan, and was on it for ages. Only issue is Telstra charges voicemail pickups to the recharge amount, and not the cap amount. I just couldnt make it work. i was charging the high plans, just to make sure i had enough for voicemail. If your doing it differently, let me know! i would move back in a heart beat.

    • My reading is that you can’t use the credit on your cap for plus packs, only to go towards the $2/MB charge.

      • You can 100% use the recharge component towards plus packs. I know plenty of people doing it, and will do it myself, when my Telstra contract ends in 3 months time!

        Edit: This option is also listed under ‘Popular Options’ on the Whirlpool wiki for Telstra Pre-Paid.

    • Unfortunately, that’s $99 for 3.8GB, so not a great deal. You have to pay for $50 for the Encore, and another $50 for the plus pack.

      • You are wrong.. you get $50 recharge value and $950 cap credit. You can use the $50 recharge value for plus data packs, mobile Foxtel, MOG and even the Play Store on Android devices.

  • So after some research to confirm @markdaviid
    Contains the encore cap rates, in this case $50 gets us $950 + 800MB
    Contains the data cap prices, in this case $49 = 3GB
    This is the support page, outlining ” Just make sure you have enough recharge credit to cover the cost of the pack.” meaning it comes out of the $50 that you spent.

    My job is done.

    • Exactly: recharge credit does not equal cap credit. And yet it does seem people are doing this. Will investigate further.

    • Exactly: recharge credit does not equal cap credit. And yet it does seem people are doing this. Will investigate further.

    • So I’m guessing you can do the same thing for the $40 recharge? (for those who use less)
      $40 recharge get $550 + 600mb. Use $39 to add an extra 1GB.

  • Hey guys, great table!

    May I suggest adding a column “Data Charge”, whether its MB or KB. In my personal experience it makes a huge difference (at least 2.5x).



  • Not sure where the numbers for Optus came from but the Optus Prepaid Social has a good deal at the $50 mark. $50 for 2.5GB of data and 450 minutes. Its a great prepaid when you need a decent amount of data per month. You can do it via a $19 purchased SIM (which comes with a $30 recharge on the plan of your choice).

    • Again: this was on month-to-month, not prepaid (agree the distinction is blurred sometimes but that Optus plan falls clearly into the latter).

      • Why not include both? Pre-paid is clearly better value for money, and it isn’t hard to setup auto top-up. No benefit to being on a month to month plan really.

  • Still happy with my $40 pre-paid on Boost for 3GB data and unlimited calls, mms, txts, etc. Telstra’s 3G is enough for me and on 4G I’d probably use all my data up in no time anyway.

  • Iinet Business (uses optus) plan $29 has $650 worth of calls, free voicemail, free calls to other iinet mobiles and 1.5gb of data per month. I get 4g sometimes in busy locations, but it then reverts to 3G. You need an ABN and be an iinet customer to get iinet mobile. I have tried virgin versus iinet same phones same locations and in my opinion virgin is no comparison to iinet on optus. Also been with Telstra, it’s quality is second to none except in country locations, but double the price of iinet. I’m happy with iinet mobile at this point!

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