Planhacker: Australian Postpaid 4G Broadband Plans Compared

If you plan to use mobile broadband as your main connection, you'll generally buy it on contract to score a decent data allowance and you'll want the fastest speed possible. Vodafone launched new 4G mobile broadband contract plans today, but how do they compare to the existing offers from Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile? This Planhacker table rounds them up so you can choose the right one for you.

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For occasional use when travelling, postpaid mobile broadband doesn't make sense; you're better off tethering to your phone or using a prepaid device. However, if you need ongoing access because you can't get broadband, you move frequently or you're a fly-in fly-out worker, a contract can be worthwhile. Postpaid contract plans generally have more generous data allocations, and in Vodafone's case are the only way to access 4G. Vodafone and Optus offer a choice of contract or month-to-month, where you pay for the device upfront but aren't in a long-term commitment. Telstra and Virgin Mobile don't have that option.

For a permanent connection, the higher data speeds of 4G are highly desirable, though you should check coverage maps thoroughly to make sure 4G is available, and ideally check with a device as well. All carriers have decent 4G coverage in most capital cities, but you need to check carefully -- no-one's coverage is perfect.

In the table below, we've looked at the consumer 4G postpaid plans on offer from Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. We've noted how much data you'll receive (that figure covers both uploads and downloads) and how much you'll pay for an access device. Depending on the carrier and the plan, you'll either pay up front for the device or pay it off via a monthly fee over the life of the contract. We've also calculated the minimum total cost.

We'd generally advise using a Wi-Fi hotspot in this scenario, since you can share it across multiple devices, but a USB dongle is cheaper if you know you'll only need to use it with one machine.

Specific notes on each provider follow the table.

Provider Device Data (GB) Plan cost Monthly device Upfront device Contract Total cost
Optus USB 7 $45.00 $0.00 $129.00 1 $174.00
Optus USB 10 $60.00 $0.00 $129.00 1 $189.00
Optus USB 7 $45.00 $10.00 $0.00 12 $660.00
Optus USB 10 $60.00 $10.00 $0.00 12 $840.00
Optus USB 7 $45.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $1,200.00
Optus USB 10 $60.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $1,560.00
Optus Hotspot 7 $45.00 $0.00 $169.00 1 $214.00
Optus Hotspot 10 $60.00 $0.00 $169.00 1 $229.00
Optus Hotspot 7 $45.00 $14.00 $0.00 12 $708.00
Optus Hotspot 10 $60.00 $14.00 $0.00 12 $888.00
Optus Hotspot 7 $45.00 $7.00 $0.00 24 $1,248.00
Optus Hotspot 10 $60.00 $7.00 $0.00 24 $1,608.00
Vodafone USB 2.5 $20.00 $0.00 $119.00 1 $139.00
Vodafone USB 4 $30.00 $0.00 $119.00 1 $149.00
Vodafone USB 8 $45.00 $0.00 $119.00 1 $164.00
Vodafone USB 2.5 $20.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $600.00
Vodafone USB 4 $30.00 $3.00 $0.00 24 $792.00
Vodafone USB 8 $45.00 $3.00 $0.00 24 $1,152.00
Vodafone Hotspot 2.5 $20.00 $0.00 $169.00 1 $189.00
Vodafone Hotspot 4 $30.00 $0.00 $169.00 1 $199.00
Vodafone Hotspot 8 $45.00 $0.00 $169.00 1 $214.00
Vodafone Hotspot 2.5 $20.00 $7.00 $0.00 24 $648.00
Vodafone Hotspot 4 $30.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $840.00
Vodafone Hotspot 8 $45.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $1,200.00
Telstra Hotspot 1 $25.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $720.00
Telstra Hotspot 4 $35.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $960.00
Telstra Hotspot 8 $50.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $1,320.00
Telstra Hotspot 15 $95.00 $5.00 $0.00 24 $2,400.00
Virgin Hotspot 13 $60.00 $0.00 $0.00 12 $720.00

Optus

Optus offers a choice of month-to-month, 12-month and 24-month contracts. You can only access 4G on its 7GB/month and 10GB/month plans, so we've only listed those here.

Optus charges for excess data by adding an extra 1GB and charging you $10 for that -- useful if you suddenly need lots more data, but expensive if you only exceed your regular limit by a few MB.

Telstra

Telstra offers two Wi-Fi hotspots; the basic 4G model, or a pricier newer version that also supports its 4G advanced network. We've included the pricing for the more basic option in the table. For contract plans, there's no USB device offered, and only 24-month contracts are available. Excess data is $0.10/MB.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin only offers a single 4G-enabled plan, $60 a month on a 12-month contract. It uses the Optus network, but offers a larger data allowance (13GB) than Optus itself (10GB at the same price point). If you exceed your allowance, you'll be throttled to 128Kbps. The device is included with the plan at no extra charge. If you're keen on the Optus network, this looks like a good deal.

Vodafone

Vodafone offers a choice of a 24-month contract or a month-to-month plan. Until April 2 2014, customers who already have a Vodafone contract plan for their mobile will receive a 15 per cent discount on a new broadband plan. (We haven't included that discounted figure in the table.)

You can share the hotspot version with up to 10 devices, which is higher than the typical 5-device limit imposed by most other carriers. Excess data is $0.10/MB.

Know of a postpaid 4G broadband option we've missed? (Again, we're not looking at prepaid plans here.) Spotted an error? Tell us in the comments.

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Comments

    No comparison with some of the other MVNOs?
    Vivid seem to have a really good one with the unlimited but alas I'm not in the coverage area
    http://www.vividwireless.com.au/plans/wireless-broadband-plans

    Last edited 17/01/14 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the suggesting @kami. Looks good. Does anyone know how the Optus network fares on the trip to the Blue Mountains?

    No mention of Vaya or any of the other MVNOs?

    You forgot to mention that optus offers a 25% discount for customers that already have a mobile on a plan. So you can get 10GB for $45.

    You have spelt Hotspot as Hostspot multiple times in the table, probably want to fix that.

    For small businesses in the outskirts of cities where 3G is the only option - these plans offer SFA.
    Unreliable, costly, slow and too small data limits.
    Also don't blame the NBN not going ahead - since these areas can receive 3G, would not of received any benefits from the NBN.

    http://www.vividwireless.com.au should not be compared to because it is not the actual 4G tech instead it is based on WiMax technology. It's real world performance is roughly closer to ADSL 1 speeds 3-5MBps, minimum 1.5MBps depending on congestion. Closer to 3G speeds than 4Gs... but their unlimited plan is something to consider if you use it quite extensively and don't mind the slower speed or as a last resort alternative internet service infrastructure in an area/dwelling types which cannot receive ADSL/Cable (also being wireless carries the bonus of being able to carry it around)

    Could we perhaps do an article aimed at simply comparing the difference between these good value wireless plans and highly rated "good value" adsl/2/+ plans with a wireless router for access around the house. So many people I speak to who ask advice on which mobile broadband plan ask me because they dont understand that you dont need a wireless broadband connection when your just using it around the house.

    Thanks.

    This is the best I have found so far, based on quota/mthly cost
    Bendigo Bank Telco - uses Optus network, but offers upto 20GB for $75/mth sim only or + $10/mth for device
    https://www.bendigobanktelco.com.au/MainPage.aspx?service=MB

    Due to my current situation where I am unable to access anything above 56k over my phone line, and NBN Sat no longer taking new orders - it leaves me with mobile broadband as my only option (which sucks) - heaps of drop outs as well as inconsistent speed.

    The Optus business plans are much better value - 2GB for 19.95, 5GB for 24.95, 10GB for 34.95, 15GB for 54.95 and 20GB for 74.95. Plus $10 a month discount if bundled with mobile.

      Interesting. Planhacker generally covers consumer plans (and I've made that clearer in the body), but that's a huge difference.

    Agreed with evarn, their site for business wireless is:-

    https://www.optusbusiness.com.au/shop/broadband/mobilebroadband/data-sim-card

    Can you do a 3G one? If you are using mobile broadband as your main connection, chances are because it's all that is available, and in that case, it's highly likely 4G isn't available either. I'm rural, out of town but not remote. No satellite, no ADSL, no 4G. Telstra is the only network, and best connection I can get is 3G with an antenna. It sucks, but I'd love to know the best deal.

      all 4G mobile broadband plans will work on 3G and even 2G.

    Vodaphone sales staff claim no knowledge of the 15% discount for bundling Mobile Broadband with existing Vodaphone mobile phone contract. Didn't find it mentioned on their website either. Is there a secret source for this information?

    Why have you not mentioned Vaya and their 4G data plans?
    http://www.vaya.net.au/?option=Data
    As usual, the main three operators cannot compete with the value for money offered by their MVNOs.

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