Ask LH: Is There A Cheap 4G Plan For Home Mobile Broadband?

Ask LH: Is There A Cheap 4G Plan For Home Mobile Broadband?

Hey Lifehacker, I live in an area with terrible internet connectivity. The available DSL service is horribly slow (ADSL1), there’s no prospect of the NBN around here any time soon, and I have no other options for fast internet. Does anyone offer a 4G/LTE data plan that I could actually use at home if I needed 60GB-100GB for less than $150 a month? Thanks, Disconnected

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Dear Disconnected,

Alas, the short answer is “no”. While 4G services can offer excellent (if unpredictable) speeds, there’s a big cost premium compared to ADSL or other alternatives. Even for 60GB a month, the lower total you quoted, you’ll pay a small fortune.

Here’s what you’d pay for 60GB each month on the consumer 4G data plans available from the major carriers. We’ve calculated this by taking the biggest available monthly plan (which is invariably much lower than 60GB) and then adding the excess data charges you’d pay to reach 60GB. It’s an ugly story.

Carrier Plan Cost Excess Cost for 60GB
Optus 10GB $60.00 $10/GB $560.00
Telstra 25GB $150.00 $0.10/MB $3734.00
Vodafone 8GB $45.00 $0.10/MB $5369.80

Note that Optus — the “cheapest” option listed here — reserves the right to limit your usage after 20GB, so in practice you probably couldn’t get 60GB anyway. Even that 20GB would cost you $160 a month. (Virgin Mobile, which offers access to Optus 4G, isn’t in the table: it offers 13GB for $60 a month, which is cheaper than Optus, but shapes you after you hit the limit and cuts you off for the month once you’ve been through an additional 250MB.)

If you have to use 4G, the reality is that the affordable upper limit right now is somewhere around the 20GB-25GB mark. It’s a more expensive alternative than ADSL, and we don’t expect that to change any time in the near future.


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    • The problem with $2 days is that you can’t extend once the 500MB runs out — annoying if (like many people) your usage is higher on weekends. But yeah, a bit cheaper than the plan version.

      • extra 500 meg for $2 as per article
        “Calls to international or special rate numbers are charged directly against your credit. If you exceed 500MB of data in a day (not impossible, especially if you’re tethering), you’re charged an additional $2 and given another 500MB. If you use all that as well, you’re cut off entirely for data access until the next day begins. (Using 1GB a day on your phone seems unlikely unless it’s your sole source of net access).”
        If you are planning on using 20 gig a month I would think 500 meg per day would be enough.

  • Virgin 12Gb for $40 surely has to rate a mention? (sure they’re an MVNO, but they’re a Major MVNO, if there is such a thing)
    It also says on their site you get a $5 discount if you have another Virgin service… so $35/month for 12Gb!

  • I just signed up for Virgin, 13Gb plan. Should be enough. Only problem is waiting two weeks for them to deliver the sim…

    • Vivid is a decent service and I used them for a few months recently, but 4G they are not.

      Well worth looking into if you need cheap and plentiful mobile internet though, particularly useful if you need to move multiple times in a short period or even just waiting for a landline to get connected.

  • lifehacker is usually very good, what happen to this bad recommendation today????

    eg: telstra Pre-Paid data sim = $50 for 3GB, so $450 = 27Gb
    or prepaid cap encore+ = $100 for “7Gb(3Gb +4Gb/$59) + $1900 cap credit + $41 telstra credit left ”
    therefore $300 = 21Gb + $5700 cap credit + $123 telstra credit (= another 2 x 4Gb/$59 and $3 telstra credit left)
    therefore $300 = 29Gb + $3 telstra credit +$5700 cap credit (= 2.35Gb after all the other credit is used)

    therefore total = 31Gb for only $300 , and it is telstra 4G speed! 🙂

    • We concentrated on postpaid plans here — in any case, a solution where you have to buy multiple SIMs isn’t very helpful. And you still haven’t reached 60GB 🙂

  • Telstra business caps your excess usage at $500 so with a $35 plan plus $500 excess usage you could get unlimited for $535

    • If you’re doing that on a regular basis (monthly), besides costing you a fortune (almost $6500 per year), might run a risk of ‘fair use policies’? I know ‘fair use’ rarely comes into play but if you are consistently hammering it, they could call you out on it and if it continues, cut the service. Being a business plan, could claim its for business use, but would be interesting to see how that would unfold from the networks perspective.

  • Find someone with a $3 prepaid data days SIM they’re willing to part with for big bucks. Once you have that, well, I’ve gotten up to 42gb in a day downloaded with it. Wouldn’t do that EVERY day, but as occasional business needs require (like, need to restore an online backup — yes, really), it does let you move large volumes of data. Alas, not 4G.

    • Thats impressive for 1 day on mobile broadband. With Optus 3G coverage, consistent 500kbps over 24hrs would get you there. If only my Optus connection was consistent and not plagued with dropouts 🙁

  • I have the exact same problem. I think it’s pathetic that the only way I’m going to get better internet speeds is to move house. The NBN is an absolute joke and likely will never make it to my area. Multiplayer games are pretty much impossible to play due to terrible lag, turning them into frustrating slideshows. 🙁

    • I know i’m very late to reply to this, but have you considered a permanent point to point wifi link from someone else nearby. Its possible and Ive done it plenty of times. And it costs nothing like what an ISP or Government would pay.
      You just need to pay someone else to share their internet. And have decent line of sight from your house or rooftop. Wouldnt set you back more than $500 for the good stuff. And maybe $150 for the cheapstuff

  • true still not 60Gb, my fault, I appologise.
    but that’s not multiple SIm, just multiple recharge 🙂

  • Aldi Mobile: 15$ / 2GB / Month, you can’t rechage it again that month, but you can get multiple sim cards, no biggie.

  • 3x 20GB optus business data plans, data sharing by default = $225 per month
    6x 10GB optus ” ” ” ” ” = $210 per month

  • Another good option to consider is the MVNO (i.e. ‘virtual operator’) Vaya running on the Optus network. They offer pretty competitive pricing on 4G data with 10GB costing you just $55 a month making them the CHEAPEST 4G data plans.

    They will charge 2c/MB over your allowance so 60GB would end up costing you $1,024 for the month.

    Their plans are all Post-Paid (so credit check required etc) but are all month-to-month.
    They also have an upfront fee of $20 for the SIM card but it is waived if you sign up for a 24 month contract (definitely not recommended!).

    For a comprehensive report on your various broadband options, check our FREE report here:

  • This is an old thread, but it’s worth pointing out that iiNet has a 4G $75plan that gives you 20GB. OK It’s not 60GB but it seems (to me) to be the best value. For comparison purposes, excess usage is a bit more expensive than Optus at $0.02/MB, so 60GB would cost $875 (unless you multiplex three 20GB SIMs for $225/month).

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