Planhacker: Mobile Broadband Contract Plans (August 2014)

If you regularly need an internet connection on the road, a separate mobile broadband SIM in a hotspot or USB dongle is the way to go. But who offers the most data and the best deals? We've rounded up all the available plans from Australian carriers so you can compare and choose the right one for you.

picture from Shutterstock

Vodafone last week updated its postpaid broadband plans, which seemed a good reason to compare what's currently on the market. (Vodafone also made 4G available on its prepaid plans for this first time.)

For this Planhacker we're looking at postpaid plans, where you pay for a fixed amount of data each month (either on contract or on a month-to-month deal). If you only need mobile broadband occasionally, then either tethering your smartphone or using a prepaid device may well be a better deal. (We'll examine prepaid plans another time. We're also not including plans which require to purchase another service, such as home broadband.)

We've gone through the consumer postpaid plans available for each of the main networks and their resellers, as listed on their sites. All plans are 4G unless otherwise indicated.

For each, we've listed what you pay per month and how much data you'll get, and then discussed additional quirks such as how you pay for excess data usage. We've also listed required contract lengths where these apply. In many cases, choosing not to go on contract saves you the price of a device.

We haven't included device costs in the table, which will vary depending on whether you want a hotspot or a dongle and whether you have a contract. Dongles are generally cheaper, but only allow you to connect one device at a time. Hotspots let you connect multiple devices but require their own power source. For each provider, we've noted the relevant costs in the discussion. (If you're using a SIM in a tablet, you won't need a separate device.) We haven't included time-limited specials.

Amaysim

Amaysim's plans are on Optus' 3G network, not 4G. Excess data is charged at 5 cents per MB. For heavy users, Optus' own $60 offer is better value than the $99.90 plan here.

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Amaysim $9.90 1000 No
Amaysim $19.90 2500 No
Amaysim $29.90 4000 No
Amaysim $99.90 10000 No

Optus

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Optus $5.00 100 No
Optus $20.00 1500 No
Optus $30.00 4000 No
Optus $45.00 7000 No
Optus $60.00 10000 No

If you exceed your allowance, Optus charges you $10 and provides you another 1GB. Signing up for a contract generally lets you eliminate the cost of the a dongle or hotspot, or pay it off over time. You can use the included data across more than one device at no extra cost.


Telstra

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Telstra $25.00 1000 24
Telstra $35.00 4000 24
Telstra $55.00 8000 24
Telstra $105.00 15000 24

Telstra's plans are notably more expensive than its rivals, and you have to sign up for a 24-month contract. Excess data is charged at 3 cents per MB. It also offers a 25GB plan but doesn't list it on its web site.


Vaya

Vaya uses Optus' 4G network. Excess data is charged at 2 cents per MB.

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Vaya $19.00 1000 No
Vaya $28.00 4000 No
Vaya $43.00 7000 No
Vaya $55.00 10000 No

Virgin Mobile

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Virgin Mobile $20.00 2000 12
Virgin Mobile $30.00 6000 12
Virgin Mobile $40.00 12000 12
Virgin Mobile $60.00 13000 12

Virgin's $20 and $30 plans are only available on 3G, not 4G, and all plans require a 12 month contract. Rather than excess data charges, Virgin shapes you to a maximum speed of 128Kbps, and then cuts you off altogether. It seems idiotic to pay for the $60 plan, which only has 1GB more than the $40 plan.


Vodafone

Provider Monthly Data (MB) Contract
Vodafone $20.00 2500 No
Vodafone $30.00 4500 No
Vodafone $45.00 8000 No
Vodafone $65.00 12000 No
Vodafone $90.00 25000 No

Tables And Comparisons

Here’s the full table with all the plans. You can click on a column heading to sort or filter for specific download allowances, prices or companies. Click in the bottom-right corner for a maximised view.

Mobile broadband selection will often depend on the signal available where you live or work. Telstra's coverage is excellent in rural areas, but there's a hefty premium involved. If you're in an area with options, the Vodafone plans have the most generous data allowances. We're not fans of the "pay $10 straight away for another 1GB" approach adopted by both Optus and Vodafone. For Optus 4G, Vaya has slightly cheaper deals. Virgin Mobile's charging model is very strange.

Spotted other plans we should include, or an error in the tables? (We try to avoid those, but we're only human). Tell us in the comments.

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


Comments

    Thanks, though the spreadsheet needs 3G/4G and which network provider for completeness

    Virgin $40 post paid plans do no need a contract.. only if you want the 4G Modem.... sim alone is month by month!!

    Telstra offers 12 or 24 month plan options actually

      No mention of 12 month plan on the product page (which, as mentioned, is what we use as primary source).

        I just saw that, interesting, but I work in a telstra shop and they are offered on a 12 month basis for anyone interested

    1. There is no device subsidy with the optus plans.

    2. There is no Data-sharing with the mobile broadband plans (only the mobile phone ones).

    Any number of us DESPERATELY need this information this month, because Optus has announced that the vaunted $3 Data Days all-the-3G-you-can-drink-on-your-laptop-for-$3-a-day plan is coming to an end.

    A number of us have relied on this plan for data connectivity for years, due to our living circumstances.

    If you're looking for data only, there are better plans than the above. See iinet and internode. 18gb or 20gb for $75. If you have an ABN, you can also contract with Optus for, I think, 20gb for $75/month, under their business plans.

    Also, it is useful to compare the size of the blocks in which data is charged. Some charge per 1kb block. Some charge by much larger blocks.

    Any chance there will be a Planhacker for phone plans soon?

    Bendigo Bank telco has a 20 gig plan for $79.95
    https://www.bendigobanktelco.com.au/MainPage.aspx?service=MB

    vivid wireless has an unlimited plan for $79 but sadly really only if you're in the CBD of a major city.
    http://www.vividwireless.com.au/plans/wireless-broadband-plans

    It is not true that the only way to get the Virgin Mobile plans is to sign up for a contract.
    They also offer a no contract option for the same prices and with the same inclusions if you BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).
    If your BYOD supports 4G, you will get access to the 4G network.

    According to our extensive research, the $40 plan with 12GB of included data (including 4G speeds where available) is currently the BEST VALUE dedicated mobile broadband plan (i.e. no included calls or text) in Australia!

    The ONLY reason not to get it is you don't have good Optus coverage where you live. Otherwise, you can't go wrong choosing this one. :)

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