Telstra's New Data-Enhanced Mobile Plans: How Much More Do They Offer And Are They Now Competitive?

The biggest complaint about Telstra's mobile plans is that they have high monthly fees and relatively stingy data allowances. Does a new revamp with extra data make them more competitive? Planhacker investigates.

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Telstra is introducing additional data across many of its plans, including its Mobile Accelerate handset, BYO and casual options, and its Easy Share Business Plans. Telstra is describing this as "bonus" data, but if you sign up, you'll receive the increased allowance for the life of your contract on contract plans, and for as long as you keep paying on month-to-month plans.

The changes apply to new customers who sign up on April 9 or afterwards. If you're an existing contract customer, the only way to get the new deal would be to recontract for an additional 24 months — not a great idea in our opinion. Telstra says this option will be available for a "limited" time, but hasn't specified a cut-off date. As an extra sweetener, Telstra is also offering a free six-month subscription to Presto for all new contract mobile phone customers.

Note: Telstra's plans previously included an "Upgrade" offer where you could choose to add either extra data or call credits to your contract plan for no extra cost. Telstra has confirmed to us that the bonus data offer will replace that deal for new customers — though again, if you're an existing customer and used this option, you'll continue to receive it.

What's Changing?

We'll examine each of the plans in turn, with a table showing the old and new data allowances, plus the call credit inclusions and the minimum you'll pay over the life of a contract. All these plans include unlimited texts within Australia. Calls to Australian numbers are charged at 99 cents per minute plus a 40 cent flagfall; we've included the number of two-minute calls you can make (the standard measure used for comparing plan call inclusions). The L plan includes unlimited night and weekend calls, and the XL plan offers unlimited calls.

So what has changed? Firstly, let's look at the 24-month Mobile Accelerate contract plans — typically the ones you'll sign up for if you want a handset included. (Depending on which handset you choose, you may also have to pay an additional monthly handset fee.)

Plan name Monthly cost Old data (MB) New data (MB) Call inclusions #2 minute calls Minimum total cost
S Handset $55.00 500 1000 $550.00 231 $1320.00
M Handset $70.00 1500 2500 $700.00 294 $1680.00
L Handset $95.00 2500 6000 $950.00 399 $2280.00
XL Handset $130.00 3000 10000 Unlimited Unlimited $3120.00

The big change to note here is the increase in data available in the two most expensive plans: the L plan goes from 2.5GB to 6GB, and the XL from 3GB to 10GB.

If you choose to supply your own phone (an approach we generally endorse), Telstra has two options. The BYO plans require a 12-month contract:

Plan name Monthly cost Old data (MB) New data (MB) Call inclusions #2 minute calls Minimum total cost
S BYO $45.00 500 2000 $550.00 231 $540.00
M BYO $55.00 1500 3500 $700.00 294 $660.00
L BYO $70.00 2500 6000 $950.00 399 $840.00
XL BYO $95.00 3000 10000 Unlimited Unlimited $1140.00

Right now the BYO plans are also including a bonus 1GB of data per month across the range, an offer set to expire on April 27. Telstra tells us that when the new plans launch on April 9, this offer will be withdrawn.

The Casual plans are on a month-to-month basis. That gives you more flexibility, but the charges are the same as the 24-month contract:

Plan name Monthly cost Old data (MB) New data (MB) Call inclusions #2 minute calls Minimum total cost
S Casual $55.00 500 2000 $550.00 231 $55.00
M Casual $70.00 1500 3500 $700.00 294 $70.00
L Casual $95.00 2500 6000 $950.00 399 $95.00
XL Casual $130.00 3000 10000 Unlimited Unlimited $130.00

Finally, the Easy Share Business Plans are aimed at business customers and let you share your data allowances with other users via a separate SIM (handy if you want a tablet to have its own SIM, for instance). These plans also have a slightly different and lower call rate ($2 for 2 minutes):

Plan name Monthly cost Old data (MB) New data (MB) Call inclusions #2 minute calls Minimum total cost
S Business $65.00 1000 1500 $550.00 275 $1560.00
M Business $85.00 2500 3500 $800.00 336 $2040.00
L Business $100.00 3500 6000 $950.00 399 $2400.00
XL Business $135.00 4000 10000 Unlimited Unlimited $3240.00

How It Compares

One thing is clear: when comparing Telstra with itself, the 12-month BYO plans are much better value than the standard 24-month handset plans. The S and M plans offer more data on BYO than on the equivalent handset plans and are cheaper as well — a rare combination.

The X and XL plans have the same inclusions across BYO and handset plans, but the BYO plans still cost much less. 12 months on the XL plan would cost you $1140 on BYO, compared $1560 on contract. That $520 would go a long way towards buying your own phone outright.

The casual plans don't tie you down at all, but the rates are the same as for 24-month contract handset plans. While we tend to shy away from contract deals, the discount you get for the 12-month contract definitely might make it worth considering in this instance. Except . . .

As we've noted before, you can score 3.4GB of data a month for $50 on Telstra's Beyond Talk plan. The $45 contract plan might make better sense if you want unlimited texts, but if data is your key requirement, spending that extra $5 will get you another 1.4GB.

So how does Telstra compare with its rivals? It turns out to be a case of "not very well on cheaper plans, better if you're prepared to spend a lot".

Its cheapest plan here is $55 a month for casual users (or $45 if you sign up for the 12-month BYO option), and includes 2GB of data. That's still more expensive than most of its competitors at that price point.

Optus offers 2GB with unlimited calls and texts for $45 without a contract, or 3GB on its My Prepaid Monthly for the same price. Vodafone offers 3GB of data on its $50 Red plan. Amaysim has 4GB for $45 with unlimited calls and texts, or 1.5GB for $29.90, on month-to-month plans.

Telstra looks rather better if you want a lot of data and don't mind paying a higher monthly fee. $95 a month on 12-month BYO or $130 a month on Casual scores you 10GB. That's a bigger inclusion than any other standard phone plan in the market right now. Optus offers 8GB and Vodafone 6GB on its top-priced SIM-only plans, and those include bonus data offers which are due to end soon.

Some tablet SIM plans include 10GB or more, but those don't include any call or text allowances. Similarly, Vodafone's Wi-Fi Cube has much cheaper data (you can have 12GB a month for $65) but again doesn't offer any call or text credit.

That said, Telstra isn't the outright cheapest way to get 10GB of data on a 4G phone plan. On Amaysim, you could spend $54.90 a month for the Unlimited 6GB plan and add a 4GB data pack for $29.90 for a total price of $84.80 a month. That's cheaper than Telstra, includes unlimited Australian calls and texts and has no contract requirement. Hence Telstra isn't the absolute best deal, but still offers relatively good value at the $95 price point.

Our Verdict

Obviously, any increase in data allowances is a plus. If Telstra is the best network option where you live and work, extra data is definitely welcome.

That said, the new offerings still don't entirely free Telstra from its status of being the most expensive player in town. If you want to spend less than $60 a month, then the data offerings from Telstra's rivals are still more generous. On the other hand, if you really do need 10GB a month on your phone, then the 12-month BYO deal for $95 a month is only beaten by Amaysim right now.

A side note: We wish Telstra would simplify its overly complex approach of offering base data and/or bonus data and/or upgrade data and limited offers. This actually tends to undersell its plans and leads to customer confusion and anxiety. Just quoting a single headline figure would be more impressive and attract more customers, we'd suggest. Telstra isn't the only provider guilty of this — we've seen bonus data offers from all its rivals in recent months — but it does take the practice to extremes.

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