Sharing is caring, so they say. But does it make sense to share your mobile phone contract's calls, texts and data amongst your family members?
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Sharing plans have been available overseas for some time now, but it's only relatively recently that we've seen Australian telcos offer bundle packages that allow you to share a "pool" of value from multiple accounts across each connected device. Both Optus and Vodafone now have a plan of this type.
The basic approach from both Optus and Vodafone with regards to sharing is quite consistent, with a pool of whatever inclusions are available making up the total available. For all applicable plan types from both Optus and Vodafone, these include unlimited local and national calls and texts, so the "sharing" aspect there is rather moot.
Where they have real value potential is in sharing data inclusions, because, like fixed line ISPs, mobile providers do work on the assumption that they'll either be able to sting you for excess charges (although we've seen those drop to a pleasing $10/GB across all the big three telcos recently) or that contract customers will pay for data they won't end up using.
There are some differences when it comes to pricing on additional SIMs and the way the sharing works between Optus and Vodafone, however.
Vodafone requires an effective "master" account, which requires a 24-month Red plan at $70/$80/$100 depending on your needs, from which you hang a child SIM in a device of your choice, with plans there bundling additional data from $30-$70 per month for mobile devices, including access to Vodafone's exceptionally handy $5/day global roaming deal, or $10/$30 month if you're sharing with a tablet device.
Update: Vodafone has clarified that it does offer month-to-month Red plan SIMs with sharing capability, although at the time of writing this is only indicated in the small print on its sharing web page.
Optus' sharing plans aren't quite as restrictive when it comes to requiring a primary 24-month contracted SIM; you could in theory use month-by-month SIM-only plans with its sharing service. Optus also offers the ability to simply add an additional SIM to an existing plan and just share the data from that single plan for a one-off cost of $5 per additional SIM.
Neither telco is likely to check that your "family" members are actually related to you. Vodafone allows for up to ten devices in a shared pool, while Optus has no limit to the number of accounts that can be joined in a "family", although each family member can only link five additional data SIMs off a shared pool.
Wasn't there a third big telco?
If that's a concept that appeals to you, you're currently stuck looking at only two providers, however, as Telstra has yet to come to the sharing is caring party, despite recently overhauling its mobile plans.
Telstra does offer Mobile Accelerate Data Sharing plans for up to five additional SIMs on a single contract plan, but there's no pooling of data from additional accounts available.