Planhacker: The Best Data-Only Phone Plans

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I read an article this week talking about the death of the landline in Australian homes. Seriously, didn't landlines use die out years ago? The hot new take on this topic is whether you need to be paying for phone calls at all.

With over-the-top services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Viber, Skype, and more all offering 'free' phone calls over the web, would you consider getting a data-only plan and skipping calls and SMS altogether?

Telstra-owned Belong is asking this question with a new SIM Only plan structure that gives you the option of choosing just data in your plan, or adding unlimited calls for an extra $5, and some international calls for $5 more.

With this SIM you can still receive calls and SMS to your phone, but you'll need to use an over-the-top service to reply. The data in the plans is pretty generous for the price, and Belong offer Data Banking to stash away unused data each month.

While this might be the first time you've given thought to this idea, the possibility of using your phone like this has been around for a little while already. We decided to look into which providers also let you receive calls and SMS on a data-only mobile broadband plan, and it turns out that more do than don't.

Here are a few examples of mobile broadband plans that you can use in a phone.

The weird thing is that there isn’t uniformity in how you can use these plans. Some providers allow you send SMS from the number for an extra fee per message, others block all outgoing functionality entirely. Telstra makes a point of saying that mobile broadband plans cannot be used in smartphones, and that it will block access to the service if it detects that you have the SIM in a phone.

We've had a chance to confirm that the plans above work in phones, but we'd recommend you double check that a service can do what you need it to before you switch your services over.

Joe Hanlon is Publisher at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website. He’s been writing about phones and plans for far too long.

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Comments

    Good summary, thanks.
    I've long had the desire to ditch call and SMS functionality and simply have a data SIM, with my 04 number ported to my VOIP provider of choice.
    My understanding is that a service number still needs to be associated with the SIM for data connection, but if I never saw that number and could port out my 04 number, I'd sign up to whichver network does that first.

    Last edited 19/12/17 12:33 pm

      Unless it's changed you can port a landline number to VoIP not a mobile number.

      However there are data only sims that will allow you to receive calls to your mobile data number. You make calls over VoIP as normal.

      You would not need the sort of data offered in the above plans though, unless you want to pay that sort of money for other smartphone uses.

    Unless it's changed you can port a landline number to VoIP not a mobile numberYep, but from what i read it doesn't seem to be a technical reason that 04 prefixes can't be ported -
    just some other type of issue, regulatory perhaps.
    To me, having the freedom to port an 04 number to a voice provider of my choosing, separate to my data provider is a future I want to have.

    The reason they will nearly always let you receive calls and text, is very simple:
    They make money charging the company of the person contacting you to connect those communications. Even if you never call, it can make them money. Then there’s the possibility you call non-inclusive numbers - premium rate and over seas, etc.

    It’s why you should almost never buy a SIM card for an iPad or a laptop, or even one of those portable 4G wifi devices (seriously they’re more expensive than a budget smartphone??), but rather use your phone’s personal hotspot - the data will be much cheaper on a phone plan as the network has other revenue streams. On a data-only sim, the only money they can make is on what you pay, and if you over use.

    Last edited 20/12/17 9:07 am

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