While Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have firmly established themselves as the Big Three telco networks in Australia, they aren’t the only game in town. There are plenty of smaller providers, which are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (or MVNOs) that are powered by the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks. The SIM-only plans for these MVNOs are usually a lot cheaper when compared to their respective parent networks, offering better overall value when it comes to data.
Here’s everything you need to know about MVNOs in Australia and how one can help you save on your next mobile bill.
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Telstra vs. Telstra network MVNOs
When it comes to SIM-only plans, Telstra‘s cheapest option starts at $62 per month and will net you 50GB of data.
If you want something cheaper, there are a few MVNOs that are offering plans that are much cheaper. A few of these MVNOs also offer bigger monthly data allowances than Telstra and at a cheaper price.
Tangerine is offering a plan that matches the 50GB data cap that Telstra is offering, but the key difference is that it’ll only set you back $38 per month. If you go with Tangerine’s most expensive plan, which is $58 per month, you’ll still be paying less than you would with Telstra while scoring triple the data with a 150GB allowance. Except for its 25GB plan, all of Tangerine’s plans have access to Telstra’s 5G network as well.
Meanwhile, Belong, which is Telstra’s budget brand, is offering a fair few plans with decent dollar-to-data value. Belong’s 25GB plan will set you back $29 per month, which is a bit more than what Tangerine or NuMobile are offering, but it’s also the cheapest way for you to access Telstra’s 5G network.
Belong’s biggest data plan is very similar to Tangerine’s, but with slightly more data – you’ll pay $58 per month for 160GB. You can score up to triple the data of what Telstra is offering for a lower monthly price.
As for NuMobile‘s plans, the provider has a few options that are cheaper than what Tangerine or Belong are offering, or equally priced with more monthly data. For example, you can pick up a 42GB plan for $35 per month, while you’d only get 40GB for the same price with Belong. Only NuMobile’s 120GB plan has access to Telstra’s 5G network.
As far as the cheapest plans with at least 20GB of data go, Numobile has a 22GB plan for $25 per month, while Tangerine has a 25GB plan for $27 per month.
You can check Lifehacker Australia’s guide to the cheapest mobile plans on the Telstra network here.
Optus vs. Optus network MVNOs
Optus‘ SIM-only plans start at $49 per month and include a 30GB data allowance.
In terms of the cheapest MVNO in Australia that’s powered by Optus, Spintel is running a discount offer where you’ll pay $12 per month for the first six months of your plan. This plan has a data allowance of 20GB, and you’ll pay $20 per month once the discount period ends.
Moose Mobile is also running a deal where you’ll pay $16 per month for the six months of your plan, and then $24 per month thereafter. Moose’s plan includes 25GB of data, which isn’t too shabby when you compare it to what Optus is offering.
Moose Mobile also has a 75GB plan that’s currently $37 per month for new customers. This discounted price will last for the first six months of your plan, before reverting to the standard price of $45 per month, which is still cheaper than Optus’ plan.
If you’re after a plan that matches what Optus is offering, then you’ll want to look at what Southern Phone has on offer. The MVNO has a 30GB plan that’ll set you back $20 per month – that’s over half the price of Optus’ plan. If you’re after more data, Southern Phone also has a 75GB plan that’s $35 per month. So not only will you get over double the data than what Optus is offering, but you’ll be paying less month-to-month.
However, these Southern Phone plans are only available until October 30.
You can check Lifehacker Australia’s guide to the cheapest mobile plans on the Optus network here.
Vodafone vs. Vodafone network MVNOs
Vodafone‘s SIM-only plans start from $40 per month with 30GB of data. However, you can save $5 per month if you set up Automatic Recharge.
For Vodafone-powered MVNOs, TPG is currently running an offer where all of its mobile plans are half-price for the first six months of your connection. That means you can score a 25GB plan for $12.50 per month during the discount period, or a 60GB plan for $20 per month.
After that, iiNet is also running a similar half-price offer for new customers where you’ll pay $15 per month for the first six months you’re with the provider while scoring 40GB of data. Once this offer period ends your monthly bill will jump up to $29.99 per month, which is still less than Vodafone’s cheapest plan.
If you’re after a plan with a fixed price, Kogan Mobile has a 40GB plan that’s $25 per month, and an 80GB plan that’s $40 per month.
However, if you want a plan with a lot of data, Vodafone is currently running an offer where all of its larger plans include double data. This means you can score a 300GB plan for $55 per month, and a 600GB plan for $65 per month, which blows the offerings of every other provider on this network out of the water. For comparison, the next largest monthly plan on Vodafone’s network is Lebara’s 110GB plan, which is $49.90 per month.
You can check Lifehacker Australia’s guide to the cheapest mobile plans on the Vodafone network here.
What is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator?
In Australia, MVNOs work by purchasing wholesale access to the Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone networks, which they then resell to customers – usually at a much lower price as they have fewer overheads.
These smaller providers offer the same coverage as the parent provider, with Optus and Vodafone granting access to their respective 4G networks while Telstra MVNOs use the provider’s 4G Wholesale Network. However, some MVNOs have started to roll out 5G network support across Australia.
There are some catches when it comes to choosing an MVNO over a major provider in Australia. For one, most MVNOs don’t typically sell handsets so you’ll need to have a phone ready to go when signing up for one of these providers. Most MVNOs also don’t offer international roaming – and the ones that do are usually more expensive than the rates of the parent’s network.