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Is Lebara the Cheapest Mobile Phone company in Australia?

My parents have just got a mobile phone with a Lebara pre-paid SIM [1]. Lebara advertise free calls to other Lebara phones but have a disclaimer that they charge a 25 cent flagfall and charge 15 cents per minute after the first 10 minutes – which is still cheaper than most mobile calls although not as good as some other mobile telcos such as Three that offer completely free calls to other phones with the same provider.

Lebara’s main selling point seems to be cheap international calls, half a cent per minute to Thailand, 1 cent per minute to Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore and 3 cents per minute to Bangladesh and China. Strangely calls to the US are 5 cents per minute and to Japan are 7 cents per minute, I would have expected that calling developed countries would have been cheaper due to better infrastructure and more competition. The trend of more developed countries having less expensive calls seems clear, some very undeveloped countries cost as much as $2 per minute! Note that all these rates are for calls to land-lines (calls to mobiles cost more) and are based on the new prices that apply after the 13th of July (it’s slightly cheaper for the next 8 days).

It seems really strange that calls to land-lines in Australia cost 15 cents per minute which is more than twice as much as calls to the US and Japan. In theory it would be possible to redirect calls to Australian land-lines via the US or Japan to save money. In practice it’s probably possible to do so by setting up a PBX in Thailand, Hong Kong, or Singapore.

But what I think is most noteworthy about Lebara is the fact that the call credit lasts for 90 days (this is in the FAQ). The cheapest top-up is $10 so therefore the minimum cost for mobile phone service is $40 per annum. Given the importance of owning a mobile phone to job seekers I think that with the current state of the economy there are a lot of people who could do with such a phone.

If anyone knows of Australian mobile phones that provide cheaper calls to other countries or a cheaper minimum annual fee then please let me know via the comments section.

For international readers, all prices are in Australian cents – which are worth about 85% as much as US cents.

14 comments to Is Lebara the Cheapest Mobile Phone company in Australia?

  • someone

    At the end of the day, you’re getting scalped by Telstra or Optus. Fuck the traditional mobile networks, bring on 4G (uses VoIP from the start). If you are using VoIP in Australia you can get free calls to landlines with a cheap flagfall and reasonably cheap rate to mobiles. At the end of the day though, part of that money goes to Telstra.

  • lispler

    When I visited Australia last year, I was astonished by all those complicated pseudo-prepaid offers. It took some time but I finally found a rate that is similar to what I use in Germany. At planetisp.com.au you pay a fixed rate per call and you pay only and exactly what you use.

    You don’t lose your prepaid money at the end of the month, you don’t have to “top-up” your phone, there is no monthly fee.

    If you don’t ever call anyone, all you pay is the initial order of your SIM-card.

    Its not cheap for international calls and there’re probably many offers with cheaper national rates, but its perfect if you’re traveling and need a phone “just in case”. Or if you are important enough to let others call *you*. :-)

    I found it through the Exel spreadsheed available here:
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/114

  • Lukian

    TPG (using the Optus network) have a $1/month plan.
    Basics: 10c/min calls. 10c/sms and 50MB included data.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a provider with cheaper international calls than Lebara.

    So that’s $12 per annum and $20 (SIM cost) + $20 (refundable/usable deposit).

    Post-paid providers are as low as $0/annum + SIM cost.

    See also: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AgJ7UbkzDVG7cDFlcjJDSnNwMzlLekdYZE9HM01LZGc&hl=en_GB

  • Lukian

    If you can afford an Android/VoIP capable phone (perhaps as low as $10/month over 24 months, with Telstra’s current offer), you can always use VoIP over 3G for your international calls.

    Typical VoIP rates:
    Hong Kong $0.03
    Thailand $0.03
    Singapore $0.01
    Bangladesh $0.04-0.07
    China & Mobile $0.02
    Japan $0.04
    USA $0.02
    (From: http://exetel.com.au/voip_pricelist.php )

  • James

    I use Slimtel’s $0 plan, which woks well given how little I use my phone. The main downfall if I used it regularly would be the data rates.

  • I’m using the TPG plan outlined above, seems okay. Uses the Optus network. The best network obviously is Telstra’s, but I suspect they don’t resell.

    There’s a table here that helps a bit when comparing these things: http://www.ozbargain.com.au/wiki/cheap_mobile_plans

    If you make a lot of international calls, then Lebara is probably your best option. Otherwise, TPG’s is certainly up there. However the TPG plan has both good bits and bad bits, from which you can work out if it’s a good fit for you or not:

    == what’s cheap: ==
    SMS
    calls to Australian mobiles and local/STD landlines
    data

    == what’s expensive ==
    Calls to 1300/13/1800 numbers [use a landline for calling these instead, or if they offer an ordinary 02 or 03 number call that number instead as it will be much cheaper]
    voicemail (install some answering machine software instead??)
    MMS (personally I don’t send these very much anyway)
    startup costs (particularly the $20 for SIM delivery which includes no credit – $5 would be more reasonable – although this is a one-off cost).

    Hope that helps!

  • kirk7

    I compared lebara with gotalk, and it seems gotalk is cheaper even if their flagfall is slightly higher.

  • lebara would have to be the cheapest pre paid i have come across especially for my use as i make a lot of international call and i have incorparated on my phone the mo call software which lets me also call on voip to any were in the world on very cheap rates its the only system that i have come across that can be used as a voip call with out having to connect on the internet
    but if u do have a internet connection then the calls are even cheaper 3g and most other phone companys charge for a tex at around 22c to 48 c so at 15 c using lebara text allows me to make a mo call from my mob phone the combination of the 2 is realy great value i have reduced my phone bill from 2500aud a mth to 470 aud a mthhttp://www.mo-call.com/en/

  • Nasir

    I’ve tried Lebara to make calls to Bangladesh & India. But due to 25c falgfall charge on each call, i found it expensive.

    The best service to call Bangladesh & India that I’ve found is the Teleway Pinless Acc. There is absolutely no flagfall charge, and no lengthy pin numbers. I can use it from my landline and also from my mobile. Their website is http://www.teleway.com.au

  • Arthur

    For cheap international calls try http://www.primekeeper.com. They provide low call rates rechargeable phone card US 1c, Australia 2c, China 2c, Singapore 2c … for complete rates see their site.

    I’ve been using their phone card for a while now and I’m saving a lot of money on international calls. They have free online notes keeper too which I’m using to save and access my notes online with no cost.

  • Shata hari

    Lot of calls to Lebara mobile go to voice mail even if the signal is full.Have to pay 15 cents to retrieve the voice mail.

  • Fred

    Use LYCAMOBILE……….Top quality and the Cheapest rates by far NATIONALLY and INTERNATIONALLY http://www.lycamobile.com.au

  • Me

    Believe me Lebara by far is number one in the market. So now its 0c per minute to India, Thialand, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam are now 1c per minute which i’ve got to say is AMAZING! i’ve tried lyca and that sim card is terrible. Voice Qualtiy is horrible, uses a 2G network & absolute rubbish at connection. Id stick to Lebara as the most convenient sim card to use to call overseas. Cheers :D

  • Roseeblue

    I am moving to live in China from Australia very soon and will be in Jinan. So what I am hearing is that Lebara is probably the cheapest network to make calls from Australia to China???? The post from Me Says suggests that calls to China are Oc. Can anyone confirm their experience with Lebara in China. Also does anyone know about mobile broadband services to use in China as well.