Australian Mobile Phone Costs

I previously wrote about the changes to bundling prices by Virgin (which are similar to changes by other telcos) which make it uneconomical to take a bundled phone [1]. This makes it a little easier to compare telcos as there is no need to be concerned about which telcos offer phones you like. Now it’s just a matter of call costs and this is easier to assess when the cost of a phone isn’t adding to the confusion.

Comparing Australian Telcos

I’m currently with Virgin and I’ve found them to be OK in every way. They use the Optus network which isn’t as good as the Telstra network but which supports more phones. Virgin charge $19 per month for a SIM without a phone, that gives you $450 worth of calls at a rate of $0.99 per minute + $0.40 connection and $0.28 SMS – as well as free calls to other Virgin customers [2]. If the people you call most are on Virgin it’s going to be almost impossible to use the $450 at those rates. The $19 plan only includes 250MB of data per month, for an extra $5 you can get another 500MB or for $10 you can get 2GB. For my use $29 is probably the right plan, for my wife $19 would do.

Vodafone doesn’t offer free calls to other Vodafone customers unless you are on a $30 per month plan, but that plan only gives 500MB of data measured in 12KB increments so that’s going to be expensive. Also Vodafone have had some quality problems recently so I’m not going to link to them.

Optus has some interesting options, they start with a $14 per month plan that includes 50MB of data and 500SMS – that could be good value if you do lots of SMS [3]. Also all their plans give free 5 minute calls to other phones on the same account – this would be good if your SO is on the same phone account as you. Their plans offer small amounts of data and no apparent option for adding more which is a real problem for anyone who wants to use the Internet seriously.

Telstra are really expensive, their web site is poorly designed, and they tell me to use Windows or a Mac. Everyone who spends most of their time in urban areas shouldn’t consider them, the only reason for using Telstra is their coverage of rural areas.

Internode have a new mobile phone service based on the Optus network which offers good value for money [4]. They start with a $10 per month plan that includes $165 of calls and SMS. The call cost is $0.90 per minute plus $0.35 flagfall and the SMS cost is $0.25. It also includes 100MB of data charged at 1KB increments. The $20 per month plan from Internode includes $450 of calls $1000 of free calls to other Internode mobile phones, and 1.5G of data transfer. Internode also has a $15 charge for sale and delivery of the SIM. Internode also offer 150GB of free “social networking” traffic, I wonder whether it would be viable to tunnel some other protocol over Twitter or Facebook…

TPG also has some good offers, $18 per month gives you 1.5GB of data measured in 10KB increments and $550 of phone calls at a cost of $0.90 per minute with $0.35 flagfall and $0.253 SMS cost and unlimited calls and SMS to other TPG mobile and land-line phones [5]. The $10 plan from TPG offers $2000 of free calls to other TPG phones, so if you only need 250MB of data in 10KB increments (which is a lot less than 250MB in 1KB increments) and want lots of free calls to your SO then TPG could be really good. I’d rather pay an extra $2 to Internode and get data measured in 1KB increments.


My usage pattern includes a reasonably large number of calls to my wife and more than 500MB of data use every month. For this pattern the Internode plan is the cheapest for me and for my wife. It seems that a large portion of the phone using population who use the Internet a lot would find this to be an ideal plan.

TPG is another good option, particularly for people who use TPG ADSL as they get a discount on the call rates and free calls to their land-line.

It seems to me that anyone who uses a mobile phone enough that a pre-paid option isn’t cheaper and who doesn’t need the coverage that only Telstra can provide will be best served by Internode or TPG.

I plan to transition to Internode some time after my current Virgin contract ends. I will probably delay the transition until the contracts for some of my wife’s relatives expire. If we all migrate at the same time then we keep getting free calls to each other – my relatives don’t use mobile phones much so there’s no money to save on calling them for free.

2 comments to Australian Mobile Phone Costs

  • Jafar

    Hi Russell
    Have you looked at Liveconnected? It also uses Optus network.
    I am moving my SO to Liveconnected next month when her prepaid runs out.

    *For example:
    $17.99 plan gets you:
    $700 of calls
    $900 to other Liveconnected
    Unlimited Text

    It seems that if you don’t need much support, and don’t mind Optus coverage, this might be the cheapest option (there is a dedicated thread for this on Whirlpool, as usual)

  • Russell, check out LiveConnected, they’re the “Value kings” at the moment, especially their $12 plan: . They’re even skipping the usual $20 signup fee at the moment, that TPG still charge:
    In fact LC came first around a year ago, then TPG effectively did a “me too” copy/paste of their plans. But then LC added more bang-for-buck, and TPG have not responded. Both use Optus, and seem to have the same callrates/flagfalls/SMS/voicemail/etc charges, so for once their “included value” figures are directly comparable.
    Note: I’m still with TPG on their $10/month plan because it’s okay for my needs, and includes international calls, and has a voice phone number for support unlike LC’s email-only support approach, but in terms of raw bang-for-buck (especially given your data use), the $12/month LiveConnected plan on the Optus network is probably the pick right now.
    Cheers, Nick.