A guide to family data sharing


We’ve all been there – running out of mobile data at the most inconvenient moment. It always comes when you want to want that cat video your friend tagged you in, or when you absolutely must check Facebook, read your emails, or watch the latest episode of your favourite Netflix show on the bus ride home from work. Surely there’s something you can do about it that doesn’t include outrageous excess data charges?

While there are phone plans out there that don’t charge for extra data, they tend to slow your speeds down so much that it’s like extracting teeth. No, you need a better solution than that – those cat videos demand it. With some people’s plan allowances coming up short, and others having data to burn, there seems to be an obvious solution: Why not pool all those resources together and get the ultimate bang for your family buck? After all, ‘many hands make light work’ and all that stuff. Think of data sharing like mobile communism, except it actually works.

What is family data sharing?

Family data sharing is when a household can pool separate mobile phone plans together on one bill and share the collective data. Customers who sign up for multiple postpaid mobile plans with the one billing account can combine all their data inclusions together. Plans like these tend to start at around $30 for each plan and obviously work their way up as you pile in more data.

Think of family data sharing like a mixed lolly bag – there’s something for everyone. This means that if Mother Shirley doesn’t need all of her data one month, Daughter Kathleen can take some of hers because the school formal is coming up and she needs to send 1000 Snapchat photos of her dress to her friends.

family data sharing guideIs data sharing a good idea?

Data sharing is the ultimate solution to mobile woes for the family unit, but some cooperation is needed. Overall, some ground rules will need to be laid out and communication set to make sure every member of the scheme is happy and left satisfied with their data inclusions. All families have different data needs, with some people in the house using more than others.

With family data sharing, you can combine all the mobile plans registered to your home on the same bill and make the most of everyone’s data. This is ideal for families whose data usage needs change frequently, or for parents who want to give their kids access to greater download quotas. Canstar Blue research shows that 35 per cent of young Australians (aged 18-29) on a postpaid plan regularly exceed their data allowance, while just 8% of those in their 50s do likewise. So data sharing is a great concept, but making sure kids aren’t biting off more than they can chew through is also important.

What are the best providers for family data sharing?

If you’ve dreamed of data sharing, now it can be a reality. Several telcos have finally cottoned on to the idea of data sharing mobile phone plans, including Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. All carriers start their data sharing plans around $30-$35 a month.

Optus tells us there are around one million households who would want to sign up for family data sharing. With Telstra and Vodafone now offering similar deals, the number of Aussie families who pool their mobile data will no doubt increase rapidly.

To help you out on your quest for a family plan, we’ve checked what’s on offer from the current providers in terms of data sharing.

Telstra Data Sharing Plans

Australia’s largest telco has come to the data sharing game, allowing you to share data between mobile phones, tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots all across a single, easy to use plan. So how does it work, exactly? Telstra data sharing is done under the ‘Go Mobile’ phone plans:

  • You start with a ‘Go Mobile’ phone plan, which cost $55, $70, $95 or $130 a month for contracted options. Non-contract options are $35, $50 and $70 a month
  • The cost of an additional phone plan is $40 per month, which includes unlimited calls and texts
  • You can bundle up to five SIM cards together on the one plan
  • The data sharing luxury costs an extra $5 per month
  • Data is automatically billed at an extra $10 a gigabyte for any excess data used
  • You can choose a different configuration every 60 days

This brings the minimum cost for a shared plan to $80 a month, which equates to the $35 plan with a $40 shared plan, and the $5 data sharing SIM. For any more data, you can add $10 on top of that figure, and so on. Below is a snippet of the range of plans that Telstra gives you the ability to share data with.

Vodafone Data Sharing Plans

Following the introduction of Vodafone’s updated plan range, all of its ‘Red’ plans are now eligible for data sharing. You can share data in one big pool between multiple plans on one account. The main plan – the one that manages all the others – must be a 12 or 24 month Red plan.

You can enjoy Vodafone’s data sharing on both mobile phone plans and mobile broadband SIM plans. These data plans range from $10 a month for 1GB of 4G data to $60 per month for 12GB. There are no extra costs to data sharing, or cost benefits either. The main benefit lies in having one, easy bill to manage with Vodafone. So if you’ve got multiple devices spread across the whole family it makes sense to pay them all off at once. Here are some plans you can pool together:

Optus Data Sharing Plans

The first provider to enable family data sharing was Optus, which offers the benefit on all of its postpaid ‘My Plan Plus’ subscriptions. What’s more, all of these mobile plans already come with unlimited talk and text, making it an even better deal. For more information on the telco’s current plan range, check out our review of Optus mobile plans.

Like Vodafone, there are no extra apparent costs for the privilege of pooling your data with other plans. The only caveat is that you’re restricted to eligible postpaid plans – bundled or SIM-only. Optus’ plans, however, tend to offer greater value and lower prices, so why not bundle them together for one easy bill and pooled data? Here are some of the plans available to be data-shared:

Is data-sharing worth it?

The Big 3 telcos are competing in terms of data sharing and who offers the best value. As it stands, there is no obvious cost benefit to stitching plans together to then share the data around. In fact, Telstra even charges you an extra $5 for the privilege. The only two obvious benefits are:

  • You get one easy bill (that mum probably pays)
  • Being able to share data, which may prevent some members of the family from going over their caps (i.e. mum can’t watch Netflix because daughter wants to share pics on Instagram)

The last point in particular may save some money, however, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus offer no other financial incentives for giving your money to them for two plans or more, which is rather disappointing. If you’re in charge of paying for the family mobile phone bills every month, it can be more convenient to pool them all together, and this alone may be enough to sway you to data share. However, if you’re doing it for any money saving initiatives, then data sharing currently presents none.

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