The mobile phone plan market is ever-increasing, and a player currently making a racket is Southern Phone. Operating on both the Telstra 3G network and the Optus 3G network, Southern Phone offers a large variety of postpaid mobile plans, available SIM-only on a month-to-month basis or over 24 months. With Southern Phone’s array of plans, you’ll be Yee-Hawing, driving NASCAR and eating southern fried chicken in no time. However, in a saturated mobile market such as Australia, how does Southern Phone stack up? This is our review and comparison.
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What is Southern Phone?
Founded in 2002, Southern Phone started out of concern for the lack of networks available to regional and rural communities. Following a grant of just under $5 million from the Australian Government at the time, Southern Phone developed a strategy to better service these areas. Nowadays, Southern Phone’s constitution stipulates that only Australian local governments can hold shares in the company. Dividends are paid to local governments, and these are used to fund local projects in the community. It’s a noble cause, but how do their plans look and fare?
What does Southern Phone offer?
Southern Phone offers 16 different postpaid mobile plans, each with varying degrees of data, text and call inclusions. Four are no-contract SIM-only plans, while 12 are on 24 month contracts, further divided by the two networks – Telstra and Optus. Let’s have a look at them below:
Plans on the Telstra network:
You’d be forgiven for being confused at what Southern Phone has to offer. Let’s start by looking at what they have to offer on the Telstra network, called the Southern 4G plans.
|Plan Name||Features||Price Per Month|
|Budget||$100 value, 100MB data||$15|
|Small||$200 value, unlimited texts, 200MB data||$20|
|Medium||$200 value, unlimited texts, 1.5GB data||$30|
|Large||Unlimited calls and texts, 2GB data||$40|
|XL||Unlimited calls and texts, 5GB data||$50|
|XXL||Unlimited calls and texts, 10GB data||$70|
Source: Southern Phone website
Southern Phone’s offerings on the Telstra network are vast and varied. Basically you can expect value to increase as you move up the price rungs. Southern Phone changed its plans up a bit in October 2016 to offer even more value. Value is really ramped up once you reach the $40 mark, as calls and texts are unlimited from then on. Though, what if you’re after a cheaper option?
With the Budget, Small and Medium plans, calls are charged at 99c per minute plus a 40 cent flagfall, which is pretty standard across most telcos in Australia. A text is 25c, MMS is 77c and 1MB of data costs 5c, with a minimum charge of 25c (i.e. you automatically use 5MB).
Overall these plans are great for someone living outside of a metro area, as Telstra has the widest coverage of any of the big three networks (Vodafone and Optus are the others). All are on a 24 month plans and what’s more is you can bundle a phone in with your plan, with a choice of up to nine phones. There is an array of phones ranging from entry-level to the high-end. For example, you can get a Samsung Galaxy S7 bundled from $59 per month. Other phones are as little as $2 a month extra on top of your plan, which represents solid value and is sure to entice a few customers over.
Plans on the Optus Network:
As for Telstra’s main nemesis, Optus also provides a wholesale network for Southern Phone, but Southern Phone is like Switzerland here. Southern also further treads the line between contracted plans and ones with no contract. On the Optus network, Southern Phone has six contracted plans, and four on no contract. Let’s get a briefing below:
|Price Per Month||Features|
No Contract Plans
|$20||$200 value, 500MB data|
|$25||$300 value, 750MB data|
|$35||Unlimited calls and texts, 2GB data|
|$40||Unlimited calls and texts, 3GB data|
|$15||$100 value, 100MB data|
|$20||$200 value, 1GB data|
|$30||$400 value, 1.5GB data|
|$40||Unlimited calls and texts, 2GB data|
|$50||Unlimited calls and texts, 5GB data|
|$70||Unlimited calls and texts, 10GB data|
Source: Southern Phone website
Similar to Southern Phone’s Telstra network plans, their included value rates on the Optus network are much the same. A standard text is 25c, standard two minute call $2.38 (99c per minute plus 40c flagfall) and data is charged at 5c per megabyte. Overall, now there is much more overlaps with Southern Phone’s Optus and Telstra plans – in fact, some plans are exactly the same. This ensures rural residents aren’t missing out on the best value or the best reception.
Value can be had in both categories, but our pick of the bunch would be the No Contract $40 plan. Here you can bring your own device and have the freedom of going month to month and changing whenever you see fit. Overall though, the split between Telstra/Optus and contract/no contract makes Southern Phone a peculiar yet interesting little telco. Let’s get a more detailed glance at what their plans are like on the Optus network below:
How does Southern Phone compare to other carriers?
Southern Phone’s 16 plans spread across two networks and further split into contract and no-contract options. To compare them with other providers, we’ll split them down further by cost and inclusions:
Plans $20 and under compared
At the budget end of the plan spectrum, Southern Phone competes alongside C Mobile, Think Mobile and Jeenee Mobile. While only one Southern plan is featured below, the message is clear – telcos fall behind if they don’t have any included data in this price bracket. While you can’t expect the world for under $20, many telcos offer at least 200MB. Southern Phone’s cheapest plan does not, but its $20 plan offers 500MB.
Plans $30 and under compared
$20 a month should see you with at least some data in your hot hands, which is a promising sign. Telcos in this price bracket generally offer at least 300MB of data. Southern Phone’s 24 month contract plan offers $200 value and 1GB data in this bracket. Competitors here are C Mobile, Virgin and TeleChoice. The latter might be the pick of the bunch here with 2GB data and $500 value for $20 a month on a no lock-in contract.
Plans in the $40-$50 range compared
This is where the value really starts to ramp up. Many plans now offer 5GB with no fuss, and many offer more. Here Southern Phone competes alongside Think Mobile, C Mobile and now Amaysim. The latter is the pick of the bunch here with 7GB data, and Southern Phone is let down by its data inclusions with the featured plan. However, Southern Phone does offer a plan with 5GB for $50. Overall, we say that 5GB is the new standard with plans in the $40 range.
Plans with at least 10GB data
Still a relatively uncommon sight among telcos, plans with 10GB are generally never going to be less than $40 per month, and with this much data in your hands it pays to shop around as prices can vary wildly. While Southern Phone is certainly not the most expensive with 10GB, it is let down slightly by its 3G-only data capability, and the fact that many telcos offer significantly more than 10GB. In this bracket, Southern Phone competes alongside stalwart Telstra, SpinTel and C Mobile. For its 10GB plan, Southern Phone sits in the middle of the road.
Is Southern Phone right for me?
Southern Phone’s wide variety of phone plans doesn’t mean it’s the best bang-for-buck telco out there. Frequently, the telco is outclassed by the likes of C Mobile, Think Mobile and even Telstra along the line of their plans – this is especially the case in data inclusions.
Though, where Southern Phone proves worthwhile is the fact they are split between Telstra and Optus, which means if you live in a rural area, then a Telstra plan could provide more adequate coverage. It’s nice to have this peace of mind. Their initiatives for rural Australia are also noble – if you’re living in a rural area then you may feel touched by Southern’s sentiment. This may well be enough to sway these people, but urban dwellers may not feel the same way.
The hard fact is that many urban people just want the best bang for buck and might not necessarily feel sympathy for the issues Southern Phone addresses. Overall, Southern Phone has a wide variety of plans from cheap to expensive; so chances are you’ll find a plan in your price range, but with a little more hunting around, you can find a lot more bang for buck elsewhere.