There’s an unprecedented level of telco competition out there these days. No longer are you bound by the likes of Optus, Telstra, Vodafone or Virgin. Now, there are more than 30 mobile phone or broadband service providers all jostling for your attention. Though, if your conscience is concerned with outsourcing to third world countries, foreign ownership, or just keeping jobs and profits here in Australia, have you considered an Aussie-owned telco? They are out there. Choosing an Aussie-owned telco may be one of the few instances where ‘keeping it in the family’ could be of benefit.
So, which telcos are really Australian-owned?
The table below shows which telcos are Australian-owned and which are foreign-owned.
|Amaysim||Phone & internet||Australian|
|Bendigo Bank Telco||Phone plans||Australian|
|Dodo||Phone & internet||Australian|
|Exetel||Phone & internet||Australian|
|iiNet||Phone & internet||Australian|
|Jeenee Mobile||Phone plans||Australian|
|Kogan Mobile||Phone plans||Australian|
|Optus||Phone & internet||Foreign|
|OVO Mobile||Phone plans||Australian|
|SpinTel||Phone & internet||Australian|
|Telstra||Phone & internet||Australian|
|TPG||Phone & internet||Australian|
There’s a story behind every telco – stories of mergers, acquisitions and money, big money. The telco landscape in Australia sometimes resembles more of a scene out of Othello than boring old satellites and surly businessmen. Let’s dive in and find out what exactly is ‘Australian’ about these providers.
Amaysim caused a racket a few years ago when it became one of first MVNO to drastically up the ante in the world of mobile phone plans. Founded in 2010 by a group of Aussies, Amaysim joined with European MVNO ‘Simyo’. In March 2015, it offered 4G data for the first time, and now enjoy success as one of the most popular MVNOs out there, consistently performing well in our customer satisfaction reviews, with a competitive range of prepaid and postpaid mobile phone and data plans on the Optus 4G Network. In 2016, Amaysim acquired fellow low-cost mobile carrier Vaya, taking its customer base to over 1 million. Headquartered in Sydney, Amaysim went public in 2015 and now trade on the ASX. It has also revealed plans to offer broadband services from 2017.
Bendigo Bank Telco
Yes, that’s right, a bank can offer mobile phone plans too. As one of Australia’s oldest banks, Bendigo Bank decided it was time to dip its toes into the telco world, offering four competitive postpaid plans on the Optus 4G Network, which really lends credence to Optus as a strong wholesaler to the MVNOs out there. Its headquarters – as the name suggests – is located in Bendigo, Victoria, with a major office in Adelaide after it merged with Adelaide Bank in 2007.
As the “Internet that flies”, Dodo is a name familiar to many Australians. Around for over 15 years now, Dodo has always been an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but now offers a great range of cheap mobile phone plans, operating off of the Optus 4G Network. In 2013, Dodo was acquired by M2 Group, another Australian-owned conglomerate focusing in telecommunications. You’ll find that a lot of companies are owned by this group, including iPrimus. M2 is a publically-traded company, so its shareholders are likely from all over the world.
Founded in the early 1990s, originally as a consulting company, Exetel expanded to provide broadband services in 2004. It is now one of the biggest names in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and also has a range of very competitive mobile phone plans operating on the Optus 4G Network. A privately-owned company, Exetel’s headquarters is in Sydney. According to its website, Exetel donates a portion of its profits to wildlife conservation projects, namely for endangered Australian species.
Founded in the early 1990s out of a Perth garage, iiNet has expanded to become one of the largest ISPs in Australia. Throughout the years, it has acquired some smaller ISPs – namely Westnet and Internode – but in September 2015 iiNet was itself purchased by TPG in a big-money merger worth an estimated $1.5bn. iiNet offers a range of good-value broadband plans, on which it has built its reputation, but it also provides a modest offering of competitive mobile phone plans on the Optus 4G Network.
Internode is one of the few true ‘Aussie battler’ startup success stories. The company was founded by Simon Hackett in 1991 in Adelaide, then a Computer Science graduate. He built a name for himself by being one of the first in the ‘Internet of things’ timeline; in 1990 with a mate he was one of the first in the world to connect an appliance to the internet – a Sunbeam toaster. Since then Internode has been acquired by iiNet – in 2011 for over $100 million. This makes Internode effectively a subsidiary of TPG. Today it’s a popular provider of all things internet, including ADSL, business internet, web hosting and VOIP services. The company is still based in Adelaide.
Like Exetel, Jeenee is somewhat of a telco with a conscience, donating profits to charity and supporting people with disabilities to get access to mobile phones. Jeenee has really sprung up in the last few years and now offers a large range of mobile phone plans on the Optus 4G Network. Its plans frequently beat out those from other MVNOs in terms of basic value. A small social enterprise, Jeenee Mobile is based in Western Sydney and claims to be people-driven, not profit-driven. A small social enterprise,
Chances are you’ve probably heard of Kogan. It is one of Australia’s largest online department stores, specialising in consumer electronics and more recently groceries. But what you might not realise is that Kogan has a range of cheap mobile phone plans on the Vodafone 4G Network. Owned by entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan, Kogan Mobile has ruffled a few feathers in both the retail and telco sectors. It has taken over the online operations of Dick Smith and has gone public on the ASX. Kogan has also expanded into several different countries, but remains headquartered in Melbourne.
Lebara is a worldwide, budget-focused MVNO. In Australia it runs off the Vodafone 4G Network, but it operates in seven other countries. The idea for Lebara – a telco targeting the college-age demographic – was born in Norway, and today its headquarters are based in London. As you might suspect, Lebara’s phone plans have great international calling and text rates, making them a great option for expats and exchange students. For example, you can call Canada from as little as 1c a minute. Australia-wide, it’s a fairly small telco, but worldwide its revenue exceeds €560m. Although foreign-owned, its plans are solid value with generous international inclusions.
Who could forget Australia’s second-largest telco? Optus is one of the few full-service telcos out there, delivering fixed line broadband and phone plans. Born out of the government-owned ‘Aussat’ before privatisation, Optus can trace its roots back to 1981, but it wasn’t until the 90s that Optus really came into its own. However in 2001, Optus was wholly acquired by Singtel, a Singapore-based telco company. Optus’ headquarters are still in Sydney, but ownership by Singtel means that at least some of its profits are going offshore. That doesn’t mean you should give Optus the cold shoulder – it frequently outplays Telstra in the value stakes with its broadband and mobile phone plans.
A relatively new telco player, OVO Mobile has taken it up a notch in terms of included mobile value. In addition to big-data phone plans, it also offers unmetered and unlimited streaming of the V8 Supercars, Gymnastics Australia and the Audi Sport Customer Racing. So, if you’re into motorsport or gymnastics, OVO may be up your alley. Based in Sydney, OVO is one of the many MVNOs operating on the Optus 4G Network.
SpinTel seems rather patriotic about its heritage – its mascot is a koala! The small telco has been around since 1996, and has won a litany of awards in its 20-year tenure. It has a range of mobile phone plans, as well as NBN plans. In fact, its NBN plans are some of the cheapest going around. SpinTel prides itself on customer service and its headquarters are in Sydney. From humble beginnings, SpinTel has grown into a ‘true blue’ telco. If you’re after an alternative from the Telstras and Optuses of the world for your phone and NBN needs, SpinTel could fit the bill.
TeleChoice is one of the oldest MVNOs in this list, founded in 1995. Originally founded as a dealership, TeleChoice expanded to offer its own plans. Now it gets the best of both worlds, with a handful of ‘brick and mortar’ stores across Australia, as well as a range of great value postpaid mobile plans on Telstra’s networks. TeleChoice encourage you to commit to a longer-term contract by offering more data and inclusions for the same price or cheaper. Distinctly Aussie, TeleChoice is headquartered in Melbourne.
Originating at Federation in 1901 as a government department, Telstra was born out of the need for a centralised telecommunications company. It was a wholly government-owned company until the 1990s and was fully privatised in 2006. Since then Telstra has rapidly expanded to offer a comprehensive suite of broadband and mobile phone plans including prepaid and postpaid plans. While it doesn’t always enjoy the best reputation, you can’t help but give credit to Telstra for playing a huge part in the telco landscape in Australia. Unlike many of its main competitors, Telstra is its own entity, headquartered in Melbourne. It’s also publically listed, trading on the ASX. Since going public, Telstra has enjoyed great success and is now one of the biggest Australian companies.
As one of the largest telcos in Australia, TPG certainly has its fingers in all kinds of pies. In recent years, it has shot to prominence, culminating in the acquisition of iiNet in 2015. TPG – or Total Peripherals Group – as it is almost never referred to, is headquartered in Sydney. It offers competitive mobile phone plans as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) on the Vodafone 4G Network. It also, of course, provides a comprehensive range of broadband plans, including some of the cheapest NBN contracts around. TPG is now a powerful force to be reckoned with challenging the traditional custodians of our telco plans.
Vaya is an interesting beast indeed. Offering great-value mobile phone plans, Vaya holds the title for having the cheapest unlimited mobile phone plan in Australia, at $16 a month. In January 2016 after accruing a poor reputation for customer service, Vaya was bought out by Amaysim for around $70m. Piggybacking off the Optus 4G network, Vaya is popular for its cheap plans, and also its ‘price match guarantee’ – meaning Vaya will beat any other provider should you find a cheaper comparable plan. Its bigger brother Amaysim should help with the customer service issues, and keeps the low-cost telco in Aussie hands.
We all know that it was enigmatic billionaire Richard Branson who started the Virgin brand. Together with Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, Virgin is seen as one of the ‘Big 4’ telcos in Australia, but it doesn’t have its own network – instead relying on Optus to deliver its service. Virgin Mobile offers a suite of different kinds of mobile phone plans, from prepaid, month to month and bundled handset plans. As you’d expect, Virgin Mobile is but a pawn in the Virgin game, owned by Virgin Australia Holdings, which is subsequently a subsidiary of the Virgin Group – a multi-billion dollar conglomerate founded in 1970 by Mr Branson himself, and based in London. Although its holding company is based in Australia, the Virgin brand as a whole is foreign-owned.
Vodafone is similar to Virgin in that it’s part of a much larger worldwide telco endeavour. As a whole, Vodafone is one of the largest telecommunications companies on the planet, operating in no less than 26 different countries. The Vodafone Group was founded in 1991, and quickly rose to becoming a huge British multinational with headquarters in London. Back to Australia, and Vodafone is one of the three main telcos with its own network. It has a range of phone plans, from prepaid, month to month and handset plans. Its Australian venture combined with its worldwide endeavours makes it one of the top companies listed on the FTSE 100, and Vodafone is also listed on the NASDAQ.
As the name suggests, Westnet is an Aussie-owned ISP based out of Perth. Its headquarters are in Geraldton, and it provides various broadband plans across Australia. The company was founded in 1994, born out of a need for Western Australians’ access to better internet. In 2008, Westnet was acquired by iiNet – just one of many companies – and iiNet was then bought out by TPG, making Westnet effectively a subsidiary of TPG. Westnet’s deal with iiNet was worth $81 million, however Westnet is still a separate entity providing internet services Australia-wide.
Does it matter if your telco is foreign-owned?
Like with many other products and services in Australia, buying Australian-made or owned is a popular choice for many consumers. Whether it’s for the perceived increase in quality, or for ethical purposes, Australian-made or owned products and services are frequently sought out. Unfortunately, there’s no green kangaroo label to ensure you’re buying Australian, and even if your provider is locally-owned, it could still utilise overseas call centres.
With a little digging, you can find out which telcos remain in Australia. However, what exactly is the benefit of buying Australian? For one it helps keep a sector of the public employed, and you do help keep company profits within the country, thereby benefiting the country overall. However, limiting your choice to Aussie companies may leave you stuck without a broadband or mobile plan. Unless your heart is burning for Aussie-owned telcos, you might be able to find better value elsewhere, or achieve a better overall experience. “Australian-owned” in the telco world doesn’t necessarily equate to “better”, but it may be a deciding factor for many people.