Canstar Blue’s annual review of mobile broadband providers compares providers Virgin Mobile, Amaysim, Optus, Vodafone, Dodo & Telstra based on value for money, customer service, network performance, bill clarity, contract clarity, ease of activation & overall satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Gone are the days of dialup and measly data allowances that cost an arm and a leg – nowadays even mobile broadband plans come with good amounts of data relatively cheaply. Mobile data is the ultimate for flexibility and browsing on the move, so get the lowdown on which providers offer the best bang for your buck with Canstar Blue’s 2018 mobile broadband review and ratings.
This year we’ve surveyed more than 1,000 mobile broadband customers to offer some guidance. While everyone wants a bargain, it should be noted that the cheapest plans may not necessarily mean the best value. That’s something to keep in mind when we mention smaller service providers later. Our customer ratings have put Australia’s big three telcos to the test in Vodafone, Optus and Telstra, while also featuring some smaller providers in Virgin Mobile, Amaysim and Dodo.
When shopping for a mobile broadband plan, you are presented with several options – do you go the SIM-only route or purchase it with a dongle or pocket Wi-Fi device. SIM-only plans can be great for your tablet or mobile device, while dongles can be plugged into laptops and pocket Wi-Fi can even be used to replace your home internet. With 5G around the corner, it’s an exciting time to be a mobile broadband customer – so what are the best deals?
Compared to other providers, Virgin Mobile offers a fairly simple approach to its mobile broadband plans, utilising the Optus 4G network.
Plans start at $15/month for 3GB data over 12 months, and if you are willing to spend $50+ and sign up for 12 months you will see big data bonuses over the month-to-month plans. Virgin Mobile was rated five-stars overall and five stars in every category – including key ones such as customer service and value for money.
Amaysim is another Optus network reseller and has five dead-simple mobile broadband plans to choose from, with the choice of either a prepaid or postpaid plan.
At the upper end of the scale, Amaysim offers 100GB data for $70 a month, which is one of the more competitive deals out there. Amaysim was rated four-stars overall and in most categories, except in customer service, network performance and bill clarity where it achieved three-stars.
Optus has a comprehensive array of mobile broadband plans, with the ability to bundle in a dongle or pocket Wi-Fi modem. Its SIM-only deals come on either a month-to-month or 12-month contract, with significant incentives to sign on for longer.
Customers also get access to data-free music streaming and included Optus Sport on many plans. On the rare occasions where Optus foregoes its big data inclusions, it more than makes up for it with extra stuff, that’s nice to have. Optus was rated four-stars overall and for most other categories.
Vodafone has a large range of mobile broadband plans – some have mobile dongles or pocket Wi-Fi modems included. Its SIM-only plans start at $15, which seems to be the going rate. Users have the choice of a month-to-month, 12-month or 24-month contract that bundles in a device.
With these plans, Vodafone includes all the usual perks such as $5 roaming, large amounts of bonus data, discounts and more. Vodafone was rated four stars overall, and notably achieved five stars for customer service.
Dodo has been around for quite some time now, primarily plying its wares in the fixed line broadband sector. But ‘the internet that flies’ also provides a suite of mobile broadband plans. Dodo is yet another provider that offers mobile broadband with devices bundled in, as well as SIM only plans.
Dodo’s offerings are comprehensive yet generally priced a little higher than the competition. Dodo was rated three stars for overall satisfaction in our review and for every other category, except for network performed where it achieved just two stars.
Out of the providers in this list, it’s perhaps unsurprising to discover that Telstra has probably the most comprehensive array of plans. Customers can opt for a SIM-only, device-bundled or tablet-bundled plan. Users have the ability to choose between month-to-month, 12 or 24-month plans.
What Telstra lacks in data, it may more than make up for with streaming goodies and other bonuses. Telstra was rated three stars overall yet achieve four stars in some important areas such as network performance, bill clarity and ease of activation.
The above brands primarily feature postpaid mobile broadband. Postpaid generally renews month to month, while with prepaid you can buy recharges that last up to… an entire year. If you aren’t a heavy user and just want an easy prepaid SIM for occasional browsing, a prepaid deal could be the way to go.
Prepaid gives users the ultimate control as if you run out of data, you have to manually recharge rather than having data automatically added. Below is an indicator of the type of prepaid plans available.
If you’re after unlimited data mobile broadband – and let’s face it, who isn’t – then there is a burgeoning market for it. It’s called ‘home wireless’ and can theoretically replace your home internet. In most cases, you setup your 4G modem and use it like normal internet – no wires, no installation and setup can take less than five minutes.
To get unlimited data, you usually need to spend around $90 a month, and speeds may be rated to 12Mbps to deal with network prioritisation.
Aside from the few mentioned above, there are around 30 providers out there, and many phone plan providers also double up to offer mobile broadband. After all, mobile broadband is essentially a phone plan without the calls and texts. Other providers worth keeping an eye out for include:
Smaller service providers tend to operate with lower overheads and can therefore deliver more data often at a cheaper price. However, in terms of ‘extra stuff’, such as data-free streaming, they may lack behind. It’s important to consult Critical Information Summaries here to see what you’re getting.
4G theoretical speeds can exceed 100Mbps, which is fast enough to stream TV shows and sports. However, in real-world scenarios, mobile broadband speeds typically only reach around 30Mbps to 50Mbps, and even slower in congested areas or times.
4G is still reasonably quick for internet on the go, but 5G will be a gamechanger. There are some factors that can affect your mobile broadband speeds, however.
Australians are spending an average of just over $77 per month on mobile broadband, which is a fairly large amount considering average spending on fixed-line internet connections is between $70 and $90 per month, our research shows.
No matter what type of broadband plan you need, it’s important to do your research to find a data limit that’s appropriate and at a price you’re happy to pay. Although they may not necessarily make or break a plan, consider other bonuses such as data-free streaming and other perks. Happy browsing!
Canstar Blue surveyed 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have a mobile broadband plan in their name and they pay the bills – in this case, 1,063 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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