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Australian telco industry explained

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Australia has no shortage of options when it comes to finding a new phone plan, SIM card or internet provider. While it’s good to have plenty to choose from, finding one that suits your lifestyle and telco habits can be confusing, especially if you’ve only recently arrived Down Under and it’s your first time dealing with the Australian market.

With providers big and small available for you to choose from, which one should you sign up to? In this Canstar Blue guide, we’ll take you through the Australian telecommunications industry, the types of services and features that are available, and help you compare phone and internet plans to suit your needs.

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The following table shows a selection of sponsored SIM Only plans on Canstar Blue’s database with links to referral partners.

What is a telco?

‘Telco’ is short for ‘telecommunications provider’ here in Australia, with telecommunication the transmission of a message or signal through the use of wire, radio or other electromagnetic systems. So essentially, a ‘telco’ is a phone or internet provider.

What services do telcos provide in Australia?

Australian telcos offer a range of products and services for you to use, whether you’re looking for a phone, internet connection or both. Below are some of the more common services a telco can offer:

  • Phone on a plan: A contract between you and a telco, in which you usually pay on a monthly basis for a new phone bundled with a phone plan. You can often get the latest phones on a plan, with your device payments split over 12, 24 or 36 months which is then bundled with your choice of postpaid plan, which makes up your monthly plan cost.
  • Prepaid plans: A phone plan that doesn’t have a contract and you pre-pay for your service, typically with set inclusions. Prepaid plans run on an expiry period, and if you use up your allowance, you’ll either need to recharge or wait for your next expiry period. Typically prepaid plans are available as short-term plans (with a seven-day expiry), monthly plans (either monthly or over a 28 or 30 day expiry period) or as long-term plans over six or 12 months, sometimes called 365-day prepaid plans.
  • Postpaid plans: Working similar to any other type of bill, postpaid phone plans mean you pay for how much data, calls and texts you have used at the end of the billing cycle, rather than up front. You will have set inclusions and if you go over these inclusions for the billing cycle, you may be charged extra for the month.
  • Wireless broadband: An internet service that uses a 4G or 5G mobile network to provide internet access, similar to using mobile data on your phone. Wireless broadband (also sometimes called 4G home internet or 5G home internet) offers an alternative to a fixed-line connection in the home, using a modem that is plugged into a powerpoint to then create a home WiFi network with access to the internet via a mobile network.
  • Mobile broadband: Mobile broadband uses a 4G or 5G mobile network for internet access and is usually portable. It can come in the form of a data-only SIM card that can be used in a tablet device or smartphone, or it can be paired with a portable modem or USB dongle for internet access on the go.
  • NBN: The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a nation-wide internet service, which mostly offers fixed-line services but can include wireless or satellite connections. The NBN is the most common form of home internet services in Australia and offers NBN plans on a range of speed tiers to suit different households and internet usage needs.
  • Starlink: Starlink offers internet access Australia-wide using SpaceX operated low Earth orbit satellites. This is different to the NBN’s own satellite internet service, SkyMuster.

Read more: Best Mobile Plans chosen by our Experts


What are the major telcos in Australia: Phone services

Australia is home to a number of telcos, with the main providers – including the likes of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – known as ‘the big three’. There are multiple, smaller, telco providers that also operate in Australia (known as MVNOs), which utilise one of the networks offered by the big three.

Telstra

Telstra logo

The largest telecommunication company in Australia, Telstra was founded in 1975 following a change in the national communication sector. While it operated under the name ‘Telecom Australia’ until a name change in 1993, Telstra provided house phones, car phones and some of the first home internet services in Australia.

The name ‘Telstra’ comes from the word Telecom Australia (TEL from Telecom and STRA from Australia).

Today, Telstra is one of the main telecommunication providers for mobile phones and internet services, including all types of phone plans and internet plans and operates the largest mobile network. Similarly, you can get SIM cards, mobile broadband and business phones from Telstra, with products and services available either online or at physical stores around Australia.

Telstra iPhone 15 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Telstra plans for the 128GB iPhone 15 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our mobile phone comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Telstra Samsung Galaxy S24 Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month Telstra plans for the 256GB Samsung Galaxy S24 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Telstra Google Pixel 8 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Telstra plans for the 128GB Google Pixel 8 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our mobile phone comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Optus

optus logo

Founded in 1981, Optus is generally considered to be Australia’s second-largest telco provider. Originally known as Aussat Pty Limited before changing its name to Optus, the company offers a range of services similar to Telstra, including phone plans and internet deals, plus phones for businesses. The company is currently owned by Singapore telecommunications giant Singtel.

Optus is the second largest mobile network and also has hundreds of physical stores around Australia which you can visit, with services such as phone plans, prepaid SIM cards and internet plans also available to order online. Optus is known for its attractive telco features as some deals come with Optus Sport, which provides access to the English Premier League soccer.

Optus iPhone 15 Plans

The following table compares all 24-month Optus 128GB iPhone 15 plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

Optus Samsung Galaxy S24 Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month Optus plans for the 256GB Samsung Galaxy S24 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Optus Google Pixel 8 Plans

The following table compares a selection of 24-month Optus 128GB Google Pixel 8 plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

Vodafone

A global brand that operates in 25 countries, Vodafone was founded in 1991, and entered the Australian market in 1993. Today, Vodafone is the third largest mobile network and has stores around Australia, offers phone plans, internet services, and the latest phones and tablets. It is also part of the TPG Telecom group after both companies merged in 2020.

Vodafone is known for offering big data phone plans, along with 5G network access and once you use up your data allowance, you can continue using your data at 2Mbps capped speeds.

Vodafone iPhone 15 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Vodafone plans for the 128GB iPhone 15 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Vodafone Samsung Galaxy S24 Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month Vodafone plans for the 256GB Samsung Galaxy S24 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Vodafone Google Pixel 8 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Vodafone plans for the 128GB Google Pixel 8 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our mobile phone comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)

There are many smaller telcos in Australia which use one of the networks from the big three providers to offer mobile phone services. These telcos typically offer prepaid or postpaid SIM-only plans and can be a more budget-friendly alternative to the plans offered by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Here are some of the MVNOs currently offering mobile phone plans in Australia:

Compare SIM-only phone plans

The following table shows a selection of published postpaid SIM plans with 5G access on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published prepaid SIM plans with 5G access on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

What are the major telcos in Australia: Internet services

Australia’s internet market is a very crowded one when compared to Australian telcos offering mobile services. While there are dominant providers in this space, there is much more competition as the most popular home internet type, NBN, is offered by a large pool of telecom companies in Australia.

Telstra

Just as Telstra is the biggest player when it comes to phone services, Telstra is also the largest telco in Australia when it comes to internet services, specifically NBN plans. In addition to NBN plans, Telstra also offers 5G home internet plans and mobile broadband plans, including plans bundled with a modem or dongle.

TPG

TPG is the second largest internet provider, especially when it comes to NBN market share. It is part of the TPG Telecom group, which includes Vodafone and iiNet, and offers NBN services along with home wireless broadband, 5G home broadband and other fibre internet services.

Optus

Optus has the third-largest NBN market share, but it offers much more than just NBN plans. You can also sign up to 4G or 5G home wireless broadband plans, and it also offers mobile broadband plans and devices.

Dodo/iPrimus

Both Dodo and iPrimus are part of the same company, Vocus, which is the fourth largest telco in Australia by NBN market share. Both providers only offer internet services with NBN, but Dodo also offers energy plans, making it one of the few telcos to offer the option to bundle utilities plans.

Aussie Broadband

While Aussie Broadband is one of the smaller telcos in Australia to offer internet services, it has the largest market share out of the smaller providers. Aussie Broadband offers both NBN and Opticomm internet services.


Related: Who are the biggest internet providers in Australia?


More telcos offering internet services in Australia

The above mentioned brands are only a few offering internet services in Australia. If you’re looking for NBN plans, it’s a very crowded market with well over 100 providers to choose from. Some of the more well-known and popular NBN providers are:

Compare more NBN providers and plans

Unlimited NBN 100 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 100 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Unlimited NBN 50 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 50 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Unlimited NBN 25 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 25 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Unlimited NBN 12 Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited NBN 12 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

What should I look for when choosing a telco in Australia?

This mostly depends on what service or services you’re after — whether it’s just phone, just internet or a telco that offers both.

If you’re just looking for a phone plan, you will want to consider which mobile network is best for you, whether you would like a phone on a plan or a SIM-only plan (and whether you want prepaid or postpaid) and other factors such as data inclusions and the plan’s cost.

For internet services, the decision may be based on which internet type you want. If you’re after a wireless broadband or mobile broadband plan, your pool of Australian telcos will be much smaller. However, for NBN, you’ll have more of a choice of providers and will want to consider which speed tier you need, the cost, and any extras like included modems or entertainment add ons.

Of course, if you’re looking to bundle your phone and internet, you’ll need to look at telcos in Australia that offer both phone and internet services. Some of these telcos may offer discounts for bundling services, so your choice may come down to which provider offers the best value for money.

Emma Bradstock
Telco Specialist
Emma Bradstock has been an authority on consumer phone, internet, technology and streaming markets in Australia for over 5 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media from Macquarie University and has over a decade of professional writing experience in print and digital media.

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