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Woman looking at phone trying to find network coverage outdoors

Which network has the best mobile coverage in Australia: Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone

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When it comes to choosing a phone plan, for some of us, mobile network coverage is high on the priority list. If you live in a more densely populated area, it’s likely you’ll not have an issue finding good mobile coverage. But, for those in regional and remote areas, and even some metropolitan areas which somehow seem to miss out on a solid connection, finding good network coverage is vital.

So, if you’re looking for a new phone plan, or are perhaps fed up with your current plan’s dodgy connection, we’ll take a look at the different mobile networks in Australia and hopefully help you to find which network is right for you.

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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 mobile networks are there in Australia?

There are only three mobile networks in Australia: the Telstra network, Optus network and Vodafone network. Each of these telcos build their own mobile network throughout the country with different technology types. While 4G networks are the most widely available (with 3G still also available for the time being), 5G networks are the latest technology type being rolled out on the three mobile networks in Australia.

Keep in mind that not all areas will be covered by all three mobile networks. Likewise, not all areas will currently have access to the different mobile networks, with 5G still being progressively rolled out by the three telcos. For regional and remote areas, the Mobile Blackspot Program is a government-run initiative in cooperation with the three mobile networks, which aims to extend coverage by building and upgrading more mobile base stations.

Which mobile network has the best coverage in Australia — Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone

When it comes to the ‘best’ mobile coverage in Australia, there isn’t an easy answer. The best coverage for you, might not be the same as the best coverage for someone else. However, coverage can be measured by how much of the population is covered by that network.

Using that metric, Telstra is the clear winner when it comes to mobile coverage with 99.5% of the population covered by the Telstra mobile network (3G and 4G) and 10,700 mobile base stations across the country. Optus comes in second with 98.5% of the Australian population covered by 3G and 4G (with 97.3% covered by 4G Plus), while Vodafone slightly trails behind the others with 96% of the metropolitan population covered.

Of course, the best mobile coverage will depend on what coverage you can get where you live and any areas you frequently travel to. It’s for that reason that you should check your address (and other areas you travel to) on the maps the telcos provide on their websites, to see what networks have the best coverage in your area.

Telstra mobile network

Covering 99.5% of the population, Telstra has the most extensive mobile network in Australia. Rural customers might prefer this network if they’re unable to get service from one of the other networks. Telstra’s wholesale network, used by MVNOs, covers 98.8% of the population rather than the full 99.5%. The only exception to this rule is Boost Mobile, which has access to Telstra’s full network.

The following table shows the two cheapest Telstra postpaid SIM-only plans 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 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 the two cheapest Telstra 24-month 128GB iPhone 13 plans 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 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 the two cheapest Telstra prepaid SIM-only plans 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 comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

Optus mobile network

For most Aussies, Optus’ network coverage is going to be fine, reaching 98.5% of the population. However, rural and remote customers may find that it doesn’t quite have the reach to give them the best signal. Optus does offer a Coverage Commitment, so if you have coverage issues on its network, you can cancel and Optus will cover any cancellation fees and any remaining device charges (granted you return the device in good working order). Unlike Telstra, MVNOs have full access to the Optus network, which means that you can get the same level of coverage through a smaller telco. However, you won’t get access to Optus-specific perks such as a discounted rate on Optus Sport.

The following table shows the two cheapest Optus postpaid SIM-only plans 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 comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

The following table shows the two cheapest Optus 36-month 128GB iPhone 15 plans 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 comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

The following table shows several of the cheapest Optus prepaid SIM-only plans 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 comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

Vodafone mobile network

Often coming in as the cheaper option, Vodafone’s mobile network coverage reaches 96% of the Australian population. Whilst this is slightly behind the likes of Optus and Telstra, many Aussies will still find that their area is covered.

The following table shows the two cheapest Vodafone postpaid SIM-only plans 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 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 the two cheapest Vodafone 36-month 128GB iPhone 15 plans 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 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 the two cheapest Vodafone prepaid SIM-only plans 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 comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Compare plans from all three networks

If you want to compare plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, the following table shows a selection of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard advertised monthly cost, lowest cost first, then by data allowance. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products which may contain links to referral partners.

How good is mobile coverage from smaller telcos?

Smaller telcos, known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are able to offer phone plans to customers using parts of one of the three mobile networks. Typically MVNOs won’t have full access to the whole mobile network, so you might need to check the network coverage map on the MVNO’s website before signing up.

If you’re looking for providers offering Telstra coverage, Boost Mobile is the only MVNO to be given full mobile network access — in this case, the full Telstra 3G and 4G networks. Other MVNOs may only have access to parts of the network they offer plans on, although most Vodafone and Optus MVNOs should offer full 4G and 3G coverage.

All three networks are now allowing select MVNOs to use the 5G network, including:

Kogan, iiNetLebara Mobile and TPG are also currently trialling the Vodafone 5G network.

Typically, in areas where you have easy access to mobile networks, you’ll most likely find that the MVNO covers you pretty well. Regional and remote areas might have a harder time finding if they will have reliable coverage from an MVNO available to them.

To compare plans from smaller telcos, the following table shows a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB data, listed in order of standard advertised monthly cost, lowest cost first, then by data allowance. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products which may contain links to referral partners.

FAQs

All three of the mobile network providers have worked at improving regional mobile coverage, particularly in conjunction with the government’s Mobile Black Spot program.

As for which provider has the best regional coverage, since Telstra does cover the widest portion of the population, it does have the widest regional network covered. Telstra also runs a ‘blue tick’ program, where mobile devices have receiver sensitivity tested to see how devices perform for call quality. Devices deemed to provide good voice coverage are given the ‘blue tick’. However Optus is not far behind on network coverage, with Vodafone still not quite at the same numbers when it comes to reaching regional Australia.

When it comes to the rollout of the 5G network, all three telcos have come a long way since 5G first went live in Australia back in 2019.

Telstra is also leading the way with 5G coverage, with 85% of the population covered by Telstra 5G as of 2023. Optus was the second telco to launch its 5G network, and has over 1,200 5G network sites live as of May 2021, along with one million devices connected to 5G. Vodafone was the last to switch on 5G in March 2020, and states that its 5G rollout is on track to cover 85% of the population in 10 of the largest Australian cities and regions by the end of 2021.

Each of the three networks have rolled out 5G coverage in most of the capital cities and more populous areas and towns. Since 5G is still not quite to the same level of coverage as 4G, if you are looking for a 5G phone plan, you might want to look at coverage maps from each of the telcos first and see which telco has coverage in your area.

All three providers have international roaming options able to be added to your regular phone plan. This allows you to continue to use your phone number while travelling outside of Australia.

The prices of these international roaming add-ons start from about $5 a day, depending on which provider you’re with.

For more information about international roaming, check out how consumers rated travel SIMs and roaming packs

Telstra plans do tend to be on the more expensive side, with starting prices that are generally higher than its competitors. However, Telstra customers have access to the more extensive network, which is particularly helpful if you live in rural areas, and there are other perks as well such as discounts on streaming services and access to its Telstra Plus rewards program.

However, if you live in metropolitan areas then you may be able to find more bang for your buck elsewhere — which is why it’s important to compare a range of phone plans and providers

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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