Australians are no strangers to cheap mobile plans, but completely free mobile service is something that, until now, just hasn’t been an option. Enter ‘Zero Mobile’ – an all-new mobile provider offering a base data plan for just $0 per month – that’s right, free.
The Melbourne-based telco is launching with a range of flexible and customisable SIM-only plans, beginning with its free 1GB base plan. But if you’re a mobile user who’s sick of paying for plan features you don’t need, you may be wondering what the catch is.
How Zero Mobile works
Like other ‘build your own plan’ telcos – notably Circles.Life – Zero Mobile offers a single base plan, with the option of adding extra features each month to tailor inclusions to your specific talk, text and data needs.
The base plan comes completely free, and includes 1GB of full-speed data every 28 days. However, this plan doesn’t include any outgoing calls, texts or other features (although incoming calls and messages are free, as are 13/1300/1800 calls).
If you do make calls on the zero-dollar base plan, you’ll be charged at pay-as-you-go rates. Standard national calls are billed at $1.00 per minute, while standard national SMS is charged at $0.25 per message sent.
Likewise, additional data use over the free 1GB will also incur charges. Any extra data is billed at a rate of $10 per gigabyte, and charged in 1GB blocks.
Customers can avoid pay-as-you-go charges by adding on optional extras, such as call minutes and data. Available add-ons include:
- $8 Unlimited National add-on: Unlimited calls and SMS to standard national numbers
- $2 Unlimited International add-on: Unlimited calls to fixed and mobile numbers in ten countries, including Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States of America. Only available with Medium and Large data add-ons
- $18 Small Data add-on: 5GB data
- $28 Medium Data add-on: 25GB data
- $38 Large Data add-on: 40GB data
Zero Mobile plans renew automatically every 28 days, but customers are free to cancel at any time.
‘Free’, but with fine print
If you don’t plan to add on any of the above extras at sign-up, you will need to pay a $10 account credit to cover any pay-as-you-go charges. If you use up your credit, you’ll automatically be billed for another $10 to maintain your mobile service – essentially, you’ll need your account to be in credit at all times in order to stick with Zero Mobile.
Along with a $10 SIM card and postage and handling fee, you’ll need to pay $20 upfront to sign up for Zero Mobile’s base plan. Assuming you only use 1GB of data per month, and don’t make any calls or send texts, you’ll pay nothing further for your plan; but as these extra features aren’t blocked, you’ll need to be careful about managing your usage.
Without a hard data cap, or the option to switch off outgoing calls and texts completely, it’s likely to be difficult for the average phone user to avoid calls, or to stick to the 1GB data limit. If you are a very light data user, you could manage to avoid incurring excess data fees – but you’ll still be unable to make calls or respond to texts, unless you’re prepared to pay $8 each renewal, or use up your pay-as-you-go credit.
Regardless of whether you add on talk or data extras, there’s some services that Zero Mobile currently doesn’t offer to customers. International roaming isn’t included, so you can’t use your service outside Australia. And although unlimited talk to 10 selected countries is available with the $2 International add-on, you won’t be able to call any other destinations on Zero Mobile’s plans.
Signing up to Zero Mobile
If you’re interested in giving Zero Mobile a try, you can register your interest with the new provider now by heading to the Zero Mobile website. Once Zero Mobile is officially live, you’ll be able to download the Zero app to sign up, and to change or build your own customised monthly plan.
Zero Mobile cites 11 June, 2020 as the expected date to begin SIM delivery, so prospective customers shouldn’t have long to wait to try out the service.
In addition to offering a free base plan, Zero Mobile also provides discounted prices for eligible professions and groups, including ADF members, police, paramedics, firefighters, students, educators, ride-share drivers and job seekers. Customers can also secure special pricing for family and friends after completing registration and referring new subscribers to Zero Mobile.
Zero Mobile offers service on parts of Telstra’s 3G and 4G networks, which cover more than 98.8% of the population. If you’re happy with Telstra’s coverage, you’ll most likely have no issues on a Zero Mobile plan, although regional customers should check their address on Zero’s coverage map before signing up.
Is Zero Mobile right for me?
If you’re tired of paying for mobile inclusions you’ll likely never use, Zero Mobile could be a money-saving alternative to standard SIM-only smartphone plans. Zero Mobile’s free base plan is best suited to low-level or occasional users who don’t make calls or spend much time online, although may not be suitable for children or teenagers due to the lack of a hard data cap.
Even with optional add-ons factored in, Zero Mobile’s entry-level plans are highly competitive. With rival 1GB phone plans starting from around the $9-$10 per month mark, Zero Mobile’s plan structure offers unlimited national talk and text, plus a gigabyte of data, for $8 every 28 days.
However, if you’re looking for a big data inclusion, you might find better value elsewhere. Zero Mobile’s 40GB data add-on is priced at $38, which – in addition to an $8 unlimited call pack – takes your plan fee up to $46. Competing providers such as Woolworths Mobile, Belong, and Moose Mobile all offer more data at the same price point, so you may want to shop around before committing.
To give you an idea of what’s on the market, we’ve listed some cheap, under-$20 postpaid and prepaid mobile plans below.
Prepaid Plans Under $20
Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $20 or less, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by standard data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.
Postpaid Plans Under $20
Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database for $20 or less, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by standard data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.
Main image: George Rudy / Shutterstock