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Worried about the Optus hack? These are your switching options

Note: Although this page was published during the Optus cyberattack in September 2022, the switching advice may still be useful for Optus customers considering a change of provider after the November 2023 network outage. Prices and plans listed were accurate as of September 2022; for more up-to-date plans, head to our phone comparison tool and internet comparison tool.

In what’s been dubbed the biggest corporate hack in recent history, a cyberattack had exposed the personal details and identifying documents of millions of Optus’ current and former phone and internet customers. Most impacted Optus customers will have by now received notification from the telco that their data has been compromised, leaving some otherwise satisfied customers no doubt wondering if sticking with the telco is the right call going forward.

You can read our initial report on what steps to take if you are an Optus customer affected by the attack to help protect yourself from identity theft. But as Optus customers scramble to secure their personal info, you may have more questions, including what are your options should you want to look at alternative mobile or internet providers. We’ve got the answers to the most frequently-asked questions.

What has Optus told us so far?

Optus said it had sent SMS or email notifications to all customers who had identifying documents (i.e. passport or driver’s licence details) leaked in the attack. Optus undertook to continue to reach out to remaining affected customers who may have had personal info such as contact details and birthdates hacked but whose passport and licence numbers remained private. As reported last week, no customer payment details or account passwords were compromised in the leak. 

What you may not realise is that, alongside existing Optus customers, the hack exposed the details of ex-Optus subscribers dating back to 2017, as well as customers from Optus subsidiary Virgin Mobile, which closed in 2018. So even if you’re not a current Optus user, you may receive notice from the telco that your data was illegally accessed.

At the time of publishing, there have been no major updates from Optus or the authorities involved in the hack investigation on the results of their probe. The data breach is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), while Optus is working with cyber security and customer advocacy organisations, including The Australian Cyber Security Centre, to advise and support customers impacted by the breach.

The AFP has launched a taskforce, Operation Hurricane, and is working closely with overseas law enforcement to identify the attackers. The AFP has also confirmed it is aware of reports of stolen data being sold on the dark web, as well as a reported $1 million USD ransom demand.

The Australian Government’s Office of the Australian Information Commissioner sets out requirements for organisations that, under the Privacy Act 1988, are obliged to protect users against the loss of personal information. 

It’s important to reiterate that Optus will not send email or SMS notifications with hyperlinks or attachments to customers and won’t ask to provide or verify account or personal information. If you do receive a message or email that contains an included link and claims to be from Optus, delete it immediately and do not open any links or attachments.

If you’re an Optus customer and notice suspicious activity on your accounts or believe that your identity has been compromised, you can contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 for advice. If you are concerned that your Optus account has been accessed, you can contact the telco on 133 937 or through the My Optus App. 

Optus has offered its worst-affected current and former customers a free, 12-month subscription to Equifax Protect, a credit monitoring and identity theft protection service. The telco will notify eligible customers of the offer over the coming days, but again, these notifications will not contain links or requests for personal data.

What if the hack makes me want to switch telcos?

If you’re considering switching mobile or internet providers, it’s important to note that there’s no guarantee a similar hack won’t happen to another telco at some stage. This year alone, household-name apps, as well as government departments and services providers, universities, retailers and charities in Australia, have reportedly been subject to data breaches. As have social media giants including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.

But if you’re an Optus customer weighing up your options, we’ve answered some of your key telco-switching questions below.

How do I cancel my phone or internet plan?

You can’t ghost your way out of your phone or internet service – you’ll need to let Optus know you want to cancel your plan. You can break up with Optus via the following outlets:

  • Over the phone on 133 937
  • The MyOptus App 
  • Live chat via the Optus website
  • In person at any Optus store

Keep in mind that you may be offered discounts and incentives to stay, especially if you’ve been a long-time customer. Whether you accept these offers is up to you.

How do I switch NBN providers?

If you’re a current Optus NBN customer, switching to a new NBN provider can be done online or over the phone. You’ll want to compare NBN plans first in order to find the best replacement plan for your household needs, considering your data needs, the desired plan speed and your monthly budget, as well as any extras such as included modems, home phones or entertainment. 

Once you’ve picked a plan, signing up is easy. As an existing NBN customer, you don’t need to make an appointment for a technician, although you may be required to set up a new modem if your current hardware is in need of an update; your new provider can advise you of any modem/router requirements. Be aware, though, that you may need to complete a credit check or supply identifying documents in order to finalise your new NBN service.

The actual switch will normally take around an hour, although changeover times can vary depending on your location, NBN technology type and other factors. Once your new service is up and running, make sure to contact your old provider – in this case, Optus – and let them know you’re cancelling your now-unwanted NBN plan.

Can I switch but keep my mobile phone number?

Yes, you can! All mobile providers are required to allow customers to take their phone number with them if they cancel their service, in a process known as porting your phone number. But to keep your digits, you’ll need to activate your new mobile service before you cancel your old plan.

Most telcos allow you to activate a new SIM plan online. During the online activation process you’ll be asked if you’d like to keep your existing number. Select yes, and follow the prompts to finalise your new plan. Once your new plan is up and running, your old service will be cancelled automatically but your number will remain unchanged. Keep in mind that the porting process can take up to seven business days, although is usually much faster, and that porting services generally only operate during business hours from Monday to Saturday.

Are there cancellation fees if I switch mobile providers?

If you’re on a no-contract, monthly plan you shouldn’t incur any cancellation fees. However, if you’ve bought a device on an Optus payment plan or are a broadband customer with an included modem, we’ve addressed what you may need to pay to cancel your plan below. 

What if I’m on a phone contract?

Optus’ SIM-only mobile plans are contract-free, so you’ll be able to cancel at any time without penalty. But if you’re currently paying off a new phone on a 12-, 24-, or 36-month Optus device payment plan, you’ll need to pay out the remaining balance of your device before you can leave.

For example, if you picked up the iPhone 13 last September on a 24-month Optus phone plan, you’re around halfway through your device agreement. To cancel today but keep that iPhone, you’ll need to pay Optus the total amount owing on your device (in this case, that’s about $675 for an iPhone 13 on a 24-month plan). 

If you were offered a conditional discount when signing that iPhone agreement, you may also forfeit that discount by ending your payment plan early. For example, if your device came with a $240 discount, applied in equal monthly instalments of $10 a month over 24 months, you would need to pay the full amount owing in order to cancel after just one year, including the $240 discount because it no longer applies. 

Optus’ device plans are interest-free, so once you’ve settled your phone balance there’s no more to pay. Aside from device costs, you will also be billed for your final month of service once your plan is cancelled. 

What if I’m on an internet contract?

Optus’ current NBN and 5G internet plans are contract-free and month-to-month but do incur modem charges for customers who cancel within 36 months of activation. What this means is that each plan comes with an included modem package as standard that’s yours to keep if you remain connected for a minimum of 36 months.

If you leave early, however, you’ll need to pay out the remaining modem cost, which is up to $252 for NBN plans and $576 for 5G internet (although this will vary depending on how long you’ve been connected). Customers on older, legacy Optus NBN plans may be subject to different costs depending on the terms of their agreement. 

Optus also offers a 24-month 4G home internet plan, which includes a supplied modem worth $216. If you opt out early, you won’t be charged a plan cancellation fee but will need to pay the full remaining cost of the modem, as with month-to-month NBN and 5G plans. 

There are no additional early termination costs for home internet but customers will be required to settle their final broadband bill after cancellation. 

Which telco should I switch to?

What are the Optus mobile plan alternatives?

If you’re considering leaving your Optus mobile plan, the good news is you don’t have to leave the Optus network. There are quite a few smaller telcos operating on the Optus 3G, 4G and 5G network so you can keep the same coverage by switching to one of these SIM-only operators. You’ll also be able to keep using your current phone, provided it’s network unlocked

As an added bonus, these small telcos also tend to be cheaper than Optus, although you may not get perks such as streaming add-ons or no excess data charges. Providers offering Optus coverage include Amaysim, Southern Phone, Moose Mobile and Dodo; you can view the full list in our guide to the best phone plans on the Optus network. Optus has also confirmed that the hack did not affect those smaller providers using its network. 

You’re also free to switch to a telco on Telstra’s or Vodafone’s networks, including Telstra or Vodafone themselves. Vodafone tends to be the cheaper of the two, while Telstra is more expensive but offers the widest network coverage and may be a better option for regional Australians. Both providers offer plenty of extras, including no data overage charges for use in Australia, and the option to go SIM-only or grab a new phone on a plan.

Whichever telco you choose, make sure to consider how much data you need, how much you’re willing to spend per month and the type of network coverage you require before you sign up. 

Optus network postpaid plans compared

The table below shows a selection of comparable postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard advertised monthly cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Please use our mobile phone plan comparison tool to see a wider range of postpaid plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

What are the Optus NBN alternatives?

There’s a huge array of alternative NBN options available to Optus customers, particularly if you’re also looking to pay less for your home internet. Alongside the big names – Telstra and TPG – smaller, challenger brands such as Aussie Broadband, MATE and SpinTel offer competitive prices and a wide range of speed and plan options.

Before you switch, however, you’ll need to decide on your preferred NBN speed. The faster your plan, the higher the monthly cost, so you’ll need to find the right balance between performance and budget. Average speeds can vary between providers, so also look at typical evening speeds when comparing NBN plans to ensure you’re getting the best value for money. 

Overall, it’s up to you to decide if it’s the right time to cancel your Optus phone or internet plan. If you do decide to switch, make sure to do your research and compare options before choosing on a new provider.

Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (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.

Tara Donnelly
Utilities Editor
Tara Donnelly is an internet and mobile expert - sectors she’s spent a decade covering - and also oversees energy and consumer technology content. She holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Canberra and has shared her expertise on national media including 9 News, 7 News, Sunrise and the ABC.

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