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Optus vs Telstra: Where can you find the best phone plan?

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As Australia’s two largest telcos Telstra and Optus have a lot in common, but they also have their differences. Telstra might have the widest network coverage, but Optus may get you cheaper prices, however both telcos offer a full suite of plans and some of most popular smartphones on the market.

If you’re stuck choosing between Telstra and Optus, or are wondering if your current plan with either provider is really that great of a deal, read on to find out how Telstra and Optus stack up in this head-to-head comparison.

Prepaid plans you might like

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

Which is best: Telstra vs Optus quick comparison

Telstra and Optus have a lot in common as Australia’s two largest mobile network operators. The telcos both offer a similar range of phone plan types, both SIM-only and phone on a plan.

While Telstra is the largest network provider, Optus isn’t far behind when it comes to network coverage. Both telcos are also rolling out their 5G mobile networks throughout Australia.

The biggest difference between the two telcos is what kind of value you can get for your money. Plan prices and data inclusions are different between the two, with Optus typically slightly cheaper than Telstra. Both offer a wide range of new phones available to bundle on a plan, along with a range of options for SIM-only plans.

The table below shows a selection of SIM-only Telstra and Optus postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest. Find the best mobile plan for you using our comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

Optus vs Telstra network coverage

  • Telstra has the largest mobile network in Australia with 99.5% of the population covered
  • Optus not too far behind with coverage to 98.5% of the population
  • Telstra leading the 5G coverage race, but both telcos still rolling out 5G sites nationwide

Both Telstra and Optus operate mobile networks across Australia. Telstra owns and operates the largest mobile network in Australia with coverage to over 99% of the population. Optus is slightly behind Telstra when it comes to network coverage, with coverage to 98.5% of the population.

While Telstra does have the advantage of a bigger mobile network — including its 5G network — Optus still has a very large mobile network, so most Australians will find coverage from both telcos in their area.

Determining which is the best mobile network will ultimately depend on whether you can get coverage in your area. You can check your address and any areas you frequent on the network coverage maps on each telco’s website.

Which telco has the best mobile network?

Telstra does have the larger network of the two: it was also awarded the fastest mobile network in Australia for the Q1-Q2 of 2022 in the Ookla Speedtest Awards, with a speed score of 107.25 and with a median download speed of 81.57Mbps. However, Optus isn’t that far behind with network coverage, and scored 102.76 in the same Ookla Speedtest Awards with a median download speed of 75.27Mbps.

Of course, choosing which network is ‘best’ is subjective, as every person will have a different experience. Performance is dependent on a range of factors including the network technology, location, device being used, etc.

5G mobile networks

5G is now much more widely available, with both Telstra and Optus operating 5G mobile networks. Telstra was the first telco to launch its 5G network, will Optus following suit shortly after.

An ACCC report released in 2021 showed Telstra was well and truly leading the 5G race with twice as many 5G sites live as Optus, but Optus still had a substantial number of sites live across the country.

As the 5G networks for Telstra and Optus are still rolling out, you might find 5G coverage in your area is still limited and you may only have the choice of one telco.

Which telco has the best 5G network?

Choosing the best 5G network depends on what is more important to you. Telstra does have the larger network coverage, but both Telstra and Optus are still very much in the rollout phase of building their 5G networks.

However, Optus was awarded the Fastest 5G Mobile Network in the Ookla speedtest awards for the Q1-Q2 2021 period, with a speed score of 296.47 and median download speed of 323.94Mbps. In the same awards, Telstra ended up with a 280.42 speed score with a median download speed of 304.14Mbps.

Telstra vs Optus: Phone plans and prices compared

Both Telstra and Optus offer a full suite of plans, with prepaid and postpaid SIM-only plans, along with phone-on-a-plan options. Comparing what each telco offers will help you get a better idea as to which plan — and telco — is going to be best for you.

Which has the cheapest phone plans?

Neither Optus or Telstra are known for offering cheap phone plans: in fact, both typically offer some of the most expensive plans on the market.

However, if you’re tossing up between the two telcos and looking for the cheapest plan of the two, Optus is still cheaper. Optus offers its cheapest postpaid plan for around $10 cheaper than Telstra’s cheapest postpaid plan. These plans are the same as when you bundle with a new phone.

When it comes to prepaid, both telcos offer plans at similar price points, so comparing how much data you can get for your money would be a good way to compare the two.

Phone on a plan

  • Both telcos offer phones from brands including Apple, Samsung, Google and OPPO
  • Your choice of 12, 24 or 36-month device payment periods (Telstra also offers option to buy outright)
  • Both telcos require you to bundle with a month-to-month postpaid phone plan

Telstra and Optus both offer a range of phones from some of the most popular brands. Both telcos separate phone repayments from the phone plan, with the option to pay off your device over 12, 24 or 36 months. However, Telstra also offers the option to buy some devices outright, however you’ll still be required to bundle with a Telstra postpaid plan.

Both telcos offer a range of postpaid phone plans to bundle with your new phone (the same plans as the SIM-only postpaid plans). These plans are available month-to-month, so you’re free to switch between the plans monthly, however cancelling altogether will require you to pay off the remaining device costs.

Optus does come off a bit cheaper on comparable plans, while device payments for both telcos are typically around the same cost each month. While Telstra’s plans are technically postpaid, you’ll be required to auto pay upfront for your plan.

The following table lists all published Telstra and Optus 24-month plans for the 128GB iPhone 15 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Find the best mobile plan for you using our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers.

Postpaid plans

  • Month-to-month plans
  • 5G network access included on all plans (Telstra caps the speed on its cheapest plan)
  • No excess data charges (data speeds capped at 1.5Mbps once you use your fast data inclusions)

Telstra’s range of month-to-month postpaid plans are fairly straightforward, with three plans starting at $62 per month with 50GB of data and up to $95 per month with 300GB data. If you go over your fast data inclusions, you’ll be able to keep using data but at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps. All plans include access to Telstra’s 5G network.

Optus offers four month-to-month postpaid plans, with prices starting at $49 per month with 30GB of data and up to $89 per month with 360GB of data. Like with Telstra, you’ll get access to unlimited data at capped speeds of 1.5Mbps if you use up your full-speed data allowance, and Optus 5G network access is included on all plans.

The following table shows all published Telstra and Optus postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

Prepaid plans

  • Both telcos offer different prepaid plans for different needs
  • Data rollover included on plans from both telcos
  • Long-expiry plans available

Telstra offers a couple of different types of prepaid phone plans. There’s a ‘casual’ plan that includes a longer expiry period, limited call and SMS inclusions and small data inclusions, making it an ideal option for users with low phone and data needs. Its standard prepaid plans include cheap plans with short-term expiry periods and up to long-expiry plans, with several 28-day plans in between. Your prepaid recharges are also automatic and plans include continuous data rollover.

Optus also includes a couple of different types of prepaid plans. Its ‘flex’ plans (both 4G and 5G) are essentially $1 with 1GB of data per day plans, but with the option to sign up daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Most plans work out to be roughly the same price per day with the same data inclusions, although you can get more value for money with an annual plan. There are also the ‘Epic Data’ plans which run on a 28-day expiry and offer generous data inclusions for your money. Optus includes up to 200GB of data rollover on all plans, and you’ll find some discounts or bonus data on offer from time to time.

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra and Optus prepaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to see a wider range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to referral partners.

Plan extras and bonuses

  • Unlimited capped-speed data at 1.5Mbps available on some plans from both telcos
  • Optus SubHub subscription bundling includes discounts for the more services you bundle
  • Telstra offers access to its rewards program, Telstra Plus

As previously mentioned, both telcos have rather expensive phone plans compared to other providers. But what the telcos lack in cheap plans are made up in extras and perks.

Looking at extras, Optus includes access to its SubHub subscription bundling service that includes discounts on subscription costs when you bundle more services, such as Netflix, Optus Sport and more. Optus customers will also be able to access Optus Sport for a cheaper price than non Optus customers, which gives you access to a range of sports including the English Premier League. You’ve also got access to unlimited standard international calls and SMS on select plans.

Telstra on the other hand, offers the option to add on entertainment to your plans, but generally without any discounts on the monthly cost, although Telstra does run offers with free subscriptions from time to time. Customers on an eligible Telstra plan will also be able to access to its rewards program, Telstra Plus, with your rewards points being redeemable in the Rewards Store, along with access to event ticket presales, discounted movie tickets and more. Telstra customers also get unlimited international text and 30 minutes of calls to any standard international number.

Both telcos now include ‘unlimited’ throttled data on all postpaid mobile plans, which caps your data use to 1.5Mbps after you’ve used your monthly allowance of full-speed gigabytes.

Telstra vs Optus: MVNOs compared

As both Telstra and Optus own and operate their own mobile networks, both telcos also offer smaller telcos access to these respective networks to offer their own phone plans.

Known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), these smaller telcos are able to offer cheaper phone plans than the big telcos, as they don’t have the costs associated with building, upgrading and maintaining the mobile network infrastructure.

Both Telstra and Optus have a range of MVNOs using their respective mobile networks. If you’re finding the cost of a Telstra or Optus plan to be a little too steep — or you just like having more options to choose from — signing up with an MVNO could be the way to go.

One thing to keep in mind is that even though you’ll technically have Telstra or Optus mobile network coverage, you might not have access to the full network (including 5G). Telstra typically only allows MVNOs (with the exception of Boost Mobile) access to a portion of the Telstra network, so you’ll want to check the MVNO’s coverage map before signing up to a plan to ensure you’ll have coverage.

Here is a selection of some well-known and popular MVNOs operating on the Telstra and Optus mobile networks.

Telstra MVNOs: 

  • ALDI Mobile
  • Belong
  • Boost Mobile
  • NuMobile
  • TeleChoice
  • Woolworths Mobile

Optus MVNOs:

  • Amaysim
  • Dodo
  • Circles.Life
  • Exetel
  • Moose Mobile
  • Southern Phone

Which MVNOs are the best?

If you’re leaning towards an MVNO using either the Telstra or Optus network, it will be a similar process to compare these telcos as it is comparing plans between Optus and Telstra.

Ultimately, you’ll need to look at which telco offers you the right plan type, the price and inclusions. If you’re dedicated to choosing one mobile network over the other, then you’ll want to compare MVNOs offering plans on that network. Otherwise, you’ve got a wide range of providers and plans to compare and choose from.

One thing to keep in mind is that Optus is typically more generous with how much mobile network the MVNOs are able to access, while Telstra limits this access. Both telcos also allow MVNOs to access the 5G network, but Optus has had this offer available for longer than Telstra. Also, choosing a plan from an MVNO could simply come down to which provider has the best mobile coverage for you.

Which telco has the most satisfied customers, Telstra or Optus?

After comparing plan prices, networks and inclusions, and you’re still unsure about which telco to go with, you might want to take into account what customers think about Telstra and Optus.

While everyone will have a different experience with their telco, at Canstar Blue, we survey thousands of Aussies to find out what they think about their phone plan provider. Customers rate their telco across a range of factors including customer service, value for money, network coverage and overall satisfaction. Each year, we publish ratings for prepaid SIM-only plans, postpaid SIM-only plans and mobile phone + plan options.

Telstra was rated three stars for overall satisfaction across our ratings for both prepaid and postpaid SIM-only plans, along with phone-on-a-plan. While Telstra typically scored three stars across most categories including value for money and billing, it did achieve four stars for network coverage across all three ratings.

Optus also achieved three stars for overall satisfaction across all three of our phone plan ratings, although it was typically rated higher than Telstra as it received overall better results across all ratings, achieving a mix of three and four stars across the different categories. It scored four stars for customer service across all ratings, and picked up four stars for sign up and activation across prepaid and phone-on-a-plan, along with four stars for network coverage in our prepaid ratings.

Telstra vs Optus: The final verdict

As you would have seen, both telcos offer very similar phone plans when it comes to the basics, so you need to look into further detail to work out which provider is going to have the best plan for you.

Telstra does have the wider network coverage, but the majority of Australians would still find coverage from Optus. Optus on the other hand is a little cheaper than Telstra if you’re looking at postpaid plans, but neither of these providers are exactly cheap, and certainly not where you should look if you’re after a cheap phone plan.

Both telcos offer access to extras and bonuses, so that might be where you want to compare value for money. Does the Optus SubHub offer enough value to you, or would you benefit more from Telstra’s rewards program?

Ultimately, when comparing phone plans from Optus and Telstra, you’ll want to consider what is going to suit your needs more. It’s a close race between the two, and determining which telco is best will come down to what you want from a phone plan.

Choose Telstra if:

  • You want access to its rewards program
  • You want a wider 5G mobile network

Choose Optus if:

  • You want to save money on subscription bundling
  • You want a cheaper postpaid plan
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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