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

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They’re the two biggest giants in the Australian telco landscape – Telstra and Optus. From prepaid to postpaid, SIM-only and bundled phone plans, Telstra and Optus have your mobile needs (and coverage) covered. But although it’s tempting to say that all big telcos are the same, you may be surprised to learn there’s some key differences between the two.

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.

Telstra vs. Optus: SIM-only plans at a glance

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

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Telstra vs Optus: Where can you find the best mobile deal?

Telstra and Optus both have a wide variety of mobile phone plans to choose from. Breaking it down into three different categories makes it easier to compare.

  • Phones on a plan
  • SIM-only postpaid plans
  • Prepaid plans

Optus tends to be cheaper than Telstra, but Telstra does offer bonuses unavailable anywhere else. Which provider is right for you will depend on your budget, love of extras, and how much flexibility you want in a plan.

Telstra vs Optus: Phones on a plan compared

We’ve come to the business-end of the market now, where Optus and Telstra are probably two of the strongest providers to offer plans bundled with the latest mobile phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 or iPhone 11. Optus separates phone payments from plan prices, with phone repayments available over 12, 24 or 36 months (some devices can even be purchased outright) — then add on one of the month-to-month postpaid plans, or build your own postpaid plan. Telstra also offers flexible month-to-month plans which can be bundled with a new device over a 24 or 36-month payment period.

Optus does come off a bit cheaper on comparable plans, however you might find Telstra have more extras on its plans to justify the price.

Telstra offers the same four postpaid plans which you can choose to keep as a BYO device plan or add on a device for an additional monthly payment. This means that both postpaid and phone plans are the same, but adding on a device will lock you into a 24 or 36-month contract to pay off your device. You’re free to switch your phone plans (which is great if you need more data one month), but cancelling altogether requires you to pay off the remainder of your handset.

Optus has now followed in Telstra’s (and Vodafone’s) footsteps and offers the same selection of month-to-month postpaid plans that can be bundled with a new device over 12, 24 or 36 months, or kept as a SIM-only plan. However, Optus takes the flexibility and customisation one step further with the option to build your own postpaid plans. Simply select your preferred data inclusions, international call and roaming extras to determine your monthly plan cost — adding on a handset will increase your monthly plan payments.

Before you even consider which device you want to choose, it’s worth looking at just what you’ll get for your money when it comes to inclusions on the phone plans.

Telstra iPhone 11 Pro plans

The following table lists all published Telstra 24-month plans for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This table includes products with links to a referral partner.

Optus iPhone 11 Pro plans

The following table lists all published Optus 24-month plans for the 64GB iPhone 11 Pro on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers.

Looking at plan extras, Optus includes data-free Optus Sport streaming on most plans, along with subscriptions to Apple Music. Telstra on the other hand offers data-free streaming of Apple Music (you’ll have to pay for your subscription), and sports including the NRL and AFL. There is unlimited data on all of Telstra’s plans, which will simply cap your data use to 1.5Mbps after you’ve used your monthly allowance of gigabytes, plus you’ll also get access to the Telstra Air WiFi network.

Telstra vs Optus: Postpaid SIM-only plans compared

When it comes to postpaid SIM-only plans, there are two categories to look out for: postpaid plans without a contract, also known as a month-to-month plan (meaning you can leave when you like) and postpaid SIM-only plans with a 12 or 24-month contract attached. One is not necessarily better than the other, but it’s all about what you prefer.

Both Telstra and Optus now offer SIM-only postpaid plans as month-to-month plans after previously scrapping the lock-in contract plans. This makes it much easier to compare these plans side by side to look at price and inclusions on your plan without weighing up the pros and cons of month-to-month vs contracts.

Telstra’s cheapest plan is at $50 with 15GB of data, while Optus’s cheapest is priced at $39 with 10GB of data. If you want lots of data on your monthly plan, Telstra’s $100 plan includes 150GB of data, while Optus has a $79 plan with 120GB of data on offer. With Optus you can also build your own postpaid plan with the data options starting at 10GB and going up to 150GB.

Both telcos offers a range of entertainment extras, with Telstra offering data-free Apple Music streaming, while Optus offers a free subscription to Apple Music. Each provider also offers data-free sports streaming: Telstra has access to the most popular leagues in Australia, the NRL and AFL (in addition to AFLW, A League and Netball), and Optus offers Premier League and many of the other European Football leagues. Optus doesn’t include these extras on its cheapest $39 plan, whereas Telstra includes these on most plans.

Unlike Optus, Telstra gives customers use of a network of over one million free WiFi hotspots, called Telstra Air (plus access to 19 million Fon Spots overseas). Telstra also has the widest network coverage in Australia, especially in rural areas, but Optus tends to dominate on the budget end of the spectrum.

Optus does offer a more ‘premium’ postpaid plan: the ‘Optus One’ plan. It includes a huge 500GB of data, entertainment extras, up to 10GB of monthly global roaming data, specialised customer service and network priority. This will set you back $119 per month and doesn’t include any device payments if you wish to bundle with a new phone.

Let’s take a look at the SIM-only postpaid plans on offer from both telcos.

Telstra SIM-only plans

Optus SIM-only plans

Telstra vs Optus: Prepaid plans from $10 compared

Australia’s two biggest telcos have – not surprisingly – a large range of prepaid phone plans to choose from, ranging from around $10 all the way up to around $100 or more per billing period. Prepaid is an easy and fuss-free way to get mobile credit; both Optus and Telstra provide long expiry prepaid plans and standard shorter-term plans, including 28-day plans, with varying amounts of data for use.

Optus seems to have the advantage here: its prepaid plans generally offer more data, plus bonus gigabytes at sign-up. Epic Data, Epic Value, pay-as-you-go, and long-expiry options are available — making Optus a great choice if you like flexibility.

To compare, Telstra offers two ranges of plans: Pre-Paid Max plans, and long-expiry Long Life Plus plans. All of these plans include data-free NRL, A-League, netball and AFL streaming, plus data-free Apple Music and unlimited Telstra Air hotspot WiFi.

Both carriers also include international calls on selected prepaid plans — so depending on your tastes, one telco may stick out more than the other. The below table compares selected prepaid plans from both telcos.

Optus or Telstra — where should you go?

Optus and Telstra are both giants of the telco industry and offer the biggest range of plans, with options to suit most budgets. They also have the biggest customer bases, so millions of people can’t be wrong; whatever your mobile needs, each provider is likely to offer a plan that works for you.

Although this comparison suggests that Optus has a slight edge over Telstra in terms of choice and value for money across some plans, there’s more to consider than just inclusions and extras. Telstra has the most expansive 3G and 4G networks, so people in rural areas especially, may prefer the security and reliability offered by the telco. Plus, Telstra is continually expanding its 5G network and offers a small range of  5G-compatible devices. Optus is a bit slower on the 5G front with limited products and service available, but it is still expanding.

If coverage isn’t a concern, both Telstra and Optus have great entertainment packs to consider. Consider what you want from your entertainment extras, such as your favourite sports, or which streaming services you already have a subscription to. For example, if you’re already an Apple Music subscriber, you may appreciate the data-free streaming offered by Telstra. Likewise, football fans may be won over by Optus Sport’s Premier League coverage.

While it can be hard to determine which of these two telcos has the ‘better’ phone plans, especially considering everyone’s needs are different, keep in mind that there are other providers out there that are worth comparing. Many smaller telcos use parts of the Telstra and Optus networks, and usually at cheaper prices, so it’s definitely worth comparing not only Telstra and Optus plans, but plans from other providers too.

Compare Prepaid Phone Plans

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