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.

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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.

  • Prepaid plans
  • SIM-Only postpaid plans (both contract, and no-contract)
  • Phones on a plan

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

Telstra vs Optus: Postpaid SIM-only plans from $30 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.

12 Month plans compared

Telstra and Optus postpaid SIM-only, contracted plans are some of the more competitive plans in each telco’s lineup. Frequently, Optus ups the value in data bonuses and entertainment extras. Plans start at $25 a month, and straight away Optus offers unlimited calls and texts as well as 3GB of data. Telstra is still behind on cost, with it’s cheapest option being $49 per month, although you will get 15GB of base data plus an addition 15GB of bonus data per month (30GB in total).

Where Telstra shines, however, is at the upper end of the spectrum, where it currently offers up to 90GB for under $100. Both telcos offer data-free music streaming, with Telstra offering streaming of Apple Music while Optus focuses on Spotify, Google Play and iHeartRadio. Both telcos also have free sports streaming where Telstra has access to the most popular leagues in Australia, the NRL and AFL (in addition to AFLW, A League and Netball), while Optus has Premier League and many of the other Euopean Football leagues. What Telstra has that Optus doesn’t, is its own network of over one million free WiFi hotspots via the Telstra Air WiFi network (plus access to 19 million Fon Spots overseas). Telstra does also have the widest coverage, especially in rural areas, but Optus does tend to dominate on the budget end of the spectrum.

Here we compare the postpaid SIM-only plans from Telstra and Optus, running over 12 months. This table includes links to a referral partner.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

$49 Medium BYO Mobile Plan

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • 15GB + 15GB bonus
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network

min. cost $588 over 12 month plan period

30GBMax Data**/billing period $49Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

$69 Large BYO Mobile Plan

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Unlimited calls & texts to 15 countries
  • 30GB + 30GB bonus data
  • ‘Peace of Mind’ data included
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network
  • Special offer: $10 plan credit per month for new services and re-contracting customers

min. cost $828 over 12 month plan period

60GBMax Data**/billing period $69Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Optus Logo

$30 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Stream Optus Sport & Nat Geo data free
  • Stream music data free

min. cost $360 over 12 month plan period

3GBMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$40 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • 400 minutes standard international calls to 35 countries
  • Stream Optus Sport & Nat Geo data free
  • Stream music data free

min. cost $480 over 12 month plan period

40GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Data^^/billing period
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Month-to-month plans compared

The no-contract segment is a little smaller as Telstra no longer offers month-to-month SIM-only postpaid plans. Below you’ll find a couple of Optus’ no-contract plans.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$45 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS

min. cost $45 over one month plan period

3GBMax Data**/billing period $45Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$55 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS

min. cost $55 over one month plan period

15GBMax Data**/billing period $55Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$65 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS

min. cost $65 over one month plan period

25GBMax Data**/billing period $65Advertised Data^^/billing period
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Telstra vs Optus: Phones on a plan from $40 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. Optus does tend to come off a bit cheaper than Telstra, but Telstra does offer more on the higher-end of the plan spectrum with unlimited data on the Ultimate Unlimited plan. Both telcos offer ‘lease’ plans (for selected devices) as well as the traditional, two-year phone plans.

Telstra and Optus lease plans

A reasonably new addition to the phone plan market are the ‘lease’ phone plans. What leasing a phone means is that you are basically renting it, so it’s technically not yours. This means you’ll have to hand it back at the end of your term or upgrade after a year for a nominal fee. You’ll also be subject to penalties if it’s returned damaged and not in good working order or with physical signs of damage like a cracked screen. What you get in return is access to the latest devices without needing to cancel and change plans, which is great if having the latest device is important for you.

Telstra and Optus are the only providers currently to offer ‘lease’ plans and customers can stand to save around $10 on device payments. While the plan price and plan inclusions stay the same, it’s the actual device payment that is cheaper. As an example, for the $45 plan through Optus, to get the iPhone XS 64GB on an own a phone plan, you’ll be paying an additional $47 (a total of $92 per month), while on a lease plan, you’ll pay $37 for the phone ($82 per month in total). With Telstra, for the same phone, on the $59 plan in conjunction with the buy option at $55 per month, you’ll be paying $114 in total per month, while the lease option is $45 for the phone each month (a total of $104 per month).

All of Telstra and Optus’ lease and buy options are available as standard, 24-month plans. With Telstra, if you choose to not upgrade after 12 months (for the one-off upgrade fee), you will be able to upgrade for free after 18 months. Optus however requires you to see out the rest of the plan on the lease option if you don’t choose to upgrade (for the one-off upgrade fee).

Looking at plan extras, Optus includes data-free music streaming with the option of $5 mobile TV streaming (which is sometimes offered at $0 on certain plans), which includes data-free streaming of Netflix and Stan. While Telstra is pretty light on features at these lower prices (with the exception of data-free streaming of Apple Music and sports including the NRL and AFL), at higher prices, Telstra ups the ante. There is unlimited data on offer on the top plan, and ‘peace of mind’ data is included on the L and XL plans, which will simply cap your data use to 1.5Mbps after you’ve used your monthly data inclusion. Telstra also tends to include discounts to select plan prices in the form of credit applied to your monthly cost.

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 actual phone plans. The below table includes sponsored links.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

$79 Medium

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Includes 10GB bonus data
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network

min. cost $1,896 over 24 month plan period

20GBMax Data**/billing period $79Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

$99 Large

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Unlimited calls & SMS to 15 countries
  • Includes 20GB bonus data
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network

min. cost $2,376 over 24 month plan period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

$129 Extra Large

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Unlimited calls & SMS to 15 countries
  • ‘Peace of Mind’ data
  • Includes 100GB bonus data
  • 2GB international data roaming
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network
  • Special offer: $10 monthly credit applied

min. cost $2,856 over 24 month plan period

160GBMax Data**/billing period $119Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Optus Logo

$85 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Stream Optus Sport & Nat Geo data free
  • Stream music data free
  • Unlimited standard international calls & SMS to 35 countries

min. cost $2,040 over 24 month plan period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$105 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Stream Optus Sport & Nat Geo data free
  • Stream music data free
  • Unlimited standard international calls & SMS to 35 countries

min. cost $2,520 over 24 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $105Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

$125 My Plan Plus

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Stream Optus Sport & Nat Geo data free
  • Stream music data free
  • Unlimited standard international calls & SMS to 35 countries

min. cost $3,000 over 24 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $125Advertised Data^^/billing period

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 with it’s range of plans which clearly have different users in mind. It generally offers more data and unlimited calls and texts for a reasonable price in addition to bonus data. The telco also throws in 10GB of streaming data for Netflix, Stan and iView on its Epic Data prepaid plans, as well as data rollover. While the diversity of plans is great if you like choice, it might be a bit overwhelming for some.

To compare, Telstra offers two ranges of plans: the Pre-Paid Max plans and the 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 prepaid plans from both telcos and includes links to a referral partner.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Prepaid Max $30

  • Unlimited standard national calls &
  • Unlimited standard calls to 10 countries
  • 17GB Data Bank bonus on your first 5 recharges
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network
  • $5 extra credit

min. cost $30 over 28 day expiry

10GBMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Prepaid Max $40

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • Unlimited standard calls to 10 countries
  • 15GB Data Bank bonus on your first 5 recharges
  • Data-free music and sports streaming
  • Access the free Telstra Air WiFi network
  • $10 extra credit

min. cost $40 over 35 day expiry

20GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Optus Logo

Epic Data $30

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • 10GB data, plus 10GB to stream
  • Bonus 25GB on first 3 recharges
  • $5 extras credit

min. cost $30 over 28 day expiry

10GBMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Data^^/billing period
Optus Logo

Epic Data $40

  • Unlimited standard national calls & SMS
  • 20GB data, plus 10GB to stream
  • Bonus 25GB on first 3 recharges
  • $10 extras credit

min. cost $40 over 28 day expiry

20GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Data^^/billing period
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Optus or Telstra | Where should you go?

Optus and Telstra are both giants of the telco industry and offer the biggest range of plans, likely to suit most budgets. They also have the biggest customer bases, so millions of people can’t be wrong. This comparison suggests that Optus has a slight edge over Telstra in terms of basic data, call and text inclusions, but there’s more to it than that.

Telstra does have the most expansive network, so people in rural areas may find that Telstra is the one to go with. Similarly, both have great entertainment packs to consider, especially when it comes to their bundled handset plans. Consider what you want from your entertainment extras, such as your favourite sports and which music streaming app you already have a subscription to. If you’re looking for a prepaid or no lock-in contract postpaid plan, Optus is hard to beat. But if you’re signing up to a new handset plan, you may find Telstra has more of what you’re looking for, especially if you’re a big data user.

Compare Prepaid Phone Plans

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