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 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.
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 month-to-month 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: SIM-only plans compared
When it comes to 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 SIM plans on a 12 or 24-month contract attached. One is not necessarily better than the other, but it’s all about what you prefer.
Both providers offer month-to-month plans, with Optus offering simple postpaid plans and Telstra offering upfront payment plans, which you pay for in advance with AutoPay. Both providers offer plans simple enough to compare side by side, with different prices and inclusions.
Telstra’s cheapest plan is at $55 with 40GB of fast data, while Optus’s cheapest is priced at $45 with 20GB. If you want lots of data on your monthly plan, Telstra’s $115 plan includes 180GB of full-speed data, while Optus has a $85 plan with 240GB of data on offer.
As mentioned before, Optus and Telstra each include unlimited speed-capped data (both SIM-only and with a new device), which means you won’t pay excess data charges in Australia if you exceed your full-speed gigabyte allowance. Speeds for both telcos are limited to 1.5Mbps, which is enough for general browsing and social media, but a little too slow for high-definition streaming.
Both telcos offer a range of entertainment extras, with Telstra offering data-free Apple Music streaming (subscription required). Optus offers data-free Premier League and many of the other European Football leagues via Optus Sport. Both Optus and Telstra include these extras across all postpaid plans.
Let’s take a look at the SIM-only month-to-month plans on offer from both telcos.
Telstra SIM-only plans
Optus SIM-only plans
Telstra vs Optus: Phones on a plan compared
We’ve come to the business-end of the market now, where Optus and Telstra are two of the strongest providers to offer plans bundled with the latest mobile phones from brands such as Apple and Samsung. 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 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 12-month or 24-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 Upfront 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 SIM-only and phone plans are the same, but adding on a device will lock you into a 12-month or 24-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 followed in Telstra (and Vodafone’s) footsteps and offers a similar 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. As with Telstra, you can swap between Optus SIM plans each month without impacting your phone repayments, but will need to pay out the remaining device balance if you decide to cancel your Optus service completely.
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 12 plans
The following table lists all published Telstra 24-month plans for the 64GB iPhone 12 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. This table includes products with links to a referral partner.
Optus iPhone 12 plans
The following table lists all published Optus 24-month plans for the 64GB iPhone 12 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.
Telstra vs Optus: Plan extras
Looking at extras, Optus includes data-free Optus Sport streaming on most plans. Telstra on the other hand offers data-free streaming of Apple Music (you’ll have to pay for your subscription). 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: Prepaid plans from $10 compared
Australia’s two biggest telcos have – not surprisingly – a large range of prepaid deals 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 short-term offers, 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 flexible short-term 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 Apple Music.
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. If you need a new plan of any type, these telcos will have you covered.
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 has begun to catch up in the 5G arena, and now sells a range of 5G-compatible phones and offers 5G network coverage in most major cities.
If coverage isn’t a concern, 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.