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. Use 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 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: 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 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 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 $55 with 40GB of fast data, while Optus’s cheapest is priced at $39 with 10GB. If you want lots of data on your monthly plan, Telstra’s $115 plan includes 180GB of full-speed 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.
As mentioned before, Optus and Telstra each include unlimited speed-capped data on postpaid plans (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). 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 via Optus Sport. 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: 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. Use 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. Use 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), and sports including the NRL and AFL.
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. If you go with Telstra, you’ll also get access to Telstra Air WiFi hotspot use across Australia.
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 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. 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.