Vodafone & Telstra: Who has the best ‘unlimited data’ phone plan?

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Unlimited data phone plans are here. Yes, that’s right! Two of Australia’s network carriers –Vodafone and Telstra – have their own phone plans with ‘unlimited’ data – though ‘unlimited’ is a grey area, so what does it actually mean? This type of deal has been common in the UK and US for a couple years now – and we’re finally catching up. If you’ve seen them advertised, they all look pretty similar, so what are the differences, and what’s the catch? See how they stack up below.

Unlimited Data Phone Plans from Vodafone & Telstra

Both telcos offer some form of ‘unlimited’ data phone plan, but what are the catches? The biggest ‘catch’ is the fact that speeds are throttled to 1.5Mbps after a certain amount of data use.

Vodafone Telstra
Price per month? $40-$80 $55-$115
Full speed data? 10GB-150GB 40GB-180GB
Available to everyone?
Month to month contract?
Available with a phone?
Data-free music streaming?
Data-free TV streaming?
International credit?

Source: Respective retailer websites, July, 2019.

Vodafone Unlimited Data Phone Plans

Vodafone has come to the game with a small, but impressive selection of unlimited data phone plans. There are four plans to choose from – $40, $50, $60 or $80. With these plans you get either 10GB, 60GB, 100GB or 150GB of full-speed data. With full speed data you get access to the full Vodafone 4G network. After that, speeds are throttled to 1.5Mbps – Vodafone says this is enough for standard definition streaming and most other applications.

These plans are available as both month-to-month SIM-only plans or bundled with a new device. If you choose a plan with a phone, your plan is contract-free – but if you choose to cancel before your device payment term expires, you will need to pay off the remaining cost of your handset. Below are a selection of Vodafone’s SIM-only plans with unlimited, capped data. This table includes links to a referral partner.

The following table shows all published Vodafone SIM-only postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Telstra Unlimited Data Phone Plans

Telstra offers a similar ‘unlimited’ capped data offering on a range of SIM-only postpaid plans along with plans bundled with phones. If you still want unlimited data, and don’t mind a cap on your speed, all of Telstra’s postpaid plans now come with ‘peace of mind’ data, i.e. unlimited data capped at 1.5Mbps. This is available alongside your plan’s full-speed data inclusions.

  • Other extras include data-free streaming of the AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball and A-League through their respective game-pass apps, accessed with full-speed data at all times, plus data-free streaming of Apple Music.
  • You’ll also gain access to the Telstra Air WiFi network, with over a million hotspots across Australia.

With Telstra you get unbridled access to the 4GX network and its maximum speeds for your included data, as well as 5G coverage where available (only on compatible smartphones, and only on Medium, Large, and Extra Large plans). Whether you’re looking for a SIM-only plan or a plan with a phone, you’ll be able to find an option with unlimited data in some form.

The following table shows all published Telstra postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Optus Unlimited Data Phone Plans

Optus was the first to drop an unlimited phone plan, called ‘Unleashed’. However, while the telco had withdrawn the plan only to offer it again later, it currently doesn’t offer any plans with unlimited data. As a dark horse, Optus’ phone plan was the first to kick off the unlimited mobile data hype, but today it’s probably barely worth a mention as only a select few Optus customers could sign up to it, and the plan is no longer active. Perhaps down the track, Optus will come back to the table and offer a new plan with unlimited data in some shape or form.

Is unlimited data really unlimited?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has cracked down over what constitutes ‘unlimited’ data, threatening fines for misleading advertisements. The end result is that all three telcos have removed ‘unlimited’ from its advertising. The telcos have instead opted for terms like ‘full speed data’, ‘data at no extra cost’ and so on. Vodafone has then described its plans as ‘endless’ data — avoiding the prickly term ‘unlimited’ altogether.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said that this crackdown has put the three telcos on notice.

“With much higher penalties now available for breaches of consumer law, I hope they will take their obligations more seriously. From now on consumer law penalties will seriously affect their bottom line, and we will not hesitate to seek the highest possible penalties,” Mr Sims said.

Overall, while data could still technically be described as ‘unlimited’, the fact is after a certain amount, data is speed-capped, with the exception of Telstra’s Ultimate plan, although this is no longer available to new customers. If you’re interested in one of these phone plans, it’s important to read the Critical Information Summary to know how much full-speed data you’re getting and if there are any further restrictions.

What provider has the best ‘unlimited’ data phone plan?

It’s currently a two-horse race between Vodafone and Telstra, and it’s pretty tight – but with a couple of marked differences.

  • Vodafone arguably provides more data for your money, with no plans exceeding $80 a month, unless bundled with a new phone.
  • Vodafone and Telstra each offer all plans on a month-to-month basis. Both Telstra and Vodafone offer these plans bundled-in with a new device (however if you cancel, you’ll still need to pay the remainder of your handset).

Telstra really shines when it comes to its extras. You’ll get access to data-free streaming of the most popular sports in Australia, as well as data-free music streaming through Apple Music, as well as Telstra Air – the network’s Wi-Fi hotspots littered around cities. Vodafone does offer data-free streaming entertainment extras, however you’ll need to add on an additional $5-$15 a month to access and these extras can’t be bundled with a ‘Plus’ plan.

Which carrier’s phone plan is better is totally up to you and what your needs are. Do you value flexibility, or do you value a host of extra data-free goodies that can see your full-speed data go further? The decision is yours.

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