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

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Unlimited data phone plans are here. Yes, that’s right! All three of Australia’s network carriers – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – 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 U.S. 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 Telstra, Optus & Vodafone

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 after a certain amount of data use: all Telstra and Optus plans cap unlimited speeds at just 1.5Mbps, while Vodafone plans are divided into Lite speeds (2Mbps), Super speeds (10Mbps) and Ultra speeds (25Mbps).

Vodafone Telstra Optus
Price per month? $40-$120 $55-$115 $39-$119
Full speed data? 10GB-150GB 40GB-180GB 10GB-500GB
Available to everyone?
Month to month contract?
Available with a phone?
Data-free music streaming?
Data-free TV or sport streaming?
International credit?

Source: Respective retailer websites, December, 2020.

Best unlimited data phone plans

Before we jump into what unlimited data plans are available from the big three telcos, here is a quick look at some of the best value ‘unlimited’ data phone plans:

  • Best value unlimited Optus plan: $39 Small Choice Month to Month Plan (10GB data included)
  • Best value unlimited Telstra plan: $55 Small Plan (40GB data included)
  • Best value unlimited Vodafone plan: $40 Lite Plan (10GB data included)
  • Cheapest unlimited data plan: Optus $39 Small Choice Month-to-Month plan (10GB data included)
  • Fastest unlimited data plan: Vodafone $120 Ultra Plan (150GB data + 25Mbps ‘endless’ data)
  • Best unlimited 5G plan: Telstra $65 Medium Plan (widest 5G network coverage)

The above ‘best value’ plans are based on Canstar Blue’s unique Value Score feature available on our phone plan comparison tool. Value Scores range from 1 to 10 with higher scores indicating better value plans. This Value Score is based on the Price Score and Feature Score, with Price Score making up 70% of the overall ranking and Feature Score making up 30% of the overall ranking.

The following table shows a selection of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 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 ‘unlimited’ capped data 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 phone plan 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, the telco had withdrawn the plan only to offer it again later and then remove it indefinitely. However, Optus now offers ‘endless data’ and joins Telstra and Vodafone by eliminating excess data charges with ‘unlimited’ capped-speed data on postpaid phone plans.

These postpaid plans are month-to-month and are available as SIM-only or bundled with a new phone (bundling with a phone will lock you into a 12, 24 or 36-month device payment plan). Once you’ve used your plan’s fast-data inclusion, you’ll be able to keep using your data but at the capped-speed of 1.5Mbps. Prices for these Optus Choice plans start at $39 per month with 10GB of data included and go up to $79 with 120GB of data. The Optus One plan, which is $119 with 500GB of data, also no longer has excess data charges, so you can keep using your data once you’ve used up those 500GB.

Signing up to any of these postpaid plans with Optus will also include 5G network access at no extra cost — you simply need a 5G-compatible device and 5G coverage. All plans include unlimited standard national talk and text, plus all but the $39 plan, include access to Optus Sport and Fitness. Select plans also include international talk and text, plus roaming, but these inclusions differ from plan to plan.

The following table shows all published Optus 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.

Vodafone Unlimited Data Phone Plans

Vodafone has come to the game with an upgrade to its original ‘endless data’ offering with an impressive selection of unlimited Infinite Data phone plans. There are five plans to choose from – $40, $45, $55, $65 or $120. With these plans you get either 10GB, 30GB, 60GB, 100GB or 150GB of full-speed data over the full Vodafone 4G network. Once this data is used up, you’ll have access to unlimited data capped at the following speeds:

  • $40 Lite Plan: Lite Infinite data capped at 2Mbps
  • $45 Lite+ Plan: Lite Infinite data capped at 2Mbps
  • $55 Super Plan: Super Infinite data capped at 10Mbps
  • $65 Super+ Plan: Super Infinite data capped at 10Mbps
  • $120 Ultra Plan: Ultra Infinite data capped at 25Mbps

While 2Mbps is suitable for general browsing and standard definition streaming, both 10Mbps and 25Mbps should be fast enough for high definition video on the go.

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 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.

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 previously described its plans as ‘endless’ data — avoiding the prickly term ‘unlimited’ altogether – and as of September 2020, has rebranded its plans as offering ‘infinite’ data.

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

He said: “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.”

Overall, while data could still technically be described as ‘unlimited’, the fact is that after a certain amount, data is speed-capped, with the exception of Telstra’s Ultimate plan, although this plan is no longer available. 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?

While there are similarities between these plans from all three big telcos, there are still a couple of marked differences.

  • Vodafone provides the option to access faster ‘unlimited’ speeds on more expensive plans.
  • Optus charges slightly less than Vodafone and does give you more fast-speed data at a cheaper price, plus 5G network access is included on all plans.
  • All three offer all plans on a month-to-month basis and the option to bundle with a new device (however if you cancel, you’ll still need to pay the remainder of your handset).
  • Telstra includes a few more perks than the other two, which could justify the higher price, plus it has a much wider 5G network but you’ll need to sign up to the Medium, Large or Extra Large plans for 5G access.

Telstra really shines when it comes to its extras. You’ll get access to data-free streaming of the most popular sports in Australia, plus data-free music streaming through Apple Music, as well as Telstra Air – the network’s Wi-Fi hotspots littered around our cities. Vodafone is a great option if you’re travelling overseas with its $5 roaming — $5 per day lets you use your postpaid plan as usual when travelling in select countries. However, this does not include use of your ‘endless’ 1.5Mbps data, only your limited fast-speed data inclusions will be accessible while roaming. Optus comes out a bit cheaper than the other two and also includes Optus Sport access on all plans (except the $39 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 could see your full-speed data go further? The decision is yours.

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