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What would a perfect mobile provider look like?

  • Cap Plans often come with hidden fees
  • SIM only providers offer better value, but no handsets
  • Why Telstra is sometimes the only option
Written by Adam Wajnberg
28/09/2012

By March 2013, all telecommunications companies will need to start incorporating new consumer protection rules into their plans. The Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code is aimed at protecting consumers from the most shocking elements of having a mobile service – particularly bill shock and fine print that seems intended to bilk customers for every cent they have.

Meanwhile, an arms race is developing in the mobile marketplace between Telstra and everyone else, backed by Optus. Telstra is hugely overbuilding its 4G network, counting on it to dominate mobile and mobile data for the next decade. Optus is ramping up their build (and let’s not forget that Optus’ parent company, SingTel, is many times bigger than Telstra) and continuing to back smaller resellers to have a hand in the budget market. Vodafone continues to raise their plans while reducing their data and dragging their feet on 4G, and it’s hard to tell right now to what extent they’ll continue to be relevant.

Buying a mobile plan right now means compromise, which is not a huge change from how it’s always been. But the choice seems to be relatively clear:

Best quality connections and speeds (but expensive) – Telstra

Best overall compromise between coverage and price, with a wide range of plans and offers – Optus

Best prices for people who own their phones and just need a SIM – Amaysim, Dodo, TPG, etc (using the Optus Network)

Out of these options, which plans from which providers deliver the best middle ground for the most people?

 

                                     telstra mobile plans

 

Telstra – Call 13 22 00

Telstra reserves most of its best savings for customers who have bundled in several services with them, making it difficult for people who would otherwise go for the cheapest price on each service, rather than being locked into a complex bundle. Nevertheless, their plans for mobile without bundling aren’t outrageous when you consider the wider coverage, and the fact that most cap plans with other providers have more included than many people could ever use.

Telstra Small Everyday Connect Plan – This plan comes with $600 call credit and 1GB of data. It’s available on a 12 month contract at $50 a month when you bring your own phones, or from $60 a month with a phone included on a 24 month contract. Not bad, when you consider that there are several hundred Telstra stores around the country that you can go to when things aren’t working – and that things are rarely not working. Telstra’s coverage is better in the city, but the only option in many regional areas.

 

                            best optus mobile plans

 

Optus – Call 1300 137 897

Optus has decent BYO plans for $34 ($550 credit, 1.5GB) and $69 (Unlimited everything, 3GB data). That’s not bad, and certainly more bang per buck than Telstra. What’s more impressive is the phones you can get for $0 a month on plans from $50 – the HTC One X, Nokia Lumia 900…even the iPhone 5 starts at only $6 on the $60 plan, which is a more reasonable plan for a phone that can use that much data.

                 tpg mobile plans

TPG – Call 1300 106 571

TPG has a great reputation when it comes to cheap, to-the-point broadband – unlimited data for $60, which is outstanding for a network as big and extensive as TPG’s. For mobile, they’re a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) using the Optus Open Network. Here they’ve extended their bare-bones budget approach – the best plans are the $18 and $35 plans. The $18 plan comes with $550 credit and 1.5GB of data- at the exact same rates as the Optus $35 plan. And that’s without a contract.

On their own $35 plan, TPG offer a huge $1000 credit, with unlimited SMS, MMS and 3GB of data. Considering that the flagfall and per-minute rate are the same (35 cents + 90 cents a minute), and the network is the same, it’s hard to justify the Optus plan.

HOWEVER…TPG don’t sell phones. It’s strictly BYO.

                  amaysim mobile

Amaysim – Call 1300 302 942

We’re big fans of Amaysim here. They started the growing trend of offering unlimited calls, text, MMS and even calls to 13/1300 and 1800 numbers – all for $40. And they also offer a pretty fantastic 4GB of data. They’ve also demonstrated general interest and enthusiasm for mobile technology that you don’t normally see from low-cost carriers- they encourage tethering (using your phone as a mobile hotspot for other devices) and they’re offering to file down a microSIM to nanoSIM size, as a temporary fix while they get proper nanoSIMs for the iPhone 5. Their app for iOS and Android is also superb, giving you the information you need quickly and with minimum clutter.

More importantly, their plan was the first to take the fine print out of a mobile plan. They actually provide a real ‘cap’ – most cap plans are better identified as ‘floor’ plans – the amount advertised is the minimum, not the maximum you’d pay. Unless you exhaust that 4GB of data, you really can’t go over the $40. 19/1900 numbers are blocked. To make international calls, you must manually add credit. They’ve successfully eliminated bill shock, and they’re only getting better.

But of course, the same catch as TPG – BYO phone only.

 

              dodo mobile plans

 

Dodo – Call 1300 136 793

Dodo has two profiles. It’s a SIM-only reseller of the Optus Network, with a $40 Magic SIM plan that comes with free calls to everywhere and 5GB of data. That’s beyond what Amaysim offer, which is typical of Dodo – find the market leader, and beat it by just a smidge.

And more power to them – like the Amaysim plan, there’s very little not to like. Dodo even include 100 free international call minutes to 50 countries. Dodo’s reputation with broadband has suffered in the past few years (though it is improving), but for mobile they’re an Optus MVNO, just like many others. There’s less to differentiate them from the competition then there is in broadband, besides the price. And that price is fantastic.

Unlike TPG and Amaysim however, Dodo sells phones. They don’t carry the iPhone, but they carry the latest and greatest from Samsung, HTC and Nokia, as well as budget handsets.
So can you combine the big value Magic SIM with a new phone on contract? Yes, to a degree.
The closest you can get to the Magic SIM when subsidizing a handset is their $60 Chit Chat Mobile Plan. And even then, it’s a little slimmer – it includes all the same free calls, text and international credits, but with only 2.5GB of data.

At that $60 price, you’d hope that you’d at least get plenty of good kit for $0 a month. But alas, this seems to be an area where Dodo can’t shave any more off the price. The HTC One X, which might be the best Android phone available right now, is still $13 a month. So is the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is $17 a month, but comes with a bonus 16GB SD Card.

Conclusion

Overall, Dodo best matches up good hardware and good plans, and might best be defined as our perfect mobile provider. For people who are happy with their current phone, or are otherwise happy to buy outright (Dodo also sell handsets outright at good prices) then it’s a toss up between Amaysim and Dodo, with a slight edge towards Dodo – though Amaysim maintain Australia-based customers service for now, compared to Dodo who do not, so that might even it up a bit.

If you’re in a regional area, it’s best to go Telstra until Optus have sustained a significant upgrade to their current infrastructure. At least take heart that Telstra is not nearly as expensive as everyone thinks.

TPG has something to offer for the budget consumer at that $18 price, but otherwise don’t compare to Amaysim and Dodo for overall value (and security).

Optus is stuck in a bad position between the mightier Telstra and its more nimble wholesale customers. Right now, the only advantage is that they have 4G available to a surprisingly wide base right now. They’ve indicated in the past that they will be offering 4G to their wholesale clients, but that could be some time away and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the wholesale price structure could change under 4G, in a way that would alter these big value plans.

If you need help fidning the best provider for you and in your area, or otherwise want to sign up for TPG or Vodafone, call us between 9am and 7pm, Mon-Fri on 1300 106 571!

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