Are you spending more than necessary on mobile phone plans? Our guide will help you get the best deal.
Last year we looked at the distinction carriers make between mobile plans for businesses and consumers, and concluded the difference was “mostly arbitrary” but “there’s rarely any downside to opting for a business plan rather than the corresponding personal version.”
As far as we can see, not much has changed, so here we’ve compared business plans from the main providers to help you ensure you aren’t paying more than you need to.
We’re not suggesting you should simply buy on price. What’s included for a given price can vary, and although it's not as big an issue as it once was, the question of network coverage can still be important in some places.
Should you buy handsets outright or on a plan?
Taking a few minutes to match what you need in terms of inclusions with what the providers are offering can pay dividends. If you can save $10-$15 a month on each of six to 10 phones, that's enough to buy a new high-end handset each year.
While handset subsidies aren't as substantial as they once were, buying a phone on a plan can save money compared with buying it outright. For example, a $1,079 iPhone 7 is available on one carrier's plans for repayments totalling $864. A relatively cheap phone on a more expensive plan might be a better deal than buying outright, but it's also possible to end up spending more in total if you pick a pricier plan than you really need just to save on the handset. So, you need to do the arithmetic.
Nevertheless, BYO plans are a good baseline to compare providers, so for this article, we looked at a selection of SIM-only plans from the three main carriers and some mobile virtual network operators (MVNPs) that resell the carriers’ bandwidth. Let’s start with the carriers.
Telstra is still clinging to 'fake pricing' on its lower-end plans. Instead of allowing unlimited calls and SMSes like practically everyone else, it offers "$1,000" worth of calls for $40 a month on a 12-month contract, along with unlimited SMS and 5GB of data.
The reason why Telstra talks about $1000 is because calls are metered at $1 per one-minute block, but who pays that much these days? Surely the real offer is that you get 1,000 minutes for your money, but even then charging by the minute rather than by the second works in the company's favour. At least calls to other mobiles on the same account are free. A similar plan with 8GB of data is available for $50 a month.
The cheapest plan with unlimited calls costs $70 a month with 15GB of data, and also provides unlimited international calls to Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, UK and USA.
Optus, on the other hand, includes unlimited standard national calls and SMS/MMS right from its cheapest 12-month contract ($30 a month).
You also get 1.5GB of data (2GB if purchased online) and unlimited SMS/MMS to Austria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam.
Vodafone’s entry-level business plan matches Telstra on price, but includes a more generous 6GB of data (at the time of writing a special offer increased it to 10GB) for the same $40 on a 12-month contract. It also provides unlimited national calls plus unlimited SMS to Australia and overseas.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all allow data to be pooled with other services on the same account, and they all automatically charge for excess data at $10 per 1GB.
Let’s see how some of the MVNOs compare.
Woolworths Mobile says "You must... only use the Service for Your own personal or business use" but there's also an "individual customers only" clause. That seems to mean that if you wanted your employees to use Woolworths Mobile in the course of business, they would have to buy it themselves and then you could reimburse the cost.
Thirty dollars buys unlimited national calls and SMS/MMS with 3GB of data for 30 days. The plan also includes 150 international minutes to Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, UK and USA, and "$100" worth of other international calls at rates from $1 to $15 a minute according to the destination. Since retail pricing for non-mobile international calls can be as low as a couple of cents a minute and the domestic mobile component is already covered by the monthly fee, that "$100" seems fanciful.
Woolworths Mobile uses parts of Telstra's 4G and 3G network.
Kogan Mobile hedges its bets: “for personal use only, and [services] are not available to medium to large business/corporate and commercial customers.” We asked Kogan where that leaves small businesses, and nearly a week later the company still hadn't answered the question. Presumably small business use is OK on the grounds that it is not specifically excluded.
A remarkably low $16.90 buys unlimited standard calls and SMS/MMS with 1GB of data for 30 days. Discounts are currently available if you pay for 90 or 365 days in advance. Other plans with more data start at $29.90 for 5GB, or for irregular peaks a 2GB data pack costs $14.90, again with 30 day expiry. Call forwarding, international calling/SMS/MMS and other services require an additional payment.
Kogan Mobile uses the Vodafone network.
Amaysim's position hasn't changed since last year: it still says use “for business purposes... is prohibited,” so it remains out of the picture for company buyers.
We wouldn't blame you for thinking that mobile providers deliberately vary their plan inclusions just to make it harder to compare one with another. But the differences are significant, especially if you need more than a minimal amount of data, or if you make overseas calls to certain countries.
The aim of this feature is to give you a starting point, so you should consider other MVNPs and plans too. If you need a handset, the relative differences between plans with phones should remain similar, but with complications like network exclusives and bundled extras to consider, we strongly advise doing your own comparisons.
So, next time your contract comes to an end, see if there isn't a better deal to be had – after all, it's not as if we're still in the bad old days when you couldn't switch carrier without changing your number.