While Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have firmly established themselves as the biggest mobile providers in Australia that doesn’t mean they’re the only game in town. There are smaller providers, which are typically referred to as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (or MVNOs), that use the same mobile networks as the Big Three – they just don’t own them.
If you’re looking to change up your mobile plan, these smaller providers usually offer better deals that include more data for less money. Better yet, most MVNO plans are contract-free these days. This means there’s no risk in trying a smaller provider. If you swap telco and you’re not happy, you don’t need to stay around. It also means you can always change again if a better deal comes around, which happens fairly frequently.
Here are the best entry-level mobile plans for MVNOs that use the Optus, Telstra and Vodafone networks, and how they compare with their parent provider.
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Optus vs. Optus MVNOs
Many of the best mobile deals around come from Optus-powered MVNOs. When it comes to postpaid plans, Dodo and Southern Phone are both offering 30GB for $20 per month if you’re a new customer. With Southern Phone, this pricing and data allowance will last for the lifespan of your plan.
However, if you go with Dodo, you’ll have 30GB for the first three months of your connection, and then 15GB thereafter. Dodo is running a similar offering for its 25GB plan, where you’ll receive double data for the first three months of your connection (now 50GB), for only $25 per month.
Alternatively, Moose Mobile currently has a plan where you’ll get 25GB of data for $16 per month. This pricing lasts for your first year, after which you’ll pay $24 per month. The plan is contract-free, so you can always swap providers after the discount runs out.
For comparison, Optus‘ SIM-only plans start at $49 per month for 30GB.
Telstra vs. Telstra MVNOs
Nowhere is the difference in price between a telco and its MVNOs clearer than when it comes to Telstra. Telstra‘s non-prepaid SIM-only plans start at $62 per month for 50GB. The provider will throw in some free gifts, which include two months of BINGE, three months of Apple TV+ and four months of Spotify Premium.
Alternatively, for $25 per month on numobile or Woolworths Mobile you can get 22GB of data. If you go with Woolies, the provider will let you knock 10 per cent off your grocery shop once per month.
Telstra’s budget brand Belong offers similar value with a bit more data, where you’ll pay $29 per month for 25GB. This plan from Belong is also the cheapest way you can access Telstra’s 5G mobile network.
Vodafone vs. Vodafone MVNOs
Vodafone has a smaller MVNO contingent that’s largely made up of sister companies including TPG, iiNet, felix, and Lebara. Kogan is the main exception, and even then, support is managed directly by Vodafone.
To start, TPG is offering 25GB of data for $12.50 for your first six months, and $25 per month thereafter. If you need more data, you can nab TPG’s 45GB plan for an extra $2.50 per month ($15). However, much like its 25GB plan, this pricing will only last for the first six months of your connection and increase to $30 per month once the discount period ends.
There’s also iiNet, which is offering its 40GB plan for $15 per month for your first six months. This rises to $29.99 per month after this introductory period ends, but if you’re an iiNet internet customer, you’ll also get 80GB of bonus data if you bundle in this mobile plan.
Felix is a rather interesting Vodafone MVNO that has a unique proposition: you’ll pay $35 per month for unlimited data capped at speeds of 20Mbps. That’s similar to an NBN 25 connection and still more than fast enough for most mobile activities. You can currently get 50 per cent off your first three months if you use the promo code FELIX50.
Vodafone’s cheapest SIM-only postpaid plan will set you back $45 per month with 40GB.
What is an MVNO?
MVNOs buy wholesale access to the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone network and then resell it themselves – often at a lower price. Since MVNOs tend to have lower overheads, smaller marketing budgets and don’t have brick-and-mortar stores, you tend to find mobile plans with better data for dollars than what you’d get with their parent network.
Also remember that you can always keep your phone number when you change providers, no matter how often you swap. Your number is protected by law, and your current telco needs to transfer it to your new provider when you switch. Or if you don’t want it, you can always get a new number to go with your new plan.
What you miss out on with an MVNO
There are naturally still reasons to consider a major provider. The most pertinent is if you’re also after a new phone. MVNOs don’t typically sell handsets, or when they do, it’s a much smaller range. Woolworths Mobile stocks Samsung and OPPO devices, but not much else, for example.
Most MVNOs don’t offer international roaming, and when they do, it’s a lot more expensive than what you’d pay on the parent network.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.
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