4G for free: How to spend that bonus data when you get a freebie

Your telco has had an outage and they're offering you free data as a peace offering. So what should you do with this freebie? Here are our top tips.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Daniel Van Boom Senior Writer
Daniel Van Boom is an award-winning Senior Writer based in Sydney, Australia. Daniel Van Boom covers cryptocurrency, NFTs, culture and global issues. When not writing, Daniel Van Boom practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reads as much as he can, and speaks about himself in the third person.
Expertise Cryptocurrency | Culture | International News
Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Claire Reilly
Daniel Van Boom
Nic Healey
4 min read

...or you could stream as many episodes of The Simpsons as you can handle.


It's a scenario we all know well: Telco screws up, the social media tide turns, and said telco has a massive public relations crisis on its hands as it attempts to deal with the fallout.

Vodafone and Optus faced the problem when their networks went out in 2014, and yesterday a similarly high-profile Telstra outage, caused by "embarrassing human error," left Australia's biggest telco red faced.

How do they compensate customers? Free data!

Like Vodafone before it, Telstra is offering free data this Sunday to all customers (not just the 15 percent or so that it says were affected by the outage). You don't need to do anything -- the data will automatically be added to your allowance on Sunday.

The telco might be pulling a William Thackeray trying to make peace with customers, but is it a vanity play or a fair deal for customers? It doesn't matter! Free data is yours! And we've polled the CNET team to find out what you should do with it...

1. Stream 4K Netflix like a king!

Sure, we all know about the joys of adaptive bit-rate streaming on Netflix. But why sit through 'standard definition' like a chump when you can watch "House of Cards" in Ultra High Definition multiplex glory! Warning: Once you've seen Frank Underwood conniving in 4K, you may not be able to go back.

2. Ride the Tidal wave

The 4K Netflix of the audio world, Tidal is a pay-by-the-month high fidelity music streaming service backed by 'We're Better Than You' recording artists such as Jay Z, Daft Punk and Chris Martin of Coldplay fame. Your ears will not have enough bandwidth for that much Clocks.

3. Download some epic podcasts

Head to your favourite podcast app (Australian-made Pocketcasts is great) and download a bunch of long-form podcasts for your weekly commute. While we love "Girt by CNET" (of course), really long podcasts are great bang for your download buck. Try "Dan Carlin's Hardcore History" -- with 56 episodes that range up to the 200MB mark, the whole series is roughly 5GB worth of fascinating dinner-party fodder.

Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET


No seriously! Been putting off that enormous PS4 update? Not any more! What about that old laptop that you never quite got around to putting Windows 10 on? Say 'Hello Cortana!' Set up your Telstra device as a hotspot and spend a chilled Sunday getting everything running on the absolute latest software.

5. Let off a lot of Steam

Or perhaps more correctly, let on some Steam. Fire up everyone's favourite digital distribution service for videogames (sorry Origin) and check out what's on special this Sunday. Lay down a few dollars and then spend the day getting everything you just bought installed on your PC gaming rig. At a comfortable 4G speed of 40Mbps download you could have Fallout 4 installed in around 90 minutes, giving you something to play while you wait for Assassin's Creed Syndicate to come down 3 hours later.

Oh, alright Origin. Why not open up all the alternative services too, set up accounts and grab any cheap or free deals while you're there.

6. Open an all day video call to your family overseas

Get a Skype account, and get ready to reconnect with everyone you've ever known who lives overseas. Smug friends in London, extended family in the US, your second-cousin Credenza who's doing that experimental artists' residency in Sweden -- give them some love. Don't just make it a quick call. Open up a video feed at the dining table or in the living room and just relax together all day.

7. Bring your high score to your pocket

More and more classic console games have been making their way to smartphones, but often at the price of a big, fat wad of data. But if you have free data, that's not a problem! Look to games like The Walking Dead (2.6GB), Knights of the Old Republic (2.3GB), Transistor (2.1GB), Final Fantasy IX (2GB) and many more like them. But remember, iPhone or iPad users, Apple won't let you download apps larger than 100MB unless you're on Wi-Fi. You can get around this by hotspotting via another device, but it is a hurdle.

8. Back it up, back it up

Remember that free data works both ways: what comes down can also be up(loaded). So now's the time to log into One Drive, Dropbox, Google Photos or whatever cloud service you use and make sure that every single storage-hogging snap, photos of fondly remember meals and videos of cute pet antics are stored safely on the cloud. With 40Mbps potential upstream on a 4G connection, you could backup a Terabyte of data in less than 8 hours.