Though Telstra, Optus and VHA account for the majority of mobile phone subscriptions in Australia, there are a number of low cost alternatives available. Could choosing an MVNO for your mobile save you money?
MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Simply put, an MVNO is a company that buys service from one of the big telcos who own the network infrastructure and resell this service to its customers. Because these companies buy calls and messages in bulk they receive a significant discount, which is why they are sometimes cheaper than the big three.
We've broken this guide up into four parts — one each for those looking for either the most talk time, text messages or data, and one final section for those wanting both plenty of minutes and internet data.
Cheapest plans with at least 100 calling minutes
Comparing mobile networks is a nightmare of fine-print and variables, so to create a fair comparison we'll convert all values to call minutes and compare all plans on 100 minutes a month. To accommodate the flagfall charged by most networks we'll assume every call is five-minutes long including the flagfall where applicable, creating a standard price block to apply across the variations in the different rate charts.
Because most of the MVNOs deduct SMS messages from the same pool of assumed value as calls, we'll leave these out of this comparison.
|MVNO||Network||Plan||Per 60-sec||Flagfall||5-min cost||Monthly spend|
|Crazy Johns||Vodafone||Crazy Cap $29||94c||35c||$4.55||$29|
|Crazy Johns||Vodafone||Flat Chat $15||10c||10c||60c||$15|
|TPG||Optus||Talk & Text Light||80c||35c||$4.35||$9.99|
|Virgin||Optus||Easy Cap $49||99c||45c||$5.35||$49|
|Virgin||Optus||Bean Counter $25||10c||25c||75c||$25|
|Boost Mobile||Optus||Super Cap $30||89c||39c||$4.84||$30|
*$100 equals 2-times a $50 recharge, where each recharge gives you 60 minutes of talk-time.
Cheapest text messages
SMS messaging is finally becoming as cheap as we all think it should be, in fact several netowrks are now offering unlimited or 1-cent text messages when you choose certain capped or pre-paid plans. If you text friends more than you call, you might consider some of the plans below.
|MVNO||Plan||Cost per TXT|
|Crazy Johns||Flat Chat||1c|
|Virgin||$19 Your Cap||Unlimited|
|Boost||Cent a Text plan||1c|
Best for data users
For some users, a healthy monthly data allowance is much more important than a decent call rate. We'll attempt to apply a similar standard to data as we have done with call costs, using 1GB per-month as the average quota and looking for the cheapest plans that accommodate this. All of these plans feature a voice component or feature an optional extra data pack to add to a voice plan.
|Crazy Johns||Vodafone||Crazy Cap $49||1.5GB|
|TPG||Optus||Talk & Text Heavy $35.99||1.5GB|
|Virgin||Optus||Smart Cap $29||1GB|
You want fries with that?
So you're someone who wants 100-minutes of phone calls AND 1GB of data a month? We'll combine what we've learned above with new entires from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to see if the smaller brands can offer extra value.
|Carrier||Plan||5-min cost||Data||Monthly spend|
|Telstra||Pre-paid Talk & Text||$4.37||1GB||$40*|
|Crazy John's||Crazy Cap $49||$4.35||1.5GB||$49|
|TPG||Talk & Text Heavy||$4.35||1.5GB||$35.99|
*200 minutes included in AU$40 recharge, plus 1GB browsing pack (AU$39) deducted from remaining credit.
**This figure includes 100 minutes charged at 15c per-minute plus a $9.90 data pack.
But what about plan Z from operator Q?
The other major factor that is almost impossible to compare objectively is the value of inter-network calls. Almost all of the networks listed offer free calling minutes to other members on the same network on top of the standard plan value. For some people this is an important inclusion, for others it is an extra they will never take full advantage of.
Though there are literally dozens of other plans not listed in this comparison, it does show how the differences in the plans can be spotted when you know precisely how much of these services you will actually use each month. The more accurately you anticipate your monthly usage, the more likely you are to save money not paying for services you won't use.
Do you use one of the MVNO networks? If so, we'd love to hear from you about why you chose the network you're on and what your experience has been like so far. Leave us a message in the comments below.