Wednesday , December 19 2018 Ausdroid » News » Ask Ausdroid: How unlimited are those new unlimited smartphone plans, anyway?

With all the hubbub this week about Australia’s carriers finally releasing unlimited smartphone data plans, we thought it would be fun to wheel out the virtual chalkboard (see above) and crack some calculations to answer an important question:

Hey Ausdroid, I like to use a lot of data. Assuming I smash these unlimited mobile plans, theoretically, how much data can I actually use?

To answer this, we had to do a bit of working out. First things first, we worked out how long it would take – at average LTE speeds on each carrier (thanks, Open Signal) – to consume the included data allowance before the unlimited plans are slowed to 1.5Mbps speeds:

  • Telstra: Average speed 37.56 Mbps
  • Optus: Average speed 33.58 Mbps
  • Vodafone: Average speed 39.97 Mbps

At these speeds, it would take a little over two hours to consume included data on most of these plans:

  • Telstra: 2.4 hours to consume included 40Gb data
  • Optus: Not relevant, doesn’t include a fixed portion of data – everything is shaped
  • Vodafone: 2.3 hours to consume included 40Gb data (or 6.8 hours for 120Gb on the larger plan)

After this time (or, from the word go on Optus), data is throttled to 1.5 Mbps. So, assuming that you were able to download constantly at this speed for the remainder of a 30-day month, how much data would you actually be able to use? Well, it seems the answer is a hell of a lot:

  • Telstra: Total of 513Gb per month
  • Optus: Total of 474.6Gb per month
  • Vodafone: Total of 513Gb per month (or 590Gb on the larger plan)

As you can see, you can chug down a whopping half a terabyte of data on these plans. To do this, of course, your mobile device would have to download at full speed for every second of the rest of the month after it became limited, and I’d say there’s a more than fair chance your telco would find a way to cut your service off before you go to this point. These plans, while advertised as “unlimited” are not meant to be used for round-the-clock torrenting, and doing so would likely set off alarm bells.

Why? Well, let’s look at how expensive it would be to do this on a normal, not unlimited, smartphone plan. We’ve compared 12-month SIM-only services from each of the three major carriers, selecting the plan with the highest data inclusion each month. The results were .. shocking:

  • Telstra offers a $99 plan which includes 60GB of data, and $10 per GB extra, for a total of $4,629.12 to consume 513Gb
  • Optus‘ $60 plan includes 50GB of data with $10 per GB extra, for a total of $4,306.09
  • Vodafone’s $100 plan includes 100GB data, with $10 per GB extra, for a total of $4,231.08 (compared only against the 40GB Unlimited plan).

So, do these unlimited plans represent great value? Yes, they do, if you plan on using what we can only fairly describe as a shitload of data each month. If you’re being somewhat more reasonable, and using your phone like the average consumer, then that value is a little harder to determine, but as we pointed out the other day, there are plenty of more affordable plans that include a tonne of data for less than the Unlimited plans cost.

So there you go, a bit of maths made for a moderately entertaining story. What do you think?

Chris Rowland   Managing Editor

Chris Rowland

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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Trentley
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Trentley

So not purely “unlimited”, because a little thing called FAIR USE applies – and torrenting on your phone 24hrs a day for an entire month is NOT fair use. Of course a whole bunch of misers will take it as their god given right, as descendants of convicts, 1800s miners who didnt want to pay royalties, and modern nanny state whingers, will decry the limitations of FAIR USE and cry to the heavens their freedom is being impigned never mind were bound by laws and thus have liberties, we cant just go and rob from banks, rape and murder when… Read more »

Eddy
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Eddy

FYI Telstra only charge $10/GB extra, just like the other two.

Fred
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Fred

Upshot : They are not unlimited and shouldn’t be passed off as such.

Russ
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Russ

So reasonably good value for the included data but not anywhere near unlimited. I wonder what view the ACCC will take of this?

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