Every now and then we get asked some good questions by email, social media and even in person. This one popped up in a community Facebook group this week, and it’s a good one. Our reader asked:
“Telstra’s plan changes have resulted in me paying a bigger bill, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t get through to a person to sort it out. I’m sick of trying. Telstra is great for me because of its extensive coverage (and it works where I need it, whereas Optus and Vodafone don’t). What can I do?”
Fortunately, with our fairly competitive mobile carrier space in Australia there’s always alternatives, and if you can’t be bothered paying Telstra’s big fees for access to its network anymore, there’s plenty of ways to get access to (most, if not all of) Telstra’s network at a much lesser cost.
Dear reader, there are a number of smaller carriers which use Telstra’s network to provide mobile services, including Boost Mobile, Belong and ALDImobile. Each has slightly different offers, but all are unique in one thing – they offer cheaper access to Telstra’s network than Telstra does.
So, here’s the options:
Boost is somewhat unique in Telstra network resellers in that it doesn’t sell access to a part of Telstra’s network – it has access to the whole lot, except for the emerging 5G networks but in 2020, they don’t really matter.
Other smaller carriers (which we call Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs) reselling Telstra network access generally don’t have access to the entire network, instead using what they refer to as “parts of Telstra’s 4G and 3G mobile networks”. Boost doesn’t. With Boost, you get access to the whole thing.
In metropolitan and even regional areas, this distinction doesn’t really matter; the real difference is where you go properly off the beaten track – Boost will likely cover you if there’s Telstra towers nearby, whereas other Telstra MVNOs might not have access there. But let’s face it, this is an edge case .. literally.
Boost is a pre-paid provider – this means you pay for your access up front, rather than receiving a bill later. This can be a good thing – you don’t need to pass a credit check – but it can also be a bit of a downer. Pre-paid isn’t always as good a value as post-paid options, and you have to remember to recharge. Run out of credit, and you run out of phone. Fortunately, most providers – including Boost – will auto-recharge from your credit/debit card or bank account, so it’s not really an issue like it used to be.
Boost offers a range of prepaid options starting at $20 for 5GB data and 28 days access, all the way up to $300 for 240GB and 12 months access. Our pick? $50 gives you 54GB for the first three months, and 40GB a month thereafter.
Boost Mobile’s plans all include unlimited calls and text to standard numbers, and some include international call allowances too.
Belong is somewhat unique as a Telstra MVNO too as .. perhaps surprisingly .. it’s actually Telstra (well, a division of Telstra). It’s not uncommon for companies to have low-cost divisions under a different name, but Telstra certainly does not make a song and dance about Belong being one of their companies. It’s determined to be different.
And different it is – Belong’s pricing is pretty good, and it offers post-paid convenience; there’s no prepaid recharges or expiry dates to worry about here.
Being a division of Telstra, you might expect the value to be slightly less, but actually it isn’t – Belong’s plans are pretty good, starting at $25 a month for 10GB data, through to our pick $40 for 40GB a month.
While these plans are post-paid, there’s no contract term – you can stay for as long or as little as you like. You do get access to a slightly smaller footprint than you would signing up with Telstra directly, but for most, that doesn’t matter.
Belong also offers mobile data banking – if you have a 40GB plan but only use 10GB one month, that 30GB carries over until you do need it. As long as you pay your bill on time, your data just keeps accumulating. Handy! Don’t need all that data? You can gift it to another Belong user.
Like Boost, all Belong’s plans include unlimited calls and text to Australian numbers, and some international destinations too.
ALDI Mobile offers a range of pre-paid options for the ultimate convenience. Offering access to the same “parts of Telstra’s network” as Belong does, the only real difference is price (and pricing).
On the pre-paid front, ALDI Mobile offers long-expiry plans (ranging from $15 to $35 with 365 days expiry) for those who really only use their mobile phones very occasionally. They’re not excellent value for regular users – that $15 plan includes only around 300MB data, depending how many calls you make – but for very occasional use, these plans last a year.
The more interesting plans are the “Mobile plans” which – despite their name – are still prepaid, but they’re tuned to 30 day expiry (not 28 days like Boost) which more closely aligns them to monthly cycles. The inclusions are broadly similar to the other carriers, starting at $15 a month for 3GB data and unlimited calls / text, through to $45 a month for 48GB data (which you can roll-over with each recharge).
In fact, each of ALDI Mobile’s monthly plans include that data roll-over function, so just like Belong, you can carry your unused data forward for months where you expect to use your phone more heavily.
ALDI Mobile has a unique offering called Family Plan, which gives you connectivity for four devices for $80 per 30 days. For this, you get 72GB data to share among your devices, unlimited calls and text, and that data roll-over function as well. To keep things under control, you can set limits per service, for example to give your kids more (or less) data so everyone gets a fair share.
Signing up is as easy as grabbing four SIM packs from ALDI, or ordering them online.
Woolworths Mobile offers both post-paid and pre-paid options using – as with most others – a part of Telstra’s 3G and 4G network. Unlike other MVNOs there’s no need to pick based on your desire for a contract or prepaid option; Woollies offers both.
On post-paid plans, you’re on the hook for a 12 month contract, with prices starting at $30 a month for 20GB data and unlimited calls and text, up to 60GB for $50 a month. Woolworths Mobile offers data banking, up to a maximum of 100GB though – it’s not unlimited as others offer.
Woolworths Mobile’s prepaid options start at $10 per 30 day recharge for 1GB data, and incredibly, includes unlimited calls and texts at this tier so if you need a way to stay in touch without mobile data, this is an absolute bargain. Options go up from there, through to 55GB for $50. There are some long expiry options, too, with 12GB for $60 over 180 days, and 84GB for $150 over 365 days. Prepaid options can bank up to 200GB data.
With Woolworths Mobile, you get other bonus options too, including 10% off your Woolworths grocery shop bill (up to $50 a month) which could cover the cost of your phone. Post-paid plans also come with a bonus 10GB data every 3 months, which you can roll over and use as needed.
How do they compare?
Being that all providers are reselling access to the same underlying network, you’d expect their costs are fairly well aligned, and they kind of are.
First up, we compared plans at $40 a month (or the nearest above for those that don’t offer something at $40 exactly):
|Provider||Cost||Value||Expiry||12 month cost|
|Boost Mobile||$40||44GB||28 days||$521.43|
|ALDI Mobile||$45||48GB||30 days||$547.50|
|Woolworths (Prepaid)||$40||42GB||30 days||$480.00|
Telstra itself is the most expensive, and despite that, offers less than the others. Belong and Woolworths are probably the best value of the resellers, at just $480 over a year for 40GB a month of data (or slightly more on a pre-paid plan)
Up front, Boost looks like its offering is the same, but you have to bear in mind two things – that 28 day expiry means that, over a year, you pay for 13 recharges, not 12, and secondly that 44GB is made up of 30GB monthly data and a 14GB bonus for the first three months. Over the year, you get quite a bit less data than you would from Belong or ALDI Mobile.
For those looking at the lowest cost of entry, we’ve compared those plans too:
|Provider||Cost||Value||Expiry||12 month data||12 month cost||Effective cost per GB|
|Boost Mobile||$20||5GB||28 days||65.2GB||$260.71||$3.99|
|ALDI Mobile||$15||3GB||30 days||36.5GB||$180.00||$4.93|
|Woolworths (Prepaid)||$10||1GB||30 days||12.2GB||$120.00||$9.84|
This comparison is a little more involved; we’re comparing plans of different monthly cost, inclusion and expiry, so the comparison isn’t entirely valid, but it’s the best we could come up with. What it shows is the lowest cost plan that includes unlimited calls and text from each of the four providers.
For those providers, we’ve calculated how much data you’d get over a 12 month (365 day) period, and how much it would cost you over that period. Then, to give an approximate comparison point, we’ve calculated the effective per GB cost for those plans.
What it shows is that Woolworths offers the best value of the cheapest plans – just $1.50 effective per GB, followed by Belong at $2.50. ALDI Mobile’s plan at $4.93 per GB is comparatively poor value.
Here’s that same comparison looking at each provider’s most expensive monthly (or thereabouts) plan – we’ve excluded the long expiry plans, as not all offer those:
|Provider||Cost||Value||Expiry||12 month data||12 month cost||Effective cost per GB|
|ALDI Mobile||$45||48GB||30 days||584GB||$547.50||$0.94|
|Woolworths (Prepaid)||$50||55GB||30 days||669GB||$608.33||$0.91|
We’ve also taken Telstra out of this comparison, because their most expensive plan is hideously expensive (and includes an awful lot) so it’s not really a fair comparison.
Interestingly, the value proposition shifts slightly here; with Boost Mobile, the most expensive plan includes the most amount of data (65GB standard, with 14GB extra for the first three recharges) but it also costs a lot more – $70 per 28 days. While this gives you a lot of data over the year – just shy of 700GB – it also costs $912.50; that effective $1.31 per GB is quite high, compared to just $1 per GB from Belong, $0.94 from ALDI Mobile, and between $0.83 and $0.91 for Woolworths.
All things being equal, ALDI Mobile and Belong are roughly equal here in terms of bang for buck. Boost Mobile’s plans look good, but when you factor in that slightly shorter expiry, over 12 months you’re paying a bit more, and the value isn’t quite the same.
Woolworths plans offer the best value – there’s little difference in value and included data between the pre- and post-paid options, meaning that all customers can get great value, regardless of whether they sign up for a contract or opt for a pre-paid option.
For those price sensitive, though, Woolworths plans are a notch or two more expensive; if you drop to a $40 Woolworths plan, they’re roughly equal in value with Belong and ALDI Mobile.
All providers – including Boost – offer something important though, and this comes back to our reader’s core question. Each gives access to Telstra’s network for a good saving over what Telstra itself would charge.
Our pick of the bunch has to be Belong; while it’s technically a part of Telstra, the value can’t be ignored. If you’re adamant that it has to be a pre-paid offering, ALDI Mobile’s 30 day expiry and better value trump Boost, but if you’re after access to as much of Telstra’s network as possible, Boost is really your only choice.
While these comparisons may make Boost look like a relatively lesser value option, reality is otherwise – it’s cheaper than Telstra, offers access to exactly the same network footprint (except for 5G), and it’s an Australian company so you can feel good about supporting a local business while saving money too.
If you’re after Telstra coverage without the Telstra price tag, which carrier would you pick?