Best 4G Data SIM Plans for iPads and Internet Dongles

A data SIM is a great way to stay connected when you're on the road, and there's lots of options available. We choose our favourite plans and data only deals.
  • Best Data SIM Plan
    4 out of 5 overall
    Fast network
    Largest coverage footprint
    See Plan
  • Best Data SIM: Big Data
    4 out of 5 overall
    Huge data inclusions
    Fast Optus 4G Plus network
    See Plan
  • Best Data SIM: Prepaid Plan
    4 out of 5 overall
    No excess usage charges
    No lock-in contracts
    See Plan

Overview

An iPad without an internet connection is like a car without fuel. Even if you think you’ll use your iPad in place where you get WiFi, having a SIM card installed means you can get online anywhere and at anytime.

Data SIM plans are not just for iPads (and other tablets). With an internet dongle or a pocket WiFi modem, you can connect your laptop to the internet whenever you need to, and you’re likely to be the most popular person in your study group, so long as you’re willing to share your precious data.

Best 4G Data SIM: overall

Telstra plans aren’t usually the cheapest options, but the network is arguably the fastest for mobile data, and you might find the coverage is better if you travel outside of metro areas for work or holidays.

This mobile internet plan is great value while the bonus data offer is available. Any time the data to dollar ratio is about $1 per gigabyte you are doing well.

Best 4G Data SIM: Big data plans

If you plan on using your Data SIM plan a lot, perhaps for work, then it is hard to go passed 100GB per month from Optus. This is more than enough data to keep you constantly connected while you’re on the road, and for some users this will be enough data to be the only internet service you pay for. It could replace the need to sign up for the NBN altogether (although a Home Wireless Broadband plan is probably a better fit for in-home use).

On top of the massive data inclusions, this Optus plan also offers data free music streaming through services like Spotify and Google Play Music, which is perfect for those long commutes. So long as you can access the Optus network, you can listen to music and podcasts without chewing through your data.

Best 4G Data SIM: Prepaid plans

he plans we’ve recommended from Telstra and Optus both require you to sign a 12-month contract, which we think is fine, but if you want to keep your commitments to a minimum, then a prepaid Data SIM is the way to go.

This plan from amaysim is solid value, with a decent data inclusion at a reasonable price. The value ratio is never as good with a prepaid plan as it is with a contract plan, but this plan should suit most people.

One of the key advantages of a prepaid plan is that you are never charged extra for exceeding your data limits. You have a set amount of data and if you reach it your connection is paused until you either manually top-up, priced at $10 per 1GB, or you recharge your account. Obviously you are free to choose which option you prefer from month to month.

How we choose the best Data SIM plans

There are dozens of service providers offering data only SIM plans these days, which can make it difficult to compare plans and find a bargain. The providers tend to make their plans slightly different to gain a competitive advantage, but this means we usually need to crack out the calculator to find the best sim only plans.

We start by assessing a few different use cases and then setting criteria around how much data you will need and which standard plan terms, like contract length, are the most meaningful. We then dig into the nitty-gritty of the offer. Data saving features like data free media streaming score well because of how these will extend the time you can spend online each month.

For prepaid plans we keep an eye on the number of days before your credit expires. The difference between 28 day expiry and a monthly plan works out as being a whole extra month you need to pay for each year – from 12 recharges to 13 recharges. Again, our calculators are useful here to figure out the total cost you’ll pay over a year, rather than simply comparing the monthly fee.

Which modems and devices are best for Data SIM plans?

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As the name suggests, a Data SIM plan is sold without a device. When you buy it you’ve given a SIM card is a small cardboard package. You’ll need to bring your own device to put this SIM card to work.

iPads and other tablets

An Apple iPad with a SIM card slot is a common example of the sort of device you might use. But you need to make sure you have the right iPad, as Apple sells a cheaper model without the SIM card slot you need. The same goes for Samsung tablets and Microsoft Surface Pro laptops. There are 4G versions available, but you need to double check that you are buying the model with this feature as it can be easy to miss.

Internet dongles and pocket WiFi modems

A mobile broadband modem is a great option if you have one. Even if you own an iPad, using your data SIM in a pocket WiFi modem means your iPad is still online, but so if your kid’s iPad and your laptop, etc. Typically you can connect at least 5 devices at a time with a pocket modem, though some newer models allow for even more devices online at the same time.

Internet dongles, or USB modems, are not in fashion as they once were, but you can still buy one if you’d like to. Just be aware, that if you have an old dongle lying around, it may be network locked to the provider you originally bought it from. So, for example, you won’t be able to use an Optus SIM card in an old Telstra USB modem.

An old smartphone

This option is often overlooked, but if you have an old smartphone gathering dust in a drawer you can use it as a modem by switching on the Personal Hotspot mode in the phone’s settings. All iPhones and Android phones of up to five years old or so will have this feature available. However, some providers (*cough* Telstra) block the use of data only SIMs in smartphones. It will work for a majority of provider SIMs, but it is a question worth asking before you sign on.

Can I get a Data SIM with unlimited mobile data?

The short answer is: no. To date, no service provider has offered unlimited data mobile plans, and even though Telstra and Vodafone now offer phone plans that slow down your connection when you reach your data limits (rather than charging you extra) these plan features haven’t yet trickled down to mobile broadband plans.

At the time of writing, the Data SIM plan with the most included data is this amaysim plan with 150GB to use per recharge.

What is the cheapest mobile broadband plan?

We currently have over 30 internet providers in our database right now, and compare just over 50 different data SIM plans, and below are the top 5 cheapest options in our comparison engine.

Some of these plans are exceptionally cheap, but make sure you get an eye out for one month promotions and credit expiry of a week or less.