The best data only SIM plans for your tablet
An iPad without an internet connection is like a car without fuel. Even if you think you’ll use your iPad in a place where you get WiFi, having a SIM card installed means you can get online anywhere and at any time.
Most people these days have an unlimited NBN plan at home, but SIM plans are great for those who rely on their iPad (or other tablets) on their daily commute. While there are no options for unlimited mobile data plans, there are a few that come close.
With these high data-usage plans, you’ll be able to connect your iPad or tablet to the internet whenever you need to. And if you invest in a portable WiFi dongle, you’ll be able to share that data around, becoming the most popular person in your study group.
Before we get started, let’s take a look at the most popular data SIM plans on the market. This list is updated daily, so you can be sure the latest deals appear in this table below. The rest of our editorial recommendations are updated periodically.
Best Data-only SIM overall
Telstra’s $25 Small Data Plan (which comes down to $15 per month for the first 12 months if you buy before 25 December) doesn’t have the best data-per-dollar value on the market – as most mobile and internet matters, you only find true value at the pricier end of the spectrum. Our best value pick is a plan that comes at an affordable price with ample data, and 20GB should be plenty if you’re only planning on using it outside of the home. On top of that, Telstra won’t charge for excess data – you’ll be able to continue browsing at a speed cap of 1.5Mbps. Telstra’s contract-free, month-to-month plan also includes data-free streaming of Apple Music (you’ll need a subscription, though) and sports including AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball and A-League.
Best Optus data-only SIM
Offering a decent 20GB data for just $25 per month, Optus’ contract-free $25 Data SIM Plan sounds almost neck-and-neck with Telstra’s, but in the end, no excess data charges, better speed and a bigger discount pushed Optus into second place. That said, it’s still a fantastic value deal, with data sharing across eligible plans and an optional Optus Sport subscription at no extra cost. Also, if you buy before 18 January 2021, you’ll only pay $20 per month for the first 12 months.
If you’re looking for a shorter-term solution on Optus, you should consider taking advantage of the provider’s $30 Data SIM Starter Kit. For your first $30 recharge (every 30 days), Optus will give you 50GB of data. It’s important to note that the 50GB of data is made up of 35GB of bonus data, and 15GB of regular data. After your first three recharges on Optus prepaid, your data will revert to 15GB per recharge, which is a far less tempting deal.
If you’re looking for a longer-term mobile broadband solution on Optus 4G, take a look at the most popular data SIM plans on the network.
Best Telstra data-only SIM
Telstra plans aren’t usually the cheapest options, but the network is definitely the fastest for mobile data, and you might find the coverage is better if you travel outside of metro areas for work or holidays.
The $75 Large Data Plan (which is only $65 per month for the first 12 months if you buy before 25 December) gives you a whopping 200GB per month as well as 5G network access – the only provider offering it in a data-only SIM plan. There aren’t any excess data charges, however, if you go over your data limit, your mobile broadband speed will be capped at 1.5Mbps and may be even slower during peak hours. You’ll also have access to data-free sports streaming of content including AFL, AFLW and NRL at no extra cost, plus data-free Apple Music music streaming (you’ll need to get a separate subscription though).
If paying $75 every month is not affordable for you, it’s worthwhile considering other plans on the Telstra network. Here are this week’s most popular Data SIM plans on the Telstra network.
Best Vodafone data-only SIM
At $60 for 100GB (150GB if you sign up before 28 January 2021), Vodafone’s 100GB SIM Only Modem Plan is pretty damn good value. It doesn’t come with quite as good perks as the likes of Telstra and Optus, but for a no-fuss, big data plan, this one’s hard to beat. Plus, you can bundle your other eligible Vodafone plans for a discount of 5 to 20 per cent, depending on how many you bundle.
Not sold on Vodafone’s $60 plan? See how it compares with the network’s cheaper offerings.
Most popular Data SIM plans
Our top Telstra data-only SIM plan also happens to be the most popular with customers. Optus and Vodafone take up the second and third spots respectively, but with at least 50GB less, Telstra surprisingly offers the best dollar-for-data value.
Take a look at the top eight most popular data SIM plans below.
Can I get a data-only 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), only Telstra has passed the speed-capped ‘unlimited’ data to its mobile broadband plans.
That said, the best value big-data plan is, yet again, Telstra’s $75 Large Data Plan, which offers up the most data (200GB to be exact) per month out of all the telcos currently in Australia. It’s also $10 cheaper per month for the first 12 months when you sign up before 25 December.
The most data you can get on a data-only SIM is with Aldi, whose Large Data SIM plan offers up a staggering 365GB. However, it is a long-expiry plan designed to last a full year, and at $365, it isn’t exactly the best value for heavy users.
If Telstra or Aldi isn’t your provider of choice, take a look at the plans below. These are the data SIM plans with the most data in our engine.
How we chose 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 data-only SIM 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-only SIM plans?
As the name suggests, a data-only SIM plan is sold without a device. When you buy it you’re given a SIM card in 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.
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.
Portable WiFi hotspot or dongle
Lastly, there’s the trusty portable WiFi hotspot. The student and commuter’s best friend, a portable WiFi modem allows you to connect multiple devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.) without the need to hotspot.
Tethering is a good solution to share your data with the gear you’ve got, but a personal WiFi dongle is a much more convenient solution.
Here are a few providers that bundle portable WiFi dongles with their mobile broadband plans.
What is the cheapest mobile broadband plan?
We currently have over 30 internet providers in our database right now, and compare just under 50 different data-only SIM plans. 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.