The best data only SIMs for your iPad or Android tablet
Best overall data SIMSee PlanLargest data inclusionsData rewards for OVOPlay streaming
Best Optus data SIMSee PlanHuge data inclusionsFast Optus 4G Plus network
Best Telstra data simSee PlanFast networkLargest coverage footprint
Best prepaid data SIMSee PlanNo lock-in contractsGenerous promotional offers
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 Wi-Fi, 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. You’ll be able to connect your iPad or tablet 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 Data-only SIM overall
OVO’s X Large OVOBoom Mobile Broadband plan gives you a whopping 250GB for $79.95 per 30-day recharge. As an MVNO on the Optus 4G Plus Network, you’ll get to enjoy fast network speeds offered by Australia’s second largest network. OVO also offers data rewards of up to 10GB for its customers who stream on OVOPlay, its sports and entertainment service featuring content you won’t find on Telstra, Foxtel or Optus.
For those who aren’t large data users or are already spending on unlimited internet at home, you might find spending this much for your iPad or tablet every month a little excessive. If that’s the case, check out more of the most popular data-only SIM plans below.
Best Optus data-only SIM
If you’re already on Optus and you’re planning on using your data SIM plan a fair bit, perhaps for work, then it is hard to go pass 75GB for $50 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 could 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 an Optus Sport subscription at no extra cost. The only downside is you’ll still be charged for data on your Optus Sport streaming.
Here are more of the most popular data-only SIM plans on the Optus network:
Best Telstra data SIM
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.
The $75 Large MBB Plan gives you 100GB per month. While this mobile internet plan is great value and month-to-month, if you require a 4G or 5G compatible modem, you’ll need to pay an additional $4 per month for device repayments over a 24-month contract or opt for the 36-month option.
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 Apple Music subscription though).
If paying $75 every month is not affordable for you, it’s worthwhile considering other plans on the Telstra network that are currently offering a 5G network access free trial for those in eligible areas with a 5G-compatible device.
Here are the Telstra plans at the time of writing offering a 5G network access free trial for areas with 5G coverage.
Best data-only SIM: Prepaid plans
The plans we’ve recommended above from Telstra and Optus are both month-to-month, which we think is fine, but if you want to keep your commitments to a minimum and ensure you never receive excess data charges for going over your data limit each month, then a prepaid data SIM is the way to go.
While our overall best data-only SIM from OVO was already a prepaid plan, if you’re a fairly light data user or on a tigher budget this plan from Lebara Mobile provides 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.
Here are more of the most popular prepaid data-only SIM plans:
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.
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) these plan features haven’t yet trickled down to mobile broadband plans.
At the time of writing, the data-only SIM plan with the most included data is tied between the OVO X Large OVOBoom 250GB per 30 day recharge prepaid and Spintel’s 250GB for $74.95 no-contract, monthly plan plus $5 upfront.
See more data-only SIM plans with the largest data inclusions.
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.