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Capped ‘unlimited’ mobile speeds explained
A brighter future for bills.
Now that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have moved away from excess data charges and towards unlimited data plans with capped mobile speeds (otherwise known as 'infinite' or 'endless' data), more Australians should see fewer unwelcome charges on their phone bills.
Archaic excess data charges have long been a pain point for Australian consumers, particularly in a world where our unreliable national broadband network means many of us still lean on mobile data tethering to get the job done.
Sometimes, a mobile hotspot (or pocket WiFi) is your only hope when it comes to streaming the latest episode of a Disney Plus TV show. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget you're still connected when the PlayStation 5 decides to download the latest Call of Duty update.
With plans that still charge excess fees, letting your hotspot do the heavy lifting is a recipe for disaster. With some game updates using upwards of 25GB of data, you could easily rack up a $250 bill all for a few cheeky rounds of Apex Legends.
That’s where speed-capped endless data plans come in.
Plans with endless data
Rather than excess data fees, Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and newcomer Felix Mobile all offer some version of “endless” data with capped mobile speeds. Felix Mobile is the only cat brave enough to call its offering ‘unlimited,’ because it offers a single $35 plan with unlimited data that’s capped at 20Mbps.
Optus has opted for the term ‘endless’ when discussing its 1.5Mbps speed-caps, Telstra has started avoiding any and all allusions to ‘unlimited’ altogether for its 1.5Mbps, and Vodafone has decided to live on the edge with the term ‘infinite’ data.
Here's a quick look at the capped speeds you can expect with each provider.
Endless data speeds in Australia
Endless data speed
Max speed data included?
1.5Mbps to 25Mbps (depending on plan choice)
Yes (2Mbps to 25Mbps)
The reason Telstra, Optus and Vodafone shy away from the term unlimited is that they all offer an allocated amount of max speed data which is limited. Once that max speed data is exhausted, your download speeds are capped, typically to 1.5Mbps which is so slow that it’s almost useless.
While they might have had it coming, the ACCC put Optus, Vodafone and Telstra on notice back in 2018 for their use of ‘unlimited’ in reference to plans that had a speed cap. The ACCC found the marketing language around unlimited to be misleading when there were in fact limits placed on download speeds once the allotted data amount had been exceeded. Fair call.
Before we get stuck into each provider, here's a glance at the most popular SIM plans with endless or unlimited data.
What are the limits to unlimited mobile data?
Each mobile provider has some variation of a Fair Use policy, which is a membership clause that allows each provider to cancel or suspend your service if they believe you are using your mobile plan in an “unacceptable, unreasonable or fraudulent manner.” Though instances of these kinds of suspensions are incredibly rare, it's still worth noting if you have an unconventional appetite for data.
Here's more information on what each mobile provider with endless data offers.
Felix Mobile unlimited data
Even though Felix Mobile’s 20Mbps plan is the most worthy of the unlimited title, it’s still not entirely accurate. Capped mobile speeds of 20Mbps when higher speeds are possible is, by definition, limited. Still, 20Mbps is a liveable download speed. To put that into context, 5Mbps is the recommended speed for streaming Netflix in HD (High Definition) but not the minimum requirement. If you’re streaming in 4K, the recommended speed is 25Mbps. Speed requirements vary from service to service, but most streaming services have similar recommended speeds. You will still be able to stream 4K with 20Mbps speeds, but the quality might dip occasionally. The Felix plan also offers unlimited national calls and texts, as is the case with almost every other mobile plan available.
Vodafone infinite data
Vodafone’s limits to its infinite data plans are a bit of a mixed bag. The more money you pay for your plan every month, the higher your infinite data speed cap is. Vodafone’s Infinite Data plans offer between 2Mbps and 25Mps excess data speeds depending on how much you pay. $35 and $40 per month will get you 2Mbps infinite data speeds, $45 and $50 plans will get you 10Mbps, and the $60 plan will get you 25Mbps excess data speeds.
Vodafone is also the only provider currently offering 'unlimited' data plans with capped mobile speeds on prepaid, which it caps at 1.5Mbps across the board.
Vodafone max speed data add-ons
If you need extra max speed data, Vodafone will hook you up with an additional 2GB for $15 per month, 7GB for $30 per month, or 14GB for $45 per month. It’s not cheap but it will get you by if you go over your data limit and need a little boost.
Vodafone’s guide to capped download speeds suggests that customers it deems ‘heavy data’ users may experience even slower capped speeds.
Telstra excess data limits
Telstra avoids throwing the term unlimited (or any other synonym) around altogether. Instead, Telstra simply advertises that it does not charge excess data fees on its upfront BYO Plans.
That offer is available exclusively on its BYO plans. Telstra prepaid customers who exceed their data will be unable to access mobile data unless they’ve set up an auto-recharge. Otherwise, you'll have to manually add extra data via the Telstra app.
Telstra’s CIS (Critical Information Summary) also suggests that heavy data users, which it defines as users in the top 1 per cent of data users, may experience speeds slower than 1.5Mbps.
Optus endless data
Optus endless data is a carbon copy of Telstra’s offer, with capped mobile speeds of 1.5Mbps if you go over your max-speed data across every postpaid plan and no current prepaid offer for endless data.
Optus postpaid plans range from $39 per month, which gives you 10GB of max speed data, to $65 per month, which gives you a whopping 500GB of data every month.
Optus max speed data add-on
Like Vodafone, Optus also allows you to add a little extra max speed data to your plan if you exceed your monthly allowance. Its pricing is a little more reasonable than Vodafone’s at $5 for 2GB, $10 for 10GB and $20 for 30GB but there’s one big catch. Optus data add-ons only last 24 hours, so you should only really apply one if you need to burn through a fair bit of max speed data.
Endless data is also an option through Optus plans. If you’d prefer to go back to the old method of excess data usage, you can do so once per month via the My Optus app.
Unlimited data FAQs
With a 1.5Mbps speed cap, you should be able to carry out basic internet and social media browsing. You will also be able to stream music via Spotify, and potentially standard definition (SD) video but the experience will be less than ideal. You’ll probably find that pages will take significantly longer to load and you might have to wait for videos to buffer. In comparison, the average uncapped download speed on 4G is around 39Mbps while 3G downloads sit around 6Mbps.
Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Felix Mobile all allow you to tether your mobile phone so you can access your endless or unlimited data on another device. Vodafone specifically points out that tethering is only available for personal use and is not intended to be shared with friends and family but there’s no way for Vodafone to effectively police that.