How unlimited is an “unlimited” mobile plan in Australia?

Woman with unlimited mobile data going mad with power

Pictured: Photograph of a woman with unlimited mobile data, driven to madness. 

//Turns out there can be limits to your "unlimited" data.
Alex Kidman
Jan 11, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

If you’re sick and tired of running out of mobile data before the end of the month – or you’re simply tired of counting each MB of data as it gets slurped up by your social media or streaming viewing addictions – it can be pretty tempting to opt for an “unlimited” mobile phone plan.

After all, “Unlimited” can only mean that all the leashes are off and you can go as wild and crazy as you like, right?

Not so fast… literally. The vast majority of plans that you might think of as “unlimited” do in fact have some limitations on their usage that can affect how and where you can use them. The telcos offering them aren’t running some kind of con here; indeed they’re generally quite upfront about what those limitations are. It’s well worth knowing what to look for when you’re choosing the right unlimited mobile phone plan for your needs.

Graphic of unlimited phone data
Never pay for excess data usage again with these mobile plans offering unlimited calls, text and data.

Unlimited Calls and Texts… Mostly.

If your interest is in nattering away on the phone or sending near-endless texts to friends, family or business associates, you’re in luck, because the vast majority of both postpaid and prepaid mobile plans come with unlimited standard national calls and texts within Australia. You’re generally free to spend as much time chatting to Nanna as your ears can stand, or at least until your phone’s battery goes flat… as long as Nanna is within Australia.

Some plans do offer unlimited calls or texts to select International destinations, but it’s far from universal that this is the case. Even within Australia there are some call types that aren’t covered as part of standard contracts, such as premium rate call numbers or calls to satellite phones.

Unlimited data.. with the speed brakes on

Australian telcos generally shy away from using the precise word “unlimited” when it comes to the data inclusions on their plans, because the ACCC has in the past taken a dim view to anything being sold as “unlimited” where there were in fact pesky “limits” in play. This is why you’ll more likely see terms like “endless data” or similar bandied around.

So what’s the difference between “unlimited” and “endless” here?

The difference is generally one of speed. A number of telcos – including the big players such as Telstra, Vodafone and Optus – provide endless data offerings, but with specific data caps in play. That sounds confusing, but the way it works is that you get a set data quota at the best possible speeds available to you, and then any data usage over that limit is speed capped at a specific limit. Here Vodafone goes a little faster than Telstra or Optus on select plans with some higher tier plans going up to 10Mbps once your quota is exhausted, where Telstra and Optus cap out at 1.5Mbps. Telstra subsidiary Belong also has unlimited data quota plans with a 1Mbps speed tier.

Then there’s TPG-owned Felix, which launched with just a single plan with no data quota, but a fixed maximum speed of 20Mbps for all usage. It now offers some actual data-quota plans as well that then drop to a fixed 1.5Mbps speed tier once your quota is exhausted.

Those lower speed tiers are acceptable for simpler Internet tasks like web browsing, but they can be challenging for tasks like video streaming at anything but standard quality – and naturally they’re as limited by the quality of the actual connection as any full speed plan might be. The big advantage here is that you never have to particularly think about excess data charges again.

The other catch here – though we’re unaware of any telco having had to enforce this – is that even with speed caps, most mobile contracts do include reasonable use clauses that could see you kicked off if they figure you’re truly abusing the service with 24/7 data usage or similar.

What are my unlimited data plan options?

Here’s your full rundown of plan options from all Australian telcos offering unlimited data options on their plans

Alex Kidman
Written by
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is some kind of word-generating AI from the future that somehow worked out how to sneak back in time to 1998 to start its journalism career. Across that time, including editorial stints at ZDNet, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Mag and Finder, as well as contributions to every major tech masthead, nobody has quite managed to figure out this deeply held secret. Let’s keep it between us, OK?

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