Optus vs Vodafone mobile match-up

We pit Australia’s second biggest mobile network (Optus) against its third biggest (Vodafone).
Bigger network
Best for SIM Only data
Best for international allowances
No excess data fees
Better phone plan deals
Better for Prepaid plans

Our verdict

It’s a close battle between Optus and Vodafone when it comes to mobile. On one hand, Optus has the bigger network, which means it’s available to more Australians. On the other, Vodafone has a great reputation for value-packed deals (particularly throughout 2020). The state of their respective 5G networks is murky, but they compete closely on pricing whether you’re comparing SIM Only, Postpaid phone plans, or Prepaid deals. There are noticeable wins for both telcos, which means it really boils down to which mobile categories matter most to you.

When it comes to network coverage, Telstra is number one with 99.2 percent of the population serviced by at least 4GX. Optus and Vodafone are the two other big mobile networks in Australia, covering 98.5 percent of the population (with either 3G or 4G) and more than 23 million Australians, respectively.

While Optus and Vodafone don’t contend on the same scale of network coverage as Telstra, they do offer a range of plan features that are appealing on the all-important value front. We’ve previously
pitted Telstra against Optus, so here’s how Optus and Vodafone mobile networks fare when squared off against each other.

For starters, you can see below how their most popular mobile phone plans (with at least 10GB of data) compare against each other in terms of popularity.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which has the best coverage?

While Telstra continues to offer the biggest mobile network in Australia, Optus is noticeably ahead of Vodafone if you break down the numbers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the population as of December 2020 is estimated to be around 25,727,000. Using that number, that 98.5 coverage percentage for Optus works out to 25,341,095, which is coverage to around more than two million more Aussies than Vodafone’s minimum estimate.

The good news is that both Optus and Vodafone MVNOs have complete access to each telco’s respective 4G network where it’s available for those seeking a great deal. You can interact with the map below to compare Optus and Vodafone coverage in your area or anywhere in Australia.

Optus vs Vodafone: 5G network coverage

Both Optus and Vodafone are rolling out their own respective 5G mobile networks, focusing primarily on populated metropolitan areas. Optus says it’s “committed to the continual expansion of [its] 5G network” but that’s not exactly specific about the planned extend of the Optus 5G mobile network.

Vodafone is more forthcoming, but its 5G mobile network is set to be based in selected areas in the following areas:

  • Adelaide
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Central Coast
  • Geelong
  • Gold Coast
  • Melbourne
  • Newcastle
  • Perth
  • Sydney

According to Vodafone, the plan is to roll out more than 1,200 sites that will cover 85 percent of the population in Australia’s six biggest cities by the end of 2021. That same page has a running update of the areas that are live for Vodafone 5G.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which has the cheapest SIM Only plans?

Sporadic deals notwithstanding, the cheap SIM Only end of town for Optus and Vodafone starts around the same price point. It’s safe to assume these plans are competing with each other, and both include unlimited standard national calls and texts as standard.

The cheapest plan is the $39 Optus Choice Plan, which comes with 10GB of data.

At the time of writing, the cheapest Vodafone plan was the $40 SIM Only Lite Plan, which was $4 cheaper than the Optus plan care of a $5 monthly credit for the first year. This discounted pricing also included 40GB of bonus data. Normally, though, this plan costs $40 a month for with 10GB of max-speed data (before being capped at 2Mbps).

If you’re willing to spend up to $10 more a month, the overall value improves for Optus and Vodafone plans, which you can see in the plans below.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which has the biggest data mobile plan?

Opt for the most expensive Optus plan, the $119 Optus One Plan, and you get a whopping 500GB of data each month. That’s obviously a lot of mobile data to work with, but it also includes unlimited standard international talk and SMS to 35 selected countries, as well as 10GB of roaming data for selected countries. Other perks include an Optus Sport + Fitness subscription as well as one-to-one care and network priority.

Vodafone’s most expensive plan, the $65 SIM Only Super+ Plan, comes with 100GB of max-speed data, as well as unlimited calls to selected countries, with 200 minutes of calls to other dialling destinations. While 100GB is a lot less than 500GB, this Vodafone plan is slowed to 10Mbps for the rest of the billing cycle if you use up the 100GB. This technically makes it an unlimited-data plan, especially considering how 10Mbps is practical for most online tasks (including HD streaming).

Both plans include access to each telco’s respective 5G mobile network. You can see other big-data SIM Only plans from Optus and Vodafone below, all of which have at least 100GB of monthly data.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which has better Postpaid phone plans?

Optus and Vodafone offer no-contract Postpaid phone plans and both telcos let you pick whether you want to pay off a new handset in either 12, 24 or 36 months. If cheaper monthly costs matter most, longer-duration handset repayment terms are a solid choice. Regardless of which of these three options you choose, you’ll pay pretty much the same for the handset.

For Postpaid phone plan comparisons between Optus and Vodafone, we’re using an iPhone 12 64GB handset with 24-month repayment terms and at least 10GB of data.

Optus edges out Vodafone by 99 cents a month if you don’t factor in Vodafone’s first year of monthly credit (which is a limited-time promotion). The $39 Optus Choice Plan costs $95.19 a month with an iPhone 12 64GB.

Without the benefit of the promotional pricing and bonus data that Vodafone was offering at the time of writing, Vodafone’s cheapest way to pay off an iPhone 12 64GB is via the $40 Lite Plan, which comes with 10GB of max-speed data (capped at 2Mbps if you go over).

All Optus and Vodafone Postpaid plans include access to each telco’s respective 5G mobile network for no additional cost. You’re free to shift plans or even telcos, but bear in mind that your exit fee will be the remainder of the handset repayment.

For comparison, here’s a look at the six most popular iPhone 12 64GB Postpaid plans today.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which has better Prepaid phone plans?

Dealing with at least 10GB of data per 28-day recharge – which is how both telcos classify a month in Prepaid terms – there’s interesting competition between Optus and Vodafone. Optus comes out on top, with 35GB for $30 on its Optus Prepaid Epic Data – $30 Recharge plan. That 35GB is only applicable for the first three Prepaid recharges; on the fourth recharge, it reverts to 10GB.

There are some other perks, though. You can roll over days (up to 84) and data (up to 200GB) by recharging before your expiry date, and this plan includes unlimited standard international calls to 15 selected countries.

For the same price, Vodafone has the $30 Prepaid Plus Recharge plan, which comes with 15GB of data. Recharge before expiry to save any unused data (up to 200GB), plus there’s 500 minutes of calls to selected countries. While 15GB of data every 28 days is better than the 10GB from Optus (from the fourth recharge), you get 10GB more data in the first year overall from Optus (assuming you recharge 13 times to cover a day shy of a full calendar year). Considering you can roll that data over, this makes the Optus plan the better pick.

It’s a different story when you up your monthly Prepaid budget by $10. The Vodafone $40 Prepaid Plus Recharge plan comes with 30GB of data as well as 1,000 minutes of calls to selected countries, with 100 minutes to more dialling destinations. Assuming you recharge 13 times in the first year, that’s 390GB of data total, and that same 200GB data bank applies here, too.

The Optus Prepaid Epic Data – $40 Recharge plan comes with 45GB of data on the first three recharges, then drops to 20GB from the fourth. You can stack days and data to the same tune as the Optus Prepaid plan above, and there’s an identical unlimited international calls allowance, but the first-year total works out to 335GB, which is 55GB less than the same-priced Vodafone plan.

The gap gets even bigger if you compare $50 Prepaid plans between the two telcos. Still, Vodafone only sells 28-day Prepaid plans, and Optus offers one data-inclusive option for those seeking long-expiry Prepaid with the Optus Prepaid Epic Value – $180 Recharge. This plan lasts for 365 days and includes 60GB of data, 50GB of which you can roll over if you recharge before expiry (and somehow haven’t used all of your data).

If you want great value Prepaid plans, either monthly or long-term, be sure to check out our best Prepaid plans page, which we update every month. Neither Optus nor Vodafone tend to dominate our core categories for Prepaid. You can see the current popular Prepaid picks below.

Optus vs Vodafone: Which telco is more popular?

Below you’ll see a snapshot of which telco is more popular out of Optus and Vodafone, as determined by engagement with our companion comparison website WhistleOut. Popularity tends to be dictated by which of these two telcos is offering the best deals in a given week.