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

Quick 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. 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 July 2021 is estimated to be around 25,791,715. Using that number, that 98.5 coverage percentage for Optus works out to 25,404,839, which covers 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 extension of the Optus 5G mobile network.

Vodafone is more forthcoming, but its 5G mobile network is set to be based in selected metropolitan areas and regional hubs across NSW, ACT, VIC, QLD, SA and WA.

According to Vodafone, the plan is to roll out more than 1,000 sites that will cover 85% 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 a similar price point, with Voda coming in $5 cheaper. 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 Optus SIM-only plan is the $45 Optus Choice Plan, which comes with 20GB of data and no excess data charges if you go over (there is a 1.5 Mbps speed cap, though).

As for Vodafone, their cheapest SIM-only plan is the $40 Lite Plan, which is $5 cheaper than the Optus plan above. This plan normally comes with 10GB of max-speed data (before being capped at 2Mbps), but a month rarely goes by without a deal for bonus data for the life of your plan. At the time of writing, you can get 30GB bonus data, bringing it to 40GB total.

If you’re willing to spend more, however, the overall value improves significantly for Optus and Vodafone plans, which you can see below.

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

The now-scrapped $119 Optus Choice Plan used to be the big-data hitter with 500GB of data each month. Now it’s gone, Vodafone has swooped right in to steal that crown with the $120 SIM Only Ultra Plan, which, at the time of writing, offers 500GB (150GB + 350GB bonus) for just $75 per month for the first 12 months. It also comes with the added comfort of infinite data capped at a generous 25 Mbps on the unlikely chance you go over that 500GB.

The $85 Optus Choice Plan is Optus’ biggest data plan, and also its most expensive. It comes with 240GB of data (with endless capped speeds of 1.5 Mbps if you go over), unlimited standard International Talk & Text to 35 selected destinations, plus access to Optus Sport and OS Fitness at no extra cost.

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.

As Vodafone has the cheapest postpaid plan (the $40 Lite Plan), it’s already out in front of Optus’ $45 offering. Usually, both telcos are neck-and-neck when it comes to monthly device cost, which means Vodafone is generally the cheapest option overall. Still, both providers offer regular discounts, so keep an eye on the below plans as they may change.

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 (with 24-month repayments) 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. For the best value plan, Vodafone prepaid just comes out on top at the time of writing, offering 40GB for just $9 for the first month (reverting to $30 afterwards). The 40GB only applies for the first activation and first two recharges, reverting to 15GB, which still should be enough for less frequent users. There’s also infinite data capped at 1.5 Mbps if you go over your included data and data banking of up to 200GB.

Optus prepaid isn’t far behind, with 40GB for $30 on its Optus Prepaid Epic Data – $30 Recharge plan. That 40GB is only applicable for the first three prepaid recharges; on the fourth recharge, it reverts to 10GB. On top of that, you can rollover up to 200GB of unused data, you’ll get unlimited standard international calls to 15 destinations and up to 10GB of extra data to use streaming Netflix, Stan and ABC Kids.

When you up your monthly prepaid budget by $10, the gap closes even further, with both Optus and Vodafone currently offering 50GB of data for $40 (for the first couple of recharges, at least), along with the inclusions mentioned above. Normally, Vodafone’s $40 prepaid plan comes with 30GB per month and Optus’ $40 prepaid plan comes with 20GB.

Things are much the same again at the $50 price point, with both Optus and Vodafone serving up 60GB of data for $50 at the time of writing instead of the usual 30GB for Optus and 45GB for Vodafone. Keep in mind that the promotional bonus data usually only applies for the first couple of recharges.

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. Optus and Vodafone rarely dominate our core categories for prepaid. You can see the current most 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.