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Which prepaid mobile plans have 5G?

High 5G speeds, low commitment.

Alex Kidman
Aug 14, 2023
Icon Time To Read3 min read

5G isn’t a new technology any more, with the big three telcos expanding their 5G footprint coverage every single day.

In the postpaid telco space, 5G speeds are more or less assumed, but it’s not absolutely universal across every prepaid plan, especially if you step outside the world of the telcos and into the MVNO space. Here’s what you need to know if you’re after a prepaid plan that includes 5G network access.

Optus prepaid plans with 5G

All of Optus’ Flex Plus plans include 5G access across its network, but it does apply speed caps to those plans if you opt to go down the prepaid route.

For most of Optus’ Flex Plus plans, you’re looking at a 150Mbps speed cap, except for the highest tier $55/28 day Flex Plus plan, which can peak at up to 250Mbps down. Opt for Optus’ 186 or 365 day expiry plans and you’re back in 150Mbps down territory on 5G.

Vodafone prepaid plans with 5G

Of the big three telcos, Vodafone is the only one that doesn’t apply a speed cap to its prepaid plans, so you’ll get the fastest possible speeds on its network at any recharge tier. As with all mobile networks that’s subject to network conditions and the hardware capabilities of your device.

Telstra prepaid plans with 5G

Telstra used to fairly strongly delineate 5G access mostly to the postpaid space, with only the highest-cost prepaid plans getting any level of 5G access. Thankfully that’s no longer the case, with all of Telstra’s plans including access to the company’s 5G nationwide network.

However, while you can access 5G with any Telstra prepaid plan, there is one limitation in play. All of Telstra’s prepaid plans have 5G access, but capped at a maximum of 150Mbps down. Comparatively, the entry level basic postpaid plan is capped at 250Mbps down, while higher tiers on postpaid have no speed brakes applied.

Here’s Telstra’s prepaid plans to compare:

Other prepaid plans with 5G

While all three networks do offer 5G to their MVNO partners, only a few MVNOs offer 5G on prepaid plan terms. At the time of writing, Amaysim, Boost, Lebara, Aldi Mobile, Exetel and Superloop all offer 5G access on prepaid mobile plans. Here’s a look at how their 5G prepaid SIM-only plans stack up against each other:

Where can I get 5G?

All three big telco networks are working feverishly to provide 5G coverage to as many Australians as possible. As it stands Telstra’s got the most impressive numbers in terms of population coverage, while some tests suggest that Optus’ network may be marginally faster.

Both figures should be taken with a grain of salt, however. Telcos always talk about population coverage, not land mass coverage. Australia’s population generally lives along the coastline, so it’s a lot easier to cover a lot of people in smaller areas, but that doesn’t mean that 5G is available everywhere you might go, especially if you live regionally or inland. Likewise, speed tests can show relative rates for downloads and uploads, but only at that instant in time and at that location; at another time a network might be under heavier load, or in another area the achievable coverage and therefore speeds could be markedly better or worse.

So how can you fairly compare? We’ve got comprehensive 5G coverage maps for every telco so you can get a realistic picture of what you may be able to achieve with 5G in your area.

Again, caveats apply. Coverage maps are approximations that typically relate to outdoor coverage, not indoors. Local conditions including building types, weather conditions and other network usage parameters can and will affect real world speeds.

How fast is 5G?

This is a more complex question to answer than you might think. In real world speed tests with a variety of handsets it’s usual to see somewhere between 200Mbps-500Mbps, but I have hit much better and worse speeds over time.

It’s not just a network question either, with only a smattering of devices that provide mmWave connectivity, such as Google’s Pixel 7 Pro able to really punch up in the 5G speed tiers … but there, only if you’re in an area that’s both 5G covered and mmWave ready. The vast majority of 5G capable devices sold in Australia still only work on the sub-6Ghz frequency range, which does somewhat limit their highest speed capabilities.

Which phones have 5G?

There’s no point getting a 5G capable plan without a 5G handset. Thankfully there’s a wide range of 5G capable phones on the market across most price points, though we are yet to see a really “cheap” 5G handset locally. Here’s a range to select from with 5G capability.

FAQ

Are the cheapest 5G plans prepaid?
Generally this is true, but it’s always worth checking for on-the-spot deals, especially around the end of the year – financial or calendar – as often providers will try to entice customers with limited time deals on postpaid plans that can make them considerably better value than their prepaid equivalents, especially if they offer bonus data or lower costs over a number of months. To make the most of these deals, make sure you note on your calendar when they roll over to the lesser data or higher prices, and look to switch again at that time.
Do smaller prepaid providers have 5G?
Smaller providers do have access to the 5G networks built out by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, but to date, not all of them have offered those 5G plans on prepaid terms.
Do you need a new SIM for 5G?

Generally speaking if you’re staying with the same provider you shouldn’t need a new SIM, though you will need a 5G capable handset or mobile hotspot device. The only time when that might not be true is if you’ve been keeping the same SIM for a very long period of time reaching back to well before 5G (or possibly even 4G) networks existed in Australia. When in doubt, check with your telco, because they absolutely should be able to tell you quickly if a new SIM is required. They’ll either send you one out to pop into your phone, or instruct you on how to set up a 5G-capable eSIM instead.

If you’re changing providers, then you will need a new SIM (or eSIM provisioning plan). They’ll arrange that for you when you sign up. 

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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