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What is a shared phone plan?

Sharing (phone plans) is caring

Anula Wiwatowska
Nov 08, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

Shared phone plans have almost done away with the traditional family mobile phone plan, and while the pair do have similarities they aren’t quite the same thing. These plans come in a handful of variants; some providers will call the feature ‘data sharing’, others ‘data gifting’, and others will stick with the traditional family plan moniker. Let’s break down the jargon, shall we?

What is a shared phone plan?

Simply put, a shared phone plan is any SIM plan that allows you to share your inclusions across a number of SIMs. Some of these plans will come with bundling discounts, or bonuses of some sort, but more commonly they just let you shift data around services connected to your account.

If you’re a devotee to one of the big three telcos (or ALDI Mobile), then chances are that you’re already on a shared phone plan and don’t even know it.

What is data sharing?

As the name suggests, data sharing is a feature that allows you to share data with other users. This feature is typically only available to users with SIM plans on the same account, from participating providers. 

Each SIM plan’s data allowance goes into a pool, and all connected accounts simply slurp up data from the shared resource. Say that there are four plans connected to the account, three with a 20GB data allowance, and one with 80GB - the total pool for the four users will be 140GB.

What is data gifting?

A handful of Telstra MVNOs offer data gifting between other users as a perk, but it isn’t as cut-and-dry as data sharing plans. Data gifting lets users send data to users with the same provider, albeit in small chunks, and with other limitations.

Each participating telco has its own rules around how, and when data can be gifting but there are a handful of steadfast conditions:

  • Data can only be sent in 1GB chunks
  • Users can’t gift more than 50% of their data per payment period
  • Bonus data and gifted data can not be shared
  • Data can only be gifted to customers on the same plan type (ie prepaid to prepaid, or postpaid to postpaid)

Providers with shared phone plans

At the time of writing, there are eight Australian telco providers offering some form of shared phone plan.

Vodafone, Optus, Telstra, and ALDI Mobile offer data sharing, while Everyday Mobile, Belong, More, and Tangerine all offer data-gifting.

Providers with data sharing

Data sharing on the Big Three telcos is relatively straightforward - all eligible SIM-only and mobile data plans on the same account automatically share data. For Optus these plans include; Optus Choice Plus, Optus Choice Plus Data, Optus Plus Family, and Optus Plus Kids plans, and for Vodafone they include; Vodafone Infinite plans, Vodafone BYOD, Plus, Team, and Infinite Data plans. Telstra only offers data sharing on its Upfront SIM-only and data plans.

Vodafone does sweeten the deal a bit further by offering a 5% stacking discount on additional services - up to a total 20% off your final bill.

Here are the Big Three’s SIM-only plans for comparison.

Aldi on the other hand, only has data sharing on its Family Pack Mobile Plans. ALDI Mobile’s Family plans don’t mess around with separate data allowance, they just drop it all straight into the pool. The provider has three options, one which includes up to two services, another up to four, and the largest plan can service up to six SIMs. 

Arguably ALDI Mobile has the simplest, and best value shared plan on the market, but if you want to stack some extra internet discounts, it is still worth doing the maths on Vodafone’s plans.

Providers with data gifting

Everyday Mobile, Belong, More, and Tangerine offer data gifting between users. Since each of these providers are on the Telstra network, they not only have similar plan structures, but also follow the same conditions for data gifting. We’ve outlined them above, but pretty much users can chuck 1GB at a time to their friends on the same telco. What a way to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Here are how the for telcos plans compare:

Are shared phone plans a good deal?

Shared phone plans can be a good deal in some circumstances, but they require some calculations to figure out what is right for you. The main thing to consider is data-to-dollar value - how much will 1GB of data cost you.

The Big Three telcos notoriously have the worst data-to-dollar values when compared to smaller providers. Optus’ cheapest SIM-only plan charges $1.63/GB, Telstra’s charges $1.24/GB, and Vodafone’s is $1.12/GB without taking into account any bonus data. While MVNO plans with comparative data allowances fare much better - Southern Phone on the Optus network charges $0.50/GB, numobile on Telstra charges $0.76/GB, and Kogan on the Vodafone network charges $0.63/GB. For many people simply opting for a handful of cheaper plans may be a better deal than a shared phone plan with a big provider.

However, for those looking to bundle in other services such as a data SIM, or even an NBN plan, then the value may be there. You’ll just have to do some maths to figure it out.

Anula Wiwatowska
Written by
Anula Wiwatowska
Anula is the Content and Social Media Editor within the extended universe. Working in the tech space since 2020, she covers phone and internet plans, gadgets, smart devices, and the intersection of technology and culture. Anula was a finalist for Best Feature Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards, and an eight time finalist across categories at the IT Journalism Awards. Her work contributed to WhistleOut's Best Consumer Coverage win in 2023.

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