Telstra vs Optus Mobile Matchup: Which provider is best in 2019?

We pit Australia’s two largest mobile network operators against each other.
Best provider

Telstra Mobile

Best for prepaid and BYO
Best coverage
Cheapest SIM plan

Optus Mobile

Great plan bonuses
Better for TV bundles
Recent Updates: 2 months ago
The new build your own plans from Optus have give the telco the edge when it comes to SIM only and iPhone plan value. However, Samsung fans are better off with Telstra these days, it seems, thanks to its $80 S10 promotion. As for prepaid, Optus has taken the lead with its latest additional data promo but after the first three recharges, both providers' $30 prepaid plans revert to 10GB per recharge.

Telstra vs Optus Mobile:  Our Verdict

Australia’s army of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) will get you out of trouble when you need a cheap SIM with ample data and calls but when it comes to coverage and phone plans, you really can’t go past Australia’s two largest mobile network providers. Over the years. Optus has been hot on Telstra’s heels, expanding its coverage to 98.5% of populated Australia. So when it comes to Telstra vs Optus, is there much of a difference these days?

Let’s take a look stack the telcos side-by-side and see if we can declare a clear winner.

When it comes to prepaid deals, Optus is leading the way at the moment. Thanks only to a timed promotion. Once that’s up, both providers will be on equal footing again.  For phone plans, it’s not as clear cut, with Optus offering sweet bonuses and Telstra offering its leading coverage.

BYO customers have a large suite of options from both providers but for our money, the new flexible Optus SIM plans offer much better value.

If cost isn’t an issue and you’re looking for fat stacks of data, Optus will give you up to 120GB for $79 per month whereas Telstra offers 150GB for $100 per month.

iPhone fans are better off with Optus and Samsung fans are better off with Telstra.

As for coverage, it’s a no-brainer. Telstra is the undefeated coverage champion in Australia and shows no signs of slowing down with the rollout of 5G.

Read on for a detailed explanation of our picks.

Which has the cheapest plans?

When it comes to these titanic telcos, working on a low-budget can be tough. Budget isn’t exactly the kind of vocabulary you associate with either provider. For the sake of this match-up, let’s take a look at the cheapest postpaid SIM plans offered by both providers and what they include.

The cheapest Optus SIM plan currently available will get you 10GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text.

The cheapest Telstra SIM plan will get you 15GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text, and a free trial for Telstra’s 5G network access (until they start charging an extra $15 per month for it in June 2020).

The cheapest SIM only plans are rarely the best value, that’s true for any provider. Both Telstra and Optus offer much more appealing SIM-only plans if you’re happy to pay a fraction more.

Here are some more popular SIM plans from each provider.

Telstra vs Optus: Which has the highest data mobile plan?

Optus offers up to 150GB per month on its most expensive phone plan. It’s a pricey plan but it’s still cheaper and has more data than Telstra’s premium plan. The new ‘build your own’ plan structure from Optus allows you to customise your plan, adding and removing inclusions to suit your needs. For example, the plan below includes 4GB of roaming data and unlimited international calls and texts to 35 countries. However, if you’re not much of a traveller, you can remove international calls and roaming and get 150GB for the same price.

There are a lot of moving parts to these plans and while the flexibility is appreciated, it does make them a little difficult to compare. Your best bet is to follow the link below to Optus’ website and customise your own plan.

Telstra offers 150GB mobile data on its most expensive plan. It will cost you a pretty penny but it also gets you unlimited standard calls, text and data-free music streaming via Apple Music and sports streaming via AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball and A-League football. This top-tier plan also offers access to Telstra’s 5G network without having to fork out extra.

Telstra vs Optus: Which has better phone plans?

Both Telstra and Optus have moved to more flexible phone contract options that allow you to pay off your handset over 12, 24 or 36 months. Of course, the longer you contract for, the cheaper your monthly handset repayments will be. You’ll end up paying roughly the same for your handset across all options but longer contracts and lower monthly payments will work for some, whereas others would rather pay more per month if it means shortening the contract period.

For this comparison, we’ve selected the iPhone 11 Pro 64GB on a 36-month contract.

With this particular plan and handset combination, there’s no question about it: Optus is the clear winner.

You can nab an iPhone 11 Pro 64GB, 60GB of data, unlimited calls and text and unlimited international calls and text to 35 selected countries for $98 per month.

Telstra, on the other hand, offers unlimited calls, text and only 15GB of data per month for $98.58 per month. So that’s more expensive with a quarter of the monthly data allowance. The only reason you’d pick this plan over the Optus iPhone plan is if you’re really desperate for Telstra’s superior regional coverage.

As with SIM plans, these phone plans can be tailored to suit your individual plan needs. With Optus, you can knock a small portion of the monthly price if you decide you don’t need international calls and texts, for example.

It’s also worth noting that you’re only contracted to pay off the handset repayments. The plans themselves are technically month-to-month, so if you cancel there aren’t any exorbitant cancellation fees, you just need to pay off the handset. That’s why the total minimum cost for each plan seems so low, you’re only obligated to pay for one month of service and the full cost of the handset.

Let’s take a look at some more popular iPhone 11 Pro 64GB handset combinations from all providers for a broader look at what’s on offer.

Which is best for Samsung fans?

With the new plan changes, we see a much different story for Samsung fans. We’ve picked the Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB on a 36-month contract for our comparison and, surprisingly, you’re much better off signing up with Telstra in this instance. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is a much cheaper handset than the iPhone 11 Pro if you’re looking to jump on a contract, but Telstra’s current deal is particularly appealing.

For $80 per month, Telstra will give you unlimited standard national calls and text, data-free Apple Music and sports streaming and 60GB of included data per month.

That’s great value but it’s even more tempting when you consider Optus is actually charging more for the same handset and data inclusions. Here’s what Optus will charge you for (roughly) the same inclusions. That’s not something you hear all that often.

Telstra vs Optus: Which offers better prepaid options?

For a brief stint there, Telstra was actually offering better overall prepaid value than Optus. However, with the recent plan changes, the gap between the two providers has narrowed.

Both Telstra and Optus are currently running promos that gives new customers a little extra data every month for the first few recharges. We’ve used both providers’ $30 prepaid offerings as a baseline for this match-up. Each promotion only lasts three recharges, then both plans revert to 10GB per $30 recharge.

Optus will give you 35GB per recharge for your first three recharges, with unlimited standard national calls and text and unlimited international calls to 15 countries. It also allows you to roll over your data so you can bank up to 200GB every 84 days if you don’t use all your data in one month.

Telstra, on the other hand, offers 20GB per recharge for the first recharges, as well as unlimited calls, text, data-free Apple Music and sports streaming, and unlimited international calls and text to 20 select countries.

If you’re looking for a plan with long-expiry credit, Telstra’s 12-month expiry $300 Prepaid Max plan offers 150GB, plus unlimited standard national and international (to 20 destinations) calls and text year-round. Optus, on the other hand, offers 120GB of data and no included international calls and text on its $150 365-day long expiry prepaid plan.  However, the 120GB is only a promo bonus. If you decide to stay on, your data will dop back down to 60GB per recharge, which is less appealing.

All that considered, Telstra and Optus are rarely your best options for prepaid. There are a few cheaper providers that use the Optus and Telstra networks to power their own prepaid mobile services. Here are the most popular prepaid plans on the Telstra and Optus networks according to those data nerds over at WhistleOut.

Telstra vs Optus: Which has the best coverage?

There’s no question about it, Telstra is and always has been the leading Australian telco for mobile network coverage. With 99.4% of populated Australia covered by Telstra’s 4G network and a dedication to delivering coverage in some of the most remote parts of Australia with its Blue Tick initiative, Telstra has always been the most reliable in terms of coverage. That’s why so many people in rural areas have been happy to pay the premium.

To be completely fair, Optus still covers a whopping 98.5% of populated Australia. That doesn’t sound like much of a difference but when we’re talking about over 25 million Australians, it’s quite a large difference.

Use the provider dropdown in the map below to compare Telstra and Optus coverage in Australia.

Both telcos hard at work upgrading their networks from 4G to 5G, with Telstra rolling out pockets of 5G in major Australian cities and Optus trialling it in various smaller regions.

Which provider is more popular?

According to WhistleOut’s mobile plan comparison engine, Telstra is more popular than Optus but not by a huge margin.