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Telstra vs Optus mobile matchup
We pit Australia’s two largest mobile network operators against each other.
Telstra and Optus are like the Godzilla and King Kong of Australian telcos. They've clashed plenty of times over the years, but it's easy to wonder if the two have more in common than they do apart.
In the broadband arena, Telstra and Optus aren’t all that different but there’s a huge difference in value across their various mobile offerings. Optus has been hot on Telstra’s heels over the years, expanding its coverage to 98.5% of populated Australia.
BYO customers have a large suite of options from both providers but for our money, the flexible Optus SIM plans offer much more value. The same can be said for its phone plans. The Optus $45 Choice plan consistently takes the top spot in our monthly round-up of the best mobile phone plans. 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.
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.
Telstra vs Optus: 5G coverage
It's still early days for both providers, but Telstra's commitment coverage has extended to 5G in this early stage of the next-gen network's rollout. A quick glance at the 5G coverage map below shows that Telstra has superior 5G coverage in most major cities. Optus has a decent 5G footprint too, but if you use the dropdown in the map below to switch between the two providers, you'll see that Telstra has a higher density of coverage in metropolitan areas.
Want to know how Vodafone stacks up against the big guns in terms of coverage? Visit our dedicated Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone coverage guide for the full lowdown.
When it comes to the MVNOs, Telstra and Optus do differ when it comes to much of their network they're willing to share.
Telstra customers have access to the carrier's entire network footprint, which covers 99.5% of the Australian population.
Meanwhile, MVNOs like ALDI mobile use the Telstra Wholesale Network. This skimmed-down version of Telstra's network reaches just 98.8% of the Australian population. That might not sound like a huge difference, but if you're in a rural area it can count for a lot.
The one exception here is Boost, which does have access to the full Telstra network.
For a comparison of how Telstra's MVNO partners compare to its own in-house plans, check out the widget below.
In contrast, MVNOs operating on the Optus have access to the exact same coverage footprint as Optus' own customers. This is great for consumers as it means they can look for the best deal without having to worry. Check out the widget below for a round-up showing how Optus compares MVNOs using the same infrastructure when it comes to SIM-only and prepaid plans with at least 20GB of data.
Does Telstra or Optus have cheaper 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 SIM plans offered by both providers and what they include. It's worth noting that Telstra moved to an upfront payment system for its BYO SIM plans in 2021. Most of the inclusions remain the same, with a few small upgrades, but all Telstra SIM-only plans are now charged at the start of the month, rather than the end of your billing period.
The cheapest Optus SIM plan currently available will get you 20GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text.
The cheapest Telstra SIM plan will get you 40GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text. However, unlike Optus' cheapest plan, Telstra's doesn't include 5G access - you'll have to fork out for the $65 Medium Plan if that's important to you.
The cheapest SIM-only plans are rarely the best value, that’s true for any provider. Both Telstra and Optus offer much better value SIM-only plans if you’re happy to pay a fraction more.
Here are some more popular SIM plans from each provider.
If you're happy to go with a lesser-known provider on the Telstra or Optus network, there's even better value to be had (though only SpinTel, Southern Phone and Aussie Broadband offer 5G plans). Here are the most popular SIM plans right now from other Telstra- or Optus-powered providers.
Telstra vs Optus: Which has the highest data mobile plan?
Optus offers up to 500GB per month on its most expensive phone plan. It's a very pricey plan, but it does come with unlimited standard international calls and text to 35 selected destinations, an Optus Sport subscription and priority access to Optus' network.
If you're a Telstra customer and an English Premier League (EPL) fan, Optus Sport is actually available as a standalone service for $14.99 per month. You don't need to be an Optus customer to use it, but it's definitely a good perk for select Optus customers.
As of August 1, Optus Sport will no longer be free for Optus customers. Instead, the service will cost an extra $6.99 per month or $24.99 per month if you aren't an Optus customer.
Optus also recently joined Telstra in scrapping excess data charges, switching to a more manageable endless data solution where your speeds are capped at 1.5Mbps when you exceed your monthly allowance. So even if you do go over your data with either provider, you won't get any unnecessary bill shock.
In case the 500GB plan is too much for you, we've also included Optus' 120GB plan to check out. It's still on the pricey side, but cheaper than Telstra's premium plan.
Telstra currently offers 180GB mobile data on its most expensive plan. It costs 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.
As of June 1 2022, the price of this plan will be going up. However, Telstra are also bumping up the included data from 180GB per month to 300GB per month. That's not quite as generous as Optus' $500GB plan, but it's still a heck of a lot of episodes of Succession.
The speed of your mobile internet relies on a multitude of factors, including coverage, whether or not your plan includes 5G access, and even the make and model of your phone. Under controlled conditions, however, our friends at Whistleout found that, when it comes to 5G speeds, Telstra tends to outperform Optus. That said, both regularly reach speeds in excess of 200Mbps, which should be more than enough for most users.
Telstra vs Optus: Which has the best customer service?
Of course, pricing, data and perks aren't the only considerations when tossing up between mobile providers. You also want to know any issues you may have will be sorted out quickly and easily, so customer service is an important factor to think about.
Australian telcos don't have the best reputation for customer service and satisfaction, and Telstra and Optus are actually two of the worst offenders. According to user-generated reviews website Product Review, Telstra has a meagre 1.4-star rating, while Optus has an even lower 1.3-star rating.
Based on those numbers alone, Telstra just comes out on top, but neither provider gets a full tick of approval from us for customer service.
Telstra vs Optus: Phone plans
While Telstra only offers the option to pay off your handset over 12 or 24 months, things are a little more flexible with Optus. You can 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 Samsung Galaxy S22 5G 128GB 24-month contract.
With this particular plan and handset combination, Optus offers the lower starting price on a plan with 20GB per month, but a little extra will get you 40GB per month with Telstra. The Galaxy S22 takes advantage of Telstra's 5G network, so in this particular instance, we'd recommend Telstra over Optus.
Honestly, if you're looking for a bargain on the Galaxy S22, your best bet is through the Telstra-powered MVNO Woolworths Mobile. It has much cheaper deals with decent monthly data. The only caveat is, Woolworths Mobile doesn't offer 5G yet, so if that's important to you, it's best to stick with the Big Blue.
In this particular match-up, Telstra comes out on top, but when it comes to overall value for other handsets, like the latest iPhone, Optus often pops up in our monthly picks for the best mobile phone plans in Australia.
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 Samsung Galaxy S22 128GB handset combinations from all providers for a broader look at what's on offer.
Telstra vs Optus: Prepaid plans
Telstra currently offers a total of six different prepaid plans, which range from as cheap as $10 to as much as $300. On top of this, the company also offers a $2 SIM-only kit and a "Casual" prepaid option that offers the same long-term expiry found in its most expensive prepaid plans but only includes 300MB of data. That's not going to be enough for data hungry Aussies looking to make the most of the latest iPhone, but it might be a good option for younger (or older) consumers looking to rely on a feature phone like the Nokia 225 4G.
Optus' prepaid offering is a little more convoluted. The carrier currently offers a total of ten different prepaid options that range in both cost and the T&Cs involved.
About half of these plans are branded 'Flex' plans. The remainder are more traditional prepaid plans that range from $30 to $300.
Available in both 4G and 5G variants, Optus' prepaid Flex plans start at $1/day and go up to $60/month. The idea here is that you can better scale and match the cost of your mobile data to your needs. To that end, Optus' 5G Flex prepaid plans are priced at double that of their 4G counterparts.
Like Telstra, Optus' best value prepaid plans tend to be reserved for new and online only customers. The widget below should give you an idea of how the two providers compare when it comes to prepaid plans offering at least 30GB of data per month.
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 prepaid and Optus prepaid are currently running promos that give 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, before reverting to 10GB per recharge.
For more prepaid plans, check out our picks for the top prepaid plans each month.
Here's the Optus promo, which will get you 40GB for your first three recharges, as well as unlimited calls and text, unlimited international calls to 15 countries, and data rollover up to 200GB (which allows you to pool unused data).
Telstra, on the other hand, offers 30GB per recharge for the first three recharges, as well as unlimited calls, text, data-free Apple Music and sports streaming, and 300 minutes of international calls to selected Zone 1 countries, and 60 minutes of international calls to selected Zone 2 countries.
If you’re looking for a plan with long-expiry credit, Telstra’s 12-month expiry $300 Prepaid Max plan offers 225GB, plus unlimited standard national calls and text year-round. There's also 6,000 minutes' worth of international calls to Telstra's Zone 1 countries, and 800 minutes' worth of calls to Telstra's Zone 2 countries.
Optus, on the other hand, offers 100GB of data on its $150 365-day prepaid plan.
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 this week.
Telstra vs Optus: Most popular plans
Here's how popular each provider is this week. This is usually a pretty reliable indicator for which provider is offering the best deals of the week.
That paints a broad picture of each provider's popularity across phone plans, SIM only and prepaid, but we can also see which plans from each provider are most popular this week.