Telstra vs Optus Mobile Matchup

We pit Australia’s two largest mobile network operators against each other.
Best network
Best for prepaid and BYO
Best coverage
Cheaper phone plans
Better phone plans
Better for TV bundles

Our verdict

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? 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. 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 $49 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.

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 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 40GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text.

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 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, a 12-month subscription to Apple Music and priority access to Optus’ network.

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. Optus’ new ‘build your own’ plan structure allows you to customise your plan, adding and removing inclusions to suit your needs.
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 180GB 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.

Telstra vs Optus: Which has better phone plans?

While Telstra only offers the option to pay off your handset over 24 months, with Optus things are more flexible. 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 iPhone 11 Pro 64GB on a 24-month contract, and we’ve chosen to look at plans with at least 20GB of data.

With this particular plan and handset combination, Optus offers the lower starting price, and more data to boot. The only reason you’d pick Telstra over Optus on this comparison 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 choose to “build your own plan” and 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.

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 the Optus plan reverts to 10GB per $30 recharge, while the Telstra plan reverts to 8GB 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 if you don’t use all your data in one month.

For more prepaid plans, check out our picks for the top prepaid plans each month.

Telstra, on the other hand, offers 25GB per recharge for the first 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 150GB, 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 60GB 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 according to those data nerds over at WhistleOut.

Which provider is more popular?

Here’s how popular each provider is this week according to comparison website WhistleOut. This is usually a pretty reliable indicator for which provider is offering the best deals this week.