Telstra vs Optus mobile matchup

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

Best network
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    Best for prepaid and BYO
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    Best coverage
Cheaper phone plans
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    Better phone plans
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    Better for TV bundles
Brodie Fogg
Editorial Lead
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Published on November 21, 2021
7 min read

Quick 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.

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.

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Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone coverage

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.

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 10GB 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 offers 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.

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 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.

Info Box
Is Telstra faster than Optus?

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 S21 128GB 24-month contract.

With this particular plan and handset combination, Optus offers the lower starting price on a plan with 10GB per month, but a little extra will get you 40GB per month with Telstra. The Galaxy S21 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 S21, 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 S21 128GB handset combinations from all providers for a broader look at what's on offer.

Telstra vs Optus: Prepaid plans

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.

The one key advantage that Telstra prepaid has added since our last update is 5G on prepaid plans. With Optus, 5G is still a premium reserved for SIM-only plans. It's worth considering if you've purchased one of the latest 5G phones outright.

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 200GB, 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 120GB 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.

Brodie Fogg
Written by
Brodie Fogg
Brodie Fogg is the Australian editorial lead at He has covered consumer tech, telecommunications, video games, streaming and entertainment for over five years at websites like WhistleOut and Finder and can be found sharing streaming recommendations at 7NEWS every month.

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