Telstra vs Optus Mobile Matchup: Which provider is best?

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

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, Telstra is the clear winner here. 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, Telstra’s cheapest deals offer more value than those from Optus, though Optus technically offers the cheapest plan.

If cost isn’t an issue and you’re looking for fat stacks of data, Optus will give you up to 200GB per month whereas Telstra offers unlimited (at a, frankly, staggering price).

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.

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 3GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text.

The cheapest Telstra SIM plan will get you 60GB of data, unlimited standard calls and text, and unlimited international calls and text to 15 selected countries.

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 200GB per month on its most expensive phone plan but Telstra offers unlimited data if you’re willing to pay a big premium.

The most data you can get on an Optus plan is 200GB per month via the telco’s priciest mobile phone plan, which is available in two options the phone-leased My Plan Flex and the own-your-phone My Plan Plus.

Telstra offers unlimited mobile data on its highest cost plan at a much higher price. This plan is “unlimited” under the rule of “fair use” and you can’t use a shared data SIM on Telstra plans. But you could totally get away with using this plan and a mobile hotspot to replace your home broadband bill. With that said, your home broadband would go where you go, so that’s not the best option unless you’re living alone.

Telstra vs Optus: Which has better phone plans?

While both offer similar phone pricing structures, Optus offers better extras on its phone plans, gifts like Beats Headphones, but Telstra has the upper-hand for coverage. There’s no clear winner here so it more depends on which out of those two factors matter to you most.

Phone plan pricing is a confusing nightmare. Different handsets come with different repayments and even that cost will vary depending on whether you want to own or lease your phone. For the sake of comparing Telstra vs Optus, let’s take a look at what each provider charges you to own the latest iPhone XR 64GB with 50GB of data to play around with per month.

Here’s how much Telstra will charge you for the iPhone XR 64GB on a 24-month contract.

And here’s how much Optus will sting you.

As you can see, the base phone plan from Optus costs less, but you pay more per month for the same handset. Both plans offer unlimited standard talk and text within Australia but Optus offers unlimited to 35 countries, whereas Telstra only offers unlimited to 15 countries. Then there’s coverage. You always expect to pay the premium for Telstra’s comprehensive mobile network and when you put those two particular plans side-by-side, the cost for Telstra’s premium coverage isn’t that much of a jump.

Ultimately, it depends on what’s most important to you; saving on your total minimum cost or accessing the network with more coverage. Smartphone preference also comes into play. What if you don’t necessarily want the latest and greatest iPhone? Well, that might change things…

Which is best for Samsung fans?

We see a similar story for the Samsung Galaxy S10 as the iPhone above, except this time around, both providers charge the same monthly cost for handset repayments.

In both cases, Optus also throws in a little bonus gift to sweeten the deal. Sometimes that gift is a set of Beats Headphones, sometimes it’s a tablet. It all depends on the promo running at the time.

Telstra vs Optus: Which offers better prepaid options?

We can’t actually believe we’re saying this but Telstra actually beats Optus for budget prepaid options… by a long shot.

When it comes to prepaid plans for regular mobile users, the difference between Telstra vs. Optus is much of a muchness. Both offer a huge variety of prepaid plans with expiry lengths as short as 7 days and as long as 365 days. Both providers’ most popular prepaid plans are more regularly discounted than not.

However, without the promos applied, both popular prepaid options work out roughly the same, with a few small exceptions. For example, Telstra’s regular usage prepaid plan has an expiry of 35 days, whereas the offer from Optus has a 28-day expiry.

Optus also offers an additional 10GB per month that’s reserved for streaming Netflix, Stan and ABCiview, allowing you to stream up to 10GB on those services without using any of your standard allocation of prepaid data.

Telstra also allows you to rollover up to 200GB of data on its prepaid plan if you recharge before your credit is set to expire, whereas Optus only allows you to rollover 50GB (not including the bonus streaming data).

If you’re looking for a plan with long-expiry credit, Telstra’s 12-month expiry Long Life Plus plan offers 200GB, plus unlimited standard national and international (to 20 destinations) calls and text year round. Optus, on the other hand, offers 60GB of data and no included international calls and text on its 365-day long expiry prepaid plan. When you do the math, Telstra’s plan works out at over 15GB per month, while Optus offers 5GB per month (though you’re free to use the data as you like throughout the year).

Here are the top five prepaid plans from Telstra and Optus according to the mobile plan comparison 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.