Telstra vs Vodafone mobile match-up

We pit Australia’s biggest mobile network (Telstra) against its third biggest (Vodafone).
Best network
Best for biggest-data plans
Best 5G network coverage
Cheaper phone plans
Better Postpaid phone plans
Better month-to-month Prepaid plans

Our verdict

Ultimately, whether you choose Telstra or Vodafone will depend on whether you want a wider-reaching, future-proofed mobile network or whether you want better value in your mobile plans. For the former, Telstra is the obvious pick with a bigger network and a faster, larger 5G network. For the latter, Vodafone has competitive pricing across Prepaid, SIM Only, and Postpaid phone plans.

We’ve pitted Telstra against Optus, then Optus against Vodafone. Now it’s time for Telstra’s expensive mobile network to be put up against the value of Vodafone’s plans. In years gone by, Vodafone didn’t have the best reputation with customers, but that’s been slowly and surely changing for the better in more recent years.

Similarly, while Telstra never really used to compete on price or dollars-to-data value, that’s been changing in the last year as part of Telstra’s recent plan refreshes across mobile and NBN plans.

Have a gander at how Telstra and Vodafone compare for popular plans with at least 10GB, then read on for the full breakdown across core categories.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which has the best coverage?

There’s no contest here, really. Telstra has bragging rights to coverage that extends to 99.2 percent of the Australian population, whereas Vodafone says its network can reach more than 23 million Aussies. Using the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as a guide, Australia’s population is estimated to be around 25,727,000 as of December 2020.

While Vodafone has a respectable network reach of more than 23 million, Telstra’s 99.2 percent becomes 25,521,184 using those ABS figures, which is 2.5 million more than Vodafone’s minimum network reach. That’s a lot of Aussies who can’t tap into the Vodafone mobile network.

If you’re interested to see whether the Telstra or Vodafone (or Optus) mobile networks are servicing your area, use the interactive map below.

Telstra vs Vodafone: 5G network coverage

Telstra and Vodafone are already rolling out their respective 5G mobile networks. Vodafone is focused on rolling out 5G to more than 1,200 sites with the aim of providing coverage to 85 percent of people in Australia’s six biggest cities by the end of 2021.

Telstra currently has Australia’s largest 5G network, with 41 percent of Australians already covered, and the goal of reaching 75 percent of the Australian population by 30 June 2021. In short, expect the Telstra 5G mobile network to be a lot bigger than Vodafone’s by the end of 2021.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which has the cheapest SIM Only plans?

There’s no real contest here, as Telstra’s cheapest SIM Only plan is normally priced at $65 a month. Vodafone, on the other hand, has SIM Only plans that start a lot cheaper with the $40 SIM Only Lite Plan, which comes with 5G access and 10GB of data (capped at 2Mbps if you go over). There was a limited-time Vodafone promotion at the time of writing that we haven’t taken into account for this comparison.

At the time of writing, Telstra also had a limited-time promotion that priced its $65 Medium SIM Plan identically to its $55 Small SIM plan. Normally, though, the Telstra $55 Small SIM Plan is the cheapest entry, and while it comes with 40GB of data (capped at 1.5Mbps if you go over), it doesn’t have access to Telstra’s 5G network.

Both telcos offer unlimited national text and calls as standard. You can see the six cheapest SIM Only plans from Vodafone and Telstra below.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which has the biggest data mobile plan?

This is a closer comparison because it highlights the gap between data offered and how much it costs to get more data. At the time of writing, Vodafone was offering a limited-time promotion that included double the data, but normally, Telstra takes out the top spot with the 180GB that comes with its $115 Extra Large SIM Plan.

Speeds are capped at 1.5Mbps if you burn through that data, and this plan also includes access to the Telstra 5G mobile network.

Conversely, Vodafone’s $120 SIM Only Ultra Plan normally costs $120 a month for 150GB of data and 5G access, albeit if you use up your monthly allowance, speeds are capped at 25Mbps, which is the equivalent of NBN Basic II speeds and is ultimately very usable for all online tasks, including video streaming.

The other big-data plans are Vodafone’s $65 SIM Only Super+ Plan, which normally comes with 100GB of data and 5G access (slowed to 10Mbps if you go over), compared to Telstra’s $85 Large SIM Plan, which comes with 120GB of data and 5G access (capped at 1.5Mbps if you go over). You can see these plans and other big-data SIM Only Telstra/Vodafone options below.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which has better Postpaid phone plans?

Telstra and Vodafone let you pay off a new handset as part of a no-contract plan, albeit with fixed interest-free handset repayment periods. For Vodafone, you get the choice of 12, 24 or 36 months, whereas Telstra only offers options for 12 and 24 months. The shorter the repayment terms, the cheaper the monthly cost.

Using an iPhone 12 64GB handset as a guide with 24-month repayment terms and at least 10GB of data, Vodafone comes out on top for the cheapest way to pay off that particular Apple handset.

Vodafone has a couple of similarly priced options. The cheapest is the $40 Lite Plan, which normally costs $96.20 per month and comes with 10GB of data (speeds are capped at 2Mbps if you go over) and access to the Vodafone 5G mobile network.

For Telstra, the cheapest way to that Apple handset on 24-month repayment terms is the $55 Small Mobile Plan, which costs $111.20 per month with the repayment fee and comes with 40GB of data. There is a catch, though: this plan doesn’t include access to the Telstra 5G mobile network, despite the 5G-capable handset.

To get 5G access with Telstra, you’d have to step up to the $65 Medium Mobile Plan, which comes to $121.20 a month and includes 80GB of data. Competing around the same price point is Vodafone’s $65 Super+ Plan, which normally comes with 100GB of data and typically also costs $121.20 per month.

Feel free to shift plans or telcos with these no-contract plans, just remember that you’ll have to pay off what’s owed on the handset cost as an exit fee.

You can see a mix of Telstra, Vodafone and Optus plans below that are updated based on the most popular ones on offer.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which has better Prepaid phone plans?

While Telstra offers more Prepaid plans than Vodafone, both telcos offer ‘monthly’ options that operate on a 28-day recharge cycle. Similarly, Telstra and Vodafone also offer 200GB data banks for Prepaid customers, so long as you recharge before those 28 days expire. We count 28-day Prepaid plans 13 times to cover a full 12 months when determining first-year value.

To simplify things for our comparison, both telcos offer $30 Prepaid plans. Vodafone has the better value in its $30 Prepaid Plus Recharge offering, which comes with 15GB of data, 5G access, and you can get $5 off every 28 days if you opt-in for automatic recharge ($325 first-year cost). According to Vodafone, this Prepaid plan also is capped at 1.5Mbps if you go over your monthly data allowance, instead of having to purchase more data.

On the other side of the comparison, Telstra has the $30 Pre-Paid Complete plan, which normally has 8GB of data, 5G network access, as well as 300 minutes of calls to selected countries, 60 minutes to additional countries, and $5 of international credit. Get in by 1 February 2021, and you get 17GB of bonus data on the first three recharges, but that still only takes the total first-year data to 155GB, compared to the 195GB from the Vodafone plan. This Telstra Prepaid plan also costs more at $390 for the first year.

If long-expiry is more your speed, Telstra is the main choice with its $300 Pre-Paid Complete plan that lasts for 12 months and comes with 150GB of data as well as 5G access.

Telstra also offers a six-month alternative in the $150 Pre-Paid Complete plan, which comes with 50GB of data and 5G access. For other popular Prepaid picks, check out the plans below.

Telstra vs Vodafone: Which telco is more popular?

Check out the comparison below to see a weekly updated snapshot of which telco is more popular out of Telstra or Vodafone. These results come from our companion comparison website WhistleOut, and overall popularity tends to be determined by whichever telco is offering the best deals at the time.