Could you save money on your mobile phone bill?

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

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Though Telstra, Optus and VHA account for the majority of mobile phone subscriptions in Australia, there are a number of low cost alternatives available. Could choosing an MVNO for your mobile save you money?

MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Simply put, an MVNO is a company that buys service from one of the big telcos who own the network infrastructure and resell this service to its customers. Because these companies buy calls and messages in bulk they receive a significant discount, which is why they are sometimes cheaper than the big three.

We've broken this guide up into four parts — one each for those looking for either the most talk time, text messages or data, and one final section for those wanting both plenty of minutes and internet data.

Cheapest plans with at least 100 calling minutes

Comparing mobile networks is a nightmare of fine-print and variables, so to create a fair comparison we'll convert all values to call minutes and compare all plans on 100 minutes a month. To accommodate the flagfall charged by most networks we'll assume every call is five-minutes long including the flagfall where applicable, creating a standard price block to apply across the variations in the different rate charts.

Because most of the MVNOs deduct SMS messages from the same pool of assumed value as calls, we'll leave these out of this comparison.

MVNO Network Plan Per 60-sec Flagfall 5-min cost Monthly spend
Crazy Johns Vodafone Crazy Cap $29 94c 35c $4.55 $29
Crazy Johns Vodafone Flat Chat $15 10c 10c 60c $15
TPG Optus Talk & Text Light 80c 35c $4.35 $9.99
TPG Optus PAYG 9.9c 10c 60c $6
Virgin Optus Easy Cap $49 99c 45c $5.35 $49
Virgin Optus Bean Counter $25 10c 25c 75c $25
Boost Mobile Optus Super Cap $30 89c 39c $4.84 $30
Woolworths Optus Chatterbox $50 30c 15c $1.65 $100*
Amaysim Optus Standard plan 15c N/A 75c $15

*$100 equals 2-times a $50 recharge, where each recharge gives you 60 minutes of talk-time.

Cheapest text messages

SMS messaging is finally becoming as cheap as we all think it should be, in fact several netowrks are now offering unlimited or 1-cent text messages when you choose certain capped or pre-paid plans. If you text friends more than you call, you might consider some of the plans below.

MVNO Plan Cost per TXT
Crazy Johns Flat Chat 1c
TPG Budget Plan 9.9c
Virgin $19 Your Cap Unlimited
Woolworths All plans 15c
Amaysim Standard plan 12c
Boost Cent a Text plan 1c

Best for data users

For some users, a healthy monthly data allowance is much more important than a decent call rate. We'll attempt to apply a similar standard to data as we have done with call costs, using 1GB per-month as the average quota and looking for the cheapest plans that accommodate this. All of these plans feature a voice component or feature an optional extra data pack to add to a voice plan.

MVNO Network Plan Data included
Crazy Johns Vodafone Crazy Cap $49 1.5GB
TPG Optus Talk & Text Heavy $35.99 1.5GB
Virgin Optus Smart Cap $29 1GB
Amaysim Optus $9.90 bolt-on 1GB

You want fries with that?

So you're someone who wants 100-minutes of phone calls AND 1GB of data a month? We'll combine what we've learned above with new entires from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to see if the smaller brands can offer extra value.

Carrier Plan 5-min cost Data Monthly spend
Telstra Pre-paid Talk & Text $4.37 1GB $40*
Optus Optus Cap $4.35 1.5GB $49
Vodafone Infinite plan Unlimited 1GB $45
Crazy John's Crazy Cap $49 $4.35 1.5GB $49
TPG Talk & Text Heavy $4.35 1.5GB $35.99
Virgin Smart Cap $5.35 2.5GB $59
Amaysim Standard plan $0.75 1GB $24.90**

*200 minutes included in AU$40 recharge, plus 1GB browsing pack (AU$39) deducted from remaining credit.
**This figure includes 100 minutes charged at 15c per-minute plus a $9.90 data pack.

But what about plan Z from operator Q?

The other major factor that is almost impossible to compare objectively is the value of inter-network calls. Almost all of the networks listed offer free calling minutes to other members on the same network on top of the standard plan value. For some people this is an important inclusion, for others it is an extra they will never take full advantage of.

Though there are literally dozens of other plans not listed in this comparison, it does show how the differences in the plans can be spotted when you know precisely how much of these services you will actually use each month. The more accurately you anticipate your monthly usage, the more likely you are to save money not paying for services you won't use.

Do you use one of the MVNO networks? If so, we'd love to hear from you about why you chose the network you're on and what your experience has been like so far. Leave us a message in the comments below.

Add Your Comment 9

Post comment as

Willa0052 posted a comment   

Recently lycamobile was introduced. Runs on telstra 2g i think. 5c fixed national calls, 15c mobile calls national. At the moment there is a promotion, half a cent to europe and placed like malaysia fixed lines. Worth a look! Better than lebara. No internet service yet though


Pedro posted a comment   

have any of you checked abd compared SMSPup Mobil( I am on their cap plan which is $10/month (reduced from 429, subject to you accepting a few junk/promotional emails offering rewards and products etc.) for $130 worth (at 20 cents per 15 seconds ), texts, etc., and no contracts or lockins. They use the Vodafone network (other info on the website). i am assessing whether i may be better to go onto Amaysim as I am a low user.


craigwhirl posted a comment   

Maybe worth checking out Lebra Mobile phone plans. Local calls 15c per min with 25c flag fall. OVERSEAS calls can be as low as .05cents a minute to Thailand. 3 cents a minute to mobiles (Thailand Hong Kong Singapore China )Flag fall 25c but cost per minute the cheapest I have found.


John posted a comment   

I think you have something wrong for TPG PAYG - if a 5-minute call costs 60c, how can the 100 minutes which is 20 calls cost only $6? Shouldn't this be $12?


Davo posted a comment   

This article does not make sense. How can the Virgin Bean Counter cost 75c for a 5 min call and 100 min cost $75??????
If you have the Virgin Bean Counter 100 min costs 20 x the cost of a 5 min call - 75c = $15.....


Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   

Oops, you're right there Davo, I've confused myself. Updated now.


Joseph Hanlon posted a comment   

That's exactly the point of this article. The telcos maintain there is a difference for customers who sign long-term plans, but we wanted to try and find a level playing field for comparing the services you want and the money you're paying for them. A the end of the day, we all sign up to phone plans for calls, text and data, so there is an obvious similarity between pre-paid and post-paid plans.

As for the difference in networks, suggesting that any of the networks is better than the others is unhelpful for most of our readers as the performance of all of the networks varies greatly from location to location. We listed the networks the MVNOs subscribe to so that people can make their own choices without having us make broad, generalisations about the quality of the networks.


artenor posted a reply   

Joseph, I am not a fan of the business called Telstra, but they outright have THE best network in australia with next G - from their inbuilding coverage in the CBD of sydney to remote coverage in north western australia to most of tasmania, it hands downs beats the others, its just a pity that we don't see them let an mvno loose on that baby so the average person could afford it.


Curious Plan user posted a comment   

Hey guys,

Just wondering why you are comparing some Plans in comparison to prepaid services. These are two completely different kettles of fish.

And i do believe you may also let people know about the difference in regards to coverage on the different wholesale networks. By far the optus and telstra networks have better coverage so the companies who use there networks are going to be better for the customer in comparison to Vodafone.

Just thought you guys should have all the facts on a review not just want you want to say.

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