At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about things that we love and think you will love too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may receive a percentage of sales or other compensation through the links on this page. BTW – the prices are correct and the items are in stock at the time of publication.
If you’re looking to change your cellular plan, you have more options than just Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone. There are quite a few smaller providers, MVNOs, operated by the big three networks, and in many cases they offer better cellular plans and deals.
These small providers, typically referred to as Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs, use the same cellular networks as the big ones — they just don’t own them.
MVNOs buy wholesale access to the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone network and then resell it themselves – often at a lower price.
Because MVNOs typically have lower overheads, smaller marketing budgets, and don’t have brick-and-mortar stores, you can usually find cellular plans with better data for dollars than what you would get with their parent network.
Better still, most MVNO plans these days are contract-free. So there is no risk in trying a smaller provider. If you switch telecoms and aren’t satisfied, there’s no need to stick around. It also means you can always switch back if a better deal comes along.
Also remember that if you change providers, you can always keep your phone number, no matter how often you change. Your number is protected by law and your current telecoms provider must port it when you switch to your new provider. If you don’t want it, you can always get a new number for your new plan.
Comparing MVNO cellular plans to their parent carrier
Optus vs. Optus MVNOs
Many of the best mobile deals come from Optus-based providers. When it comes to postpaid plans, Circles.Life is offering 40GB for $14 per month when you use promo code WOCIRCLESFRENZY40. This offer is for your first six months, after that you pay $25 a month for 30GB, which is still not bad. This offer is valid until September 30th.
Alternatively, Moose Mobile currently has a plan where you get 25GB of data for $16.80 per month. This price is for your first year, after that you pay $23.80 per month. The plan is contract-free, so you can always switch providers after the discount expires.
For comparison, Optus SIM-only plans start at $49 per month for 30GB.
Telstra vs. Telstra MVNOs
Nowhere is the price difference between a telecom company and its MVNOs more apparent than at Telstra. Telstra’s non-prepaid SIM-only plans start at $58 per month for 40GB. Alternatively, you can pay less than half that and get at least 22GB for $25 a month on numobile or Woolworths Mobile. Telstra’s budget brand Belong offers similar value, where you pay $25 a month for 20GB.
Vodafone vs. Vodafone MVNOs
Vodafone has a smaller MVNO contingent, mostly made up of sister companies like TPG, iiNet, felix, and Lebara. Kogan is the main exception, and even then support is managed directly by Vodafone.
To start, TPG is offering 25GB of data for $12.50 for the first six months and $25 per month thereafter.
If you need more data, iiNet will provide 40GB for $15 per month for the first six months. This increases to $29.99 per month after the first six months, but that’s still a solid offer. If you are an iiNet internet customer you will also receive a 80 GB bonus on this plan.
Felix is a pretty interesting Vodafone MVNO that has a unique deal: you pay $35 per month for unlimited data, capped at speeds of 20Mbps. This is comparable to an NBN 25 connection and is still more than fast enough for most mobile activities. Currently you get your first month for free if you use the promo code FELIX. This offer runs until November 30th.
Vodafone’s cheapest SIM-only postpaid plan will set you back $40 a month with 40GB.
What you’re missing out on with an MVNO
Of course, there are still reasons to consider a large provider. It is most relevant if you are also looking for a new phone. MVNOs don’t typically sell cell phones, or when they do, it’s a much smaller assortment. Woolworths Mobile, for example, stocks Samsung and OPPO devices, but not much else.
Most MVNOs don’t offer international roaming, and when they do, it’s much more expensive than what you would pay on the parent network.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at Whistle OutAustralia’s phone and internet comparison website.