Choosing an Australian Mobile Network

Australians are traditionally early adopters of new technology. And mobile phones are no different.

When buying a mobile phone there can be many considerations like how much data you might need, what network coverage is available and whether you should enter into a contract or go prepaid.

All major cities are covered by most networks. However, mobile coverage in some rural areas in Australia can be reduced with little or no coverage. Speaking to a network provider in the first instance can be useful to understand what network coverage exists in the area you will be living in, particularly if you will be living in a rural area of Australia.

Mobile Network providers in Australia

While there are numerous sellers of mobile phones in Australia, essentially Australia has 4 major mobile phone providers:

  • Telstra - Australia's leading provider of mobile phones, mobile devices, home phones and broadband internet;
  • Optus - second in area covered behind Telstra; about 30 personal plans + 8 business plans;
  • Vodafone - the smaller of the 3 major providers (covers mostly metropolitan and larger regional areas); about 38 plans;
  • Virgin Mobile - uses the Optus network; about 27 plans.

These providers offer a range of options and coverage, such as:

  • Package deals - which can include data, handset, pre-agreed monthly usage;
  • Contract options - where you pay a monthly fee for a fixed period of time, usually 18 to 24 months. These options allow you to choose the package of minutes and texts that best suits your usage;
  • Prepaid plans - where credit is purchased in advance of service use. Allows you to control your spending;
  • Capped inclusions - to protect you from overspending you can be notified via SMS when your mobile usage gets close to the agreed cap to warn you that your spend may exceed what you had budgeted;
  • Data packages - recommended if you are a frequent user of the Internet.

Some tips:

  • Do your research - There are a large variety of mobile phone plans and purchase options to choose from, especially if you need data (Internet) or international roaming options. Have a look at what's on offer before deciding.
  • Weigh up prepaid vs entering a contract - If you have just arrived in Australia, a prepaid plan might be the best option to begin with, as most phone providers don't offer contracts or plans without proof of employment or residential permanence (i.e. your name on a utility bill or residential lease). It's best to check out what the specific requirements are by speaking to a provider or two.
  • Handsets - If you have your own handset check that it is compatible with Australian GSM technology. If your handset is compatible then all you will need is a SIM card and a prepaid plan (where you top up your account monthly or as needed) to get started. Alternatively, there are great mobile packages available so you could upgrade to the latest Apple iPhone*, Samsung, or Nokia if you sign a contract with a network provider such as Telstra, Optus or Vodaphone. However, first make sure you are comfortable to commit to the contract period before locking in.

What additional help is there?

There are several online comparison tools and aggregate websites that can help with information, as well as network providers (listed below).

Dispute resolution

In the event that you're having problems with your mobile phone provider:

1) Contact the provider directly. The store where you made the purchase is a good starting point.

2) Contact the provider's help desk. Make sure you have all the information about your phone with you.


 * iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc.

This article covers general information about Technology in Australia - Buying a mobile phone in Australia , and doesn't take your individual circumstances into account. Please use it as a guide only.