It's well known that Telstra offers the widest reaching mobile network in Australia, resulting in the best 4G and 5G coverage of all the major Aussie carriers. That said, it's also the most expensive provider if you choose to go direct to the source.
Thankfully, there is a way to access Telstra's industry-leading mobile network without paying a premium, and that's through mobile virtual network operators (or MVNOs).
MVNOs are smaller telcos which don't have their own network, opting instead to purchase network access from one of the major carriers (i.e. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) at wholesale prices and then resell it at a more competitive price point.
There are a number of smaller telcos in Australia which offer access to the Telstra network, such as Boost Mobile, Woolworths Mobile, ALDImobile and more — all of which provide mobile plans at reduced prices. Please note, only a handful of these carriers are currently offering 5G access.
To give you an idea of how you can access Telstra's cellular network and save money at the same time, we've taken the liberty of highlighting the best Telstra network mobile plans in Australia, whatever your budget may be. Alternatively, there are also plenty of other cheap mobile plans to check out if you're willing to venture outside of the Telstra network.
Editor's Choice: Best SIM-only plan
A relatively new MVNO on the scene, the fittingly-named Numobile gets 3G/4G data from the Telstra network and is offering some pretty good no lock-in plans. Our pick is the $30 SIM plan, which gets you 32GB of data per month, allowing you to bank up to 500GB of unused data. You also get unlimited standard talk and text within Australia, along with an additional 15 countries.
Total minimum cost is AU$30 (1-month) | Total cost for first year: AU$360
Best 5G SIM-only plan
If you're looking for a no-contract 5G plan from a Telstra network that also offers a better-than-average speed cap, Belong is your best option. Reach download speeds of up to 250Mbps on Telstra's 5G network with a mammoth 160GB of data cap for only AU$55 p/m. And yes, you read that correctly — there are no lock-in contracts.
Total minimum cost is AU$55 (1-month) | Total cost for first year: AU$660
How we pick the best SIM-only mobile plans
In order to narrow down our list of choices, our team searches for a balance of several factors which we believe most people are looking for from a SIM-only plan.
Value for money is our top priority — the best SIM-only plans will offer a reasonable amount of data without becoming too expensive. On average, each Australian uses around 12GB of data per month, which is why we've set that amount as the minimum monthly allowance.
SIM-only plans should also offer unlimited calls and texts to standard numbers in Australia. Even the most affordable options provide this these days, so you should definitely avoid any plan which imposes a limit on either of them.
Network coverage is another important factor to consider when choosing a SIM-only plan. Depending on the telco you go with, all Aussies will get access to either the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone network.
In terms of coverage, Telstra's network has the widest-reaching 4G and 5G coverage in Australia, with Optus a close second. Vodafone's network size may come in third place, but it's worth noting that its 5G coverage has grown by leaps and bounds, reportedly reaching 85% of the population across 10 major Australian cities and regions.
Additionally, we also take perks into consideration, even if they aren't the main reason for our selections. These can include such things as bonus international minutes, rollover data, access to streaming services and even discounts on your groceries.
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Stephen Lambrechts is the Managing Editor of Tom's Guide AU and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming for the last 15 years. Before Tom's Guide, he spent several years as a Senior Journalist at TechRadar, had a brief stint as Editor in Chief at Official Xbox Magazine Australia, and has written for such publications as APC, TechLife Australia, T3, FilmInk, AskMen, Daily Telegraph and IGN. He's an expert when it comes to smartphones, TVs, gaming and streaming. In his spare time, he enjoys watching obscure horror movies on physical media, keeping an eye on the latest retro sneaker releases and listening to vinyl. Occasionally, he also indulges in other non-hipster stuff, like hiking.