Optus mobile plans review

How does Australia's second largest telco stack up to Telstra and cheaper alternatives?

Optus storefront in Sydney, Australia
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

While there's no denying that Telstra clearly has the lead amongst Australia's three major telcos, Optus isn't that far behind, boasting the country's second-largest network and the title for fastest 5G download speeds. It's also far more affordable than Telstra, with fairly priced plans that offer plenty of data. Of course, the telco has a long way to go to regain Australia's trust after suffering one of the worst cyberattacks in our history, alongside a nationwide outage that lasted more than half a day.

Pros

  • +

    Plans offer good value

  • +

    Fast 5G download speeds

  • +

    Great roaming add-ons

Cons

  • -

    Reputation in the toilet

  • -

    Speeds capped on pre-paid plans

  • -

    Still uses off-shore call centres

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Since its commercial arrival on the Aussie telco scene back in 1992, Optus has maintained its position as Australia's second-largest network operator, with Telstra consistently holding onto the number one spot in terms of number of subscribers.

A subsidiary of Singaporean telecommunications giant Singtel, Optus offers a range of mobile plans which offer big data at reasonable price points. It has both pre-paid and post-paid choices, as well as plans which include a handset.

Although Optus comes in second to Telstra with regards to its overall network coverage, the telco is still able to claim that its 3G and 4G networks reach 98.5% of the Australian population. 

And while Telstra seems to have a significant lead when it comes to 5G coverage (based on nPerf's independent coverage maps) and is claimed to now reach 85% of the Australian population, it's worth nothing that OpenSignal has awarded Optus the 5G Download Speed crown for the last 4 years running. Of course, most users probably won't reach those top speeds unless they're right next to an Optus tower, and the network is relatively uncongested.

As for customer service, Optus still uses off-shore call centres in India and the Philippines, though it does operate local call centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, too. 

However, the real elephant in the room is that Optus has had a rough couple of years — in 2022, Optus experienced one of the biggest cyberattacks in Australian history, resulting in the personal information of roughly 10 million customers being exposed. 

This was followed by a nationwide outage in 2023, which lasted approximately 12-13 hours, once again affecting around 10 million customers, including 400,000 businesses.

So while Optus has the second-largest network and a range of decently priced mobile plans, the question remains as to whether the telco can regain the trust of its customers — both existing, and potential.

Optus mobile plans and pricing

  • Optus SIM-only plans far more reasonably priced than Telstra
  • No lock-in contracts for Optus SIM-only plans

Of the three main network operators in Australia, Optus arguably sits in the sweet spot between Telstra and Vodafone when it comes to price and value. 

Telstra undoubtedly has the best coverage, but is by far the most expensive. And while Vodafone offers the most monthly data at prices which are on par with Optus, it ranks third in terms of coverage and download speeds. 

That leaves Optus with a range of plans which are well-priced and still data-generous, with coverage that's quite decent despite falling short of Telstra's reach. In other words, Optus is probably the telco that Goldilocks would choose.

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Optus mobile plans: price and data comparison
Plan sizeOptusTelstraVodafone
SmallAU$49 / 30GBAU$62 / 50GBAU$49 / 50GB
MediumAU$59 / 100GBAU$72 / 180GBAU$59 / 180GB
LargeAU$69 / 220GBAU$95 / 300GBAU$69 / 360GB
X-LargeAU$89 / 360GBRow 3 - Cell 2 Row 3 - Cell 3

Optus SIM-only plans start at AU$49 p/m for the Small Optus Choice Plus Plan, which comes with 30GB of monthly data, which means you're paying about AU$1.63 per GB. 

That's followed by the Medium Optus Choice Plan, which costs AU$59 p/m for 100GB of monthly data (a cost of AU$0.59 per GB). That's double what Telstra offers in terms of data on its entry-level Basic Upfront plan, which is more expensive at AU$62 p/m for 50GB (or AU$1.24 per GB).

Next is the Large Optus Choice Plus Plan, which costs AU$69 p/m for 220GB of monthly data, or around AU$0.31 per GB. Yes, you heard right: for a mere AU$7 extra p/m, Optus gives you 170GB more monthly data than Telstra's aforementioned 50GB Basic Upfront plan.

If that still isn't enough data for you, Optus also offers an Extra Large Optus Choice Plus Plan, which costs AU$89 p/m and includes 360GB of monthly data (about AU$0.25 per GB). 

Additionally, Optus currently offers an Optus Plus Promo Plan, which gives you 500GB of monthly data at AU$69 (a tiny AU$0.14 a gig) for the first 12 months, after which the price goes up to AU$89 p/m (a still very-reasonable AU$0.18 per GB). Note that this is technically a special offer, and while there's no end date on it at the time of this review, it will only be available until withdrawn.

Also worth noting is that there are no lock-in contracts on any Optus SIM-only plan, and each one brings uncapped 5G network access in selected areas (excluding Northern Territory), unlimited standard talk and text within Australia, and unlimited standard international talk and text to 35 selected destinations. You can also share your data across eligible plans on the same account, and donate your unused monthly data to Australians in need.

Although there are no lock-in contracts on any of the above Choice Plus plans, Optus also offers a range of prepaid Flex Plus plans for those who don't want to risk extra charges, or only need service for a fixed period of time.

Optus Flex Plus plans with a 28-day expiry period start at AU$35 and come with fluctuating amounts of data. For instance, new customers on this plan get 40GB of data along with a bonus 20GB of data for those first 28 days. After this, the plan loses the bonus data on the second and third recharge (a total of 40GB), then drops down to 20GB from then on. That means after the introductory period you'll be paying AU$1.75 per GB.

Similarly, a AU$45 Flex Plus plan provides 60GB + 20GB of bonus data (80GB in total) during the first 28 days, losing the bonus data on the second and third recharge, before landing on 30GB after that (or $1.50 per GB ongoing). Alternatively, you can opt for a plan which costs AU$55 for 80GB on the first three recharges, which then drops down to 40GB after that (a rate of AU$1.38 per GB).

Of course, there are other long-term 186-day and 365-day options for those who don't want to think about recharging for a while, though you'll have to pay a larger sum upfront.

Note that there is one caveat with Optus's Flex Plus prepaid plans; while all will get you access to the telco's 3G, 4G and 5G networks, download speeds on these plans are capped to 150Mbps across the board. It's also worth mentioning that every Flex Plus plan includes data rollover up to 200GB, which will be applied as long as you recharge before expiry or have an active auto-recharge set up.

Optus mobile coverage

  • Excellent 3G / 4G coverage, but lags behind Telstra in 5G reach
  • Optus awarded fastest 5G download speeds by OpenSignal

Given that Optus operates the second-largest mobile network in Australia, it probably comes as no surprise that it also offers the second-best coverage. 

Where Optus is closest to Telstra is in its 3G and 4G reach, with a claimed 98.5% of the Aussie population covered. However, while Telstra's 5G mobile network is said to currently reach roughly 87% of Australians, Optus doesn't currently make any specific percentage claims — and if nPerf's coverage maps are any indication, it still has a lot of catching up to do.

During our rundown of the various mobile plans offered by Optus, you may have noticed that 5G network access was only available in selected areas, and excluded Northern Territory entirely. Sure enough, a closer look at nPerf's coverage map for Darwin shows a complete absence of Optus 5G network coverage, and only a small 3G and 4G presence. 

Simply put, if you live in the Top End, you're better off going with Telstra or Vodafone — both of which offer a far greater 3G, 4G and 5G presence in NT. That said, if you live in any of Australia's major cities along the east coast, you should be OK. Optus does offer 5G network access in Perth, though the rest of the west coast is fairly barren in terms of coverage.

Optus mobile plans: Extras, perks and offers

  • Big discount on Optus Sport access
  • Discounts on streaming subscriptions with SubHub

In terms of extras, Optus postpaid SIM-only customers receive 3 months of Amazon Prime for free when they sign up via Optus SubHub. The latter lets you manage and pay for subscriptions in one place, which are added to your regular phone bill. 

Additionally, customers can save up to 10% on streaming subscriptions when they add three or more eligible subscriptions to SubHub. Supported services include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Binge, Paramount Plus and more.

Best of all, sports-lovers who sign up to Optus Sport via SubHub get a huge discount on the service's monthly subscription cost, bringing it down from AU$24.99 p/m to just AU$6.99 p/m.

Optus also offers very competitive international roaming add-ons — for AU$5 per day, you get 1GB of data, 100 minutes of talk and 100 texts per day to use in over 90 Zone 1 destinations.

Optus mobile plans: customer service and community reviews

  • Support team still has call centres in India and the Philippines
  • Optus reputation at an all-time low

While Telstra has drastically decreased its use of off-shore call centres since 2021, switching over to a mostly Australia-based support team, the Singtel-owned Optus still relies on call centres located in India and the Philippines. 

Of course, Optus also has call centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, although you probably won't know whether you're connected to one of those or someone from an overseas branch. 

Thankfully, Optus has a huge retail presence in Australia, with over 350 branded Optus Yes outlets across the country, making it relatively easy for customers to receive face-to-face service.

Still, not everyone is happy with Optus, with the telco receiving mostly negative online reviews on sites like Product Review and Trustpilot, where it has earned overall customer satisfaction scores of 1.3 and 1.2, respectively. 

With that in mind, it's important to note that both Telstra and Vodafone have achieved similar scores, which goes to show that most customers will only bother reviewing something if they've had a bad experience.

Even with that disclaimer, there's no denying that the telco's reputation is at an all-time low, following an immense cyberattack in 2022 which left the information of over 10 million Optus customers exposed.

This was not helped at all by a nationwide outage which occurred the following year, leaving 10 million customers and 400,000 businesses without mobile or internet access for around 14 hours. Not only did the outage leave vulnerable Australians without the means to contact anyone for help, it also left business owners who rely on EFTPOS twisting in the wind for an entire working day.

Given the extreme public backlash that followed these two disasters, it's no wonder that Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin went on to resign in November 2023.

However, the telco still has a long way to go in regaining Australia's trust — the market research company Roy Morgan named Optus as Australia's most distrusted brand in March 2024, suggesting the telco's black eye is going to linger for a while.

Optus mobile plans: Bottom line

Is an Optus mobile plan worth your money? In terms of value, Optus mobile plans are far more competitively priced than Telstra's, with SIM-only offerings that deliver big data and worthwhile perks. 

As Australia's second-largest telco, it's no surprise that Optus falls behind Telstra in terms of coverage. That said, its reach is still significant — particularly when it comes to 3G and 4G coverage.

Of course, there's no denying that Optus has made some significant blunders with regards to customer security and service over the last couple of years — some of which are hard to forgive. Optus has posted an open letter to customers that includes a commitment to "do better", but is that enough?

If you're willing to forgive Optus, you can at least rest assured that its mobile plans are good value and will likely satisfy most customers (outside of the Northern Territory).

Stephen Lambrechts

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.