Mozo guides

Telstra vs Optus vs Vodafone: Difference between the big three telcos

When you compare mobile phone plans, there’s a lot to consider. For starters, there are a few types of plans to decide between: prepaid, sim-only, and data only mobile plans.

You’ll also have to consider factors like price, how much talk and text you want, how much data you think you’ll need, and of course network coverage. 

With all that on your plate already, choosing between a provider can make things just a little more complicated.

Mozo compares more than 30 mobile phone providers. So, it’s no surprise that people often opt for one of the three major players in Australian telecommunications: Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone

But what are the differences between the big three telcos?

Which mobile provider has the best coverage in Australia?

While the word ‘best’ is not definitive, in the context of network coverage it can be helpful: basically, the larger the percentage of the population that a network covers, the better so-called ‘coverage’.

However, what is best for you might not be the best for someone else, especially if we’re talking about the differences in coverage between densely populated urban areas and the sparsely-covered regional areas of Australia.

In terms of which mobile phone plan provider has the widest network coverage, it’s Telstra with a reported 99.5% of the Australian population covered by their network.

Telstra network coverage

Telstra’s network comes in first place, covering 99.5% of the Australian population.

Optus network coverage

Optus’ network is the second largest and covers 98.5% of the Australian population.

Vodafone network coverage

Vodafone’s network is the third largest, covering 96% of the Australian population.

Which mobile provider has wider regional coverage?

The percentage difference in network coverage between the three big players mainly comes down to their coverage of regional and rural areas, making Telstra the more likely choice for getting reception outside the major cities.

Plan pricing differences between the big three

Depending on which type of plan you opt for, the pricing you’ll see will change. For example, a postpaid plan that comes with a new mobile phone will likely cost more than a sim-only phone plan with similar features and inclusions.

Here’s a comparison of the big three telcos plans when paired with an iPhone 11 on 24-month repayments, with at least 2 GB of data:

Mobile phone data options

These days, the big three providers offer similar data inclusions across the board, usually starting from about 10GB per month.

If you use a lot of data (over $150GB) there are plan options from all three providers. 

Telstra is usually the more expensive option in relation to the amount of data you get with your plan, while Vodafone generally offers the most data for the amount you pay. Optus sits more in the middle ground.

Which postpaid mobile phone plan provider has some of the highest data inclusions?

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all technically have unlimited data, but that only applies once you’ve used up your data allowance for a set period. Your plan then reverts to capped-speed data which you can only really use for essentials (no HD streaming, for example).

If you need more data, here are the plans that offer the most data from  each of the three providers.

Telstra’s highest data offering plan is called Telstra’s Extra Large Plan and it comes with 180GB of included data. Vodafone has a plan for data lovers which comes with 300GB and Optus offers the largest amount, with their gold-class plan called Optus One which comes with 500GB of data per month.

Prepaid phone plans

If you prefer to pay for your phone plan up-front, rather than on a monthly basis, you might opt for a prepaid plan, which often includes talk and text and a lump sum of data. 

Whether you’re looking for a month-to-month or long-expiry prepaid plan, Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone all have various options.

Mobile phone plan extra features

Some mobile phone plans from Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone come with extra features or unique offers. These range from data-banking, to data sharing, and even three free months of a music streaming service. 

Which extras are included in your mobile phone plan will depend on the type of plan, and not all of these extras will be available on all plans. Also, some offers have an expiry period, after which they won’t be available, or they’ll occasionally only be available for new customers. Check the T&Cs for more details about availability and eligibility. 

Telstra mobile phone plan features

  • Int'l talk & text. Some plans come with unlimited standard SMS and 30 mins of calls to international standard overseas numbers.
  • Int'l roaming. Get 1GB of data, unlimited calls and texts to use overseas. This costs $5 per day for Zone 1 (New Zealand only) or $10/day for Zone 2 and 3
  • Optus mobile phone plan features

    • Data sharing. Some Optus mobile plans allow you to share your data between eligible Optus Choice Plus plans.
    • Int'l talk & text. Add international talk and text add ons to some plans from $10. 
    • Unlimited Data Day. Optus offers 24 hours of unlimited data for an extra $5 on selected mobile plans. You can do this as many times as you want.
    • Donate your Data (™). Share your excess data with the wider community through the My Optus app.

    Vodafone mobile phone plan features

    • Int'l talk & text. Get an International Talk Booster or Add on from $5. 
    • Int’l roaming. Automatically activated international roaming. Use your included data, calls and texts in over 100 countries for an extra $5 per day
    • Bonus data. Get bonus data each month for staying connected with the same plan.

    Award winning plans

    It can be hard to choose a provider and a plan that is right for you. To make the decision easier, check out the winners of the 2023 Mozo Experts Choice Mobile Plan Awards.^

    The winners of these awards are decided by our experts who analyse hundreds of plans from different providers to find the best plans in a number of categories.

    This year, Vodafone took out 8 awards and Optus won two. To find out more about how these awards are determined and which plans won, check out our methodology report.

    ^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Mobile Plans Awards and the Mozo People’s Choice Awards.

    Check out some of the plans on offer below!

    Jack Dona
    Jack Dona
    Money writer

    Jack is degree-qualified in communications and creative writing, with a talent for simplifying financial jargon. His approach helps consumers make better decisions. Jack is RG146 certified in generic knowledge and uses flair to make finance interesting.

    Amelia studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism and Non-Fiction writing at Macquarie University. She is passionate about using her writing to educate others about personal finance and the best ways to manage your money.