Going to Australia soon? Good choice. Visiting such a remarkable country will be a good experience you will never forget. Unless the wildlife decides to attack you.
With Australia's famous cities and wildlife, I can understand why so many people want to visit the country.
With the Working (and) Holiday visas, young adults can work in Australia and explore the country for up to 3 years, which they often enjoy a lot.
Even then, saving up some money and go on a road trip for a week weeks throughout the country will do you well, too.
You may have read my Buying a SIM Card in Australia Guide, where I briefly introduce the Australian operators and talk about their prices.
One of the operators may have intrigued you, so you decided to read my Telstra review, Optus review, and/or Vodafone Australia review. If you have done so, then you are already knowledgable about the telecom situation in Australia.
Even if you have gone through all those articles, it may still be difficult to decide which operator is the best. What if you are on a budget and do not want to spend a lot of money on data? What if you are all about speed and would be willing to pay a premium for that? What if you plan on using your Australian SIM card to call your friends and family abroad?
All these questions are difficult to answer when considering the operators separately. Therefore, I have created this Australia Ultimate Comparison, where I take everything I know about the operators into consideration, compare them, and test them against specific variables.
Based on all these results, it will be easier to determine which operator is the best for specific situations.
With that being said, welcome to the quest to find the best Australian prepaid SIM card for you. Let's get started.
Telecom Providers in Australia
Australia is home to more than 50 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), of which around 20 offer prepaid services.
In this review, I will only take Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Australia (just Vodafone) into consideration because the MVNOs will have their comparison reviews (such as but not limited to, Telstra MVNOs, Optus MVNOs, Vodafone MVNOs, store-branded SIM cards, and many more).
What is the best Australian prepaid SIM card?
- Overall, Optus is the best operator in terms of price and data allowances.
- Telstra has the best network and the fastest speeds.
- Vodafone allows you to call to the most destinations, 85 of them, as part of their Combo Plus plans without additional charge, making them the best for international calls.
There is much more you need to know about these operators, so read along to find the best SIM card for your situation.
Best Australian Prepaid SIM Card Video Comparison
What Frequencies are used in Australia?
The Australian operators use different frequencies from each other. In most regions in the world, there is a subset of frequencies uses throughout the region.
In Europe and Asia, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz on Bands, 1, 3, 7, and 20 are frequently used. In the Asia Pacific region, add 700 MHz and Band 28, while in the Americas, 700 MHz uses the Bands between 13 and 17. In the Americas, they often use 850 MHz, AWS (1700/2100 MHz), and 1900 MHz on Bands 4, 7, and 12.
Confusing? I think so too, but it is crucial to be aware of this. Depending on where you bought your phone, you may not be able to take advantage of fast 4G/LTE speeds or even 3G in Australia. If your device does not support any of the frequencies or bands, you will not be able to use your phone in Australia.
Additionally, as of 2017, all Australian operators shut down their 2G network, so you need a 3G and 4G/LTE capable device to use your phone in Australia.
If you have a high-end phone, it can be assumed that your device will work with both “European frequencies” and “American frequencies”, but you can confirm this by heading to this website.
Now, back to the whole frequency and Bands thing. Why did I explain the common bands used in the Americas, the Asia Pacific region, and Europe while talking about Australia?
Travelers from the Americas with older phones should go with Telstra because Telstra supports 850 MHz (Band 5), which is a typical frequency and Band used in the Americas.
Travelers from Europe and Asia, however, would be better off with either Optus or Vodafone because they both support 900 MHz (Band 8), which is typically used in Europe and Asia.
Let’s put all the frequencies and Bands in a table. B + Number stands for the Band.
|Operator||3G||3G Back-up||4G||4G Back-up|
|Telstra||850 MHz (B5)||N/A||700 MHz (B28) & 1800 MHz (B3)||900 MHz (B8), 2100 MHz (B1) & 2600 MHz (B7)|
|Optus||900 MHz (B8)||2100 MHz||700 MHz (B28) & 1800 MHz (B3)||2300 MHz (B40) & 2600 MHz (B7)|
|Vodafone||900 MHz (B8)||N/A||850 MHz (B5)||1800 MHz (B3) & 2100 MHz (B1)|
Notes about the back-up frequencies:
- Telstra 4G back-up frequencies: 900 MHz only in a handful of locations, 2100 MHz & 2600 MHz in population centers
- Optus 4G back-up frequencies: 2300 MHz (TDD-LTE) in metropolitan areas only & 2600 MHz in rural Australia
- Vodafone back-up frequencies: 1800 MHz & 2100 MHz are supplement frequencies
That is all the technical stuff. It will become easier from here on – promised!
How much do SIM Cards Cost in Australia?
A basic SIM card without any credit will cost you 2 AUD with all Australian operators. If you order a Telstra SIM card online, you will get it for free. Vodafone sells basic SIM cards for 1 AUD online, and you get no discount if you purchase your SIM card online from the Optus store.
Starter kits with credit or packages start from 10 AUD all the way up to 300 AUD. The data allowance of each provider’s plans is generous, especially in the 30 AUD to 60 AUD range. Everything higher than 60 AUD is often long expiry credit for Pay As You Go usage, which is expensive compared to getting a plan.
How do I Activate my Australian SIM Card?
In Australia, you are required by law to show your passport when buying an Australian prepaid SIM card. As a result, you cannot simply put your SIM card into your device and use it after purchasing the SIM.
There are four ways of activating your SIM card:
- Upon purchase in an operator store
- After purchase by visiting an operator store
- Calling customer service
If you buy your SIM card in an operator store, be sure to bring your passport with you so that the salesperson can activate your SIM card for you. Otherwise, you will have to do it online.
If you purchase your SIM card in a different store, let’s say a supermarket, the supermarket will not be able to activate the SIM card for you, but you can go to an operator to get it activated.
Why not immediately buy the SIM card at the store of an operator? Stores like Woolworths and Coles often sell SIM cards at a steep discount. For example, it is quite common to see the 40 AUD starter packs being sold for 20 AUD.
Unless the operator has a promo of its own, you will not get this discount if you go to an official store.
Activating your SIM card online is the second-most convenient option. The registration process is easy and reasonably quick. Both Vodafone and Optus allow you to activate your SIM card in your device after putting the SIM card in your phone. I am not sure if Telstra offers the same option, as it is not actively promoted.
How and Where can I Top Up my Australian SIM Card?
You can buy top-up vouchers in many stores throughout Australia, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and newsstands. You can redeem the voucher online or on the apps of the operators.
You can also decide to go an operator store, and they can recharge your SIM card for you.
Online top-ups can be done with international debit and credit cards and even with PayPal.
Do note foreign currency exchange with traditional debit and credit cards are expensive because banks use unfavorable currency exchange rates or take an insanely high commission, which is almost criminal. Let’s not talk about PayPal’s fees. That is why I use Transferwise for any non-Euro payments (because my main currency is the Euro).
TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Australian dollars for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment. I even use my Transferwise debit card when paying for things abroad (with Google Pay as well).
What Packages do Australian Operators Offer?
The thing with Australian operators is that they offer so much choice. So much so that it can confuse you.
- Telstra offers 2 different prepaid plans, called Pre-Paid Complete, their combo plans, and one Long Life Plus plan, which is their Pay As You Go plan.
- There are 7 variants of Pre-Paid Complete, ranging from 10 AUD for 1 GB (7 days) to 300 AUD for 150 GB (365 days). Plans from 30 AUD and up come with included standard minutes to 20 Zone 1 destinations and 30 Zone 2 destinations.
- You can choose from 5 Long Life Plus plans, ranging from 20 AUD (45 days) to 100 AUD (12 days). You will be charged 0.07 AUD/MB (or 72 AUD/GB), and 0.30 AUD/min & SMS
- Optus has 4 different prepaid plans. Optus Epic Data, Optus Epic Value, Optus Daily Plus, and Optus Long Expiry.
- Optus Epic Data is their standard combo plan that comes with data, unlimited local calls and SMS, and unlimited international calls from Australia to 15 countries. These plans start from 10 AUD for 10 GB (5 days) up to 100 AUD for 60 GB (28 days).
- Optus Epic Value comes with data that last longer than Optus Epic Data (which is capped at max. 28 days) and unlimited local calls and SMS. Plans range from 10 AUD for 500 MB (21 days) to 180 AUD for 60 GB (365 days).
- Optus Daily Plus gives you 500 MB per day, and unlimited local calls and for 2 AUD per day. The limit resets daily at Sydney time. Optus Daily Plus plans are sold from 10 AUD (30 days) to 100 AUD (365 days), and the 2 AUD charge will be deducted from your allowance.
- Optus Prepaid Long Expiry is their standard Pay As You Go plan where you will be charged 0.07 AUD/MB (71.69 AUD/GB), and 0.25 AUD/min & SMS. These plans are sold from 10 AUD (45 days) to 100 AUD (365 days)
- Vodafone has 2 different prepaid plans, which are Vodafone Combo Plus, their combo plans, and Vodafone Pay and Go, their Pay As You Go plans.
- There are 6 variants Vodafone Combo Plus, ranging from 10 AUD for 4 GB (7 days) to 60 AUD for 45 GB (35 days). Plus plans from 40 AUD and more come with international minutes to 20 Zone 1 destinations and 69 Zone 2 destinations. 50 international SMS is included in all plans.
- There are 5 variants of Vodafone Pay and Go, ranging from 10 AUD (60 days) to 50 AUD (365 days). You will be charged 0.04 AUD/MB (or 40.96/GB) and 0.20 AUD/min & SMS
Now that we know all of this, let’s see the exact packages that are offered.
Telstra Pre-Paid Complete
There are 7 Pre-Paid Complete plans you can choose from. Do note that Telstra Pre-Paid Complete is a relatively new plan. Telstra’s previous prepaid plan was called Pre-Paid Max, which is the one I used when I was exploring Australia.
Initially, I showcased the Pre-Paid Max plans in my Telstra Review before I updated it to the new Pre-Paid Complete plans. To see the differences between Max and Complete, check out Telstra’s comparison tool.
|Plan||Data||Validity||Unlimited local calls & SMS||International minutes Zone 1||International minutes Zone 2||Data-free sport streaming 2||Data-free Apple Music streaming 3||Free Telstra Air WIFI||Extra Credit 4|
|10 AUD||1 GB||7 days||Yes||None||None||Yes||Yes||Yes||None|
|20 AUD||8 GB||28 days||Yes||Unclear||Unclear||Yes||Yes||Yes||5 AUD|
|30 AUD1||8 GB||28 days||Yes||300 minutes||60 minutes||Yes||Yes||Yes||5 AUD|
|40 AUD||18 GB||28 days||Yes||500 minutes||100 minutes||Yes||Yes||Yes||10 AUD|
|50 AUD1||28 GB||28 days||Yes||1000 minutes||150 minutes||Yes||Yes||Yes||15 AUD|
|150 AUD||60 GB||180 days||Yes||3000 minutes||350 minutes||Yes||Yes||Yes||50 AUD|
|300 AUD||150 GB||365 days||Yes||6000 minutes||800 minutes||Yes||Yes||Yes||100 AUD|
1. 30 AUD & 50 AUD plans: recharge only
2. Sport streaming: ADL, AFLW, NRL, Netball & A-League. Excludes Grand Finale & State of Origin. Non-video content and ads shown are excluded.
3. Apple Music: active subscription needed. Video streaming and non-music content excluded.
4. Extra credit: additional credit for additional calls in non-Zone 1 & 2 destinations, international SMS, premium SMS, and international roaming.
Telstra allows you to save unused data in something they call Data Bank, as long as you renew your plan before it expires. You can store up to 200 GB indefinitely.
Additionally, Telstra Air (FON) allows you free access to more than 1 million Telstra Air hotspots in Australia and 19 million FON hotspots abroad. You do, however, need to download a separate Telstra Air app to take advantage of this feature.
Telstra Zone 1 international minutes destinations
The following 20 destinations are Zone 1 destinations for international minutes:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
Telstra Zone 2 international minutes destinations
The following 30 destinations are Zone 2 destinations for international minutes:
- The Netherlands
Telstra Long Life Plus
|Plan||Validity||Data-free sport streaming||Data-free Apple Music streaming||Free Telstra Air WIFI|
|20 AUD||45 days||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|30 AUD 1||180 days||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|50 AUD 1||180 days||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|70 AUD 1||365 days||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|100 AUD 1||365 days||Yes||Yes||Yes|
1. 30 AUD – 100 AUD plans: recharge only
The following charges apply with Telstra Long Life Plus:
- Data: 0.07 AUD/MB (or 72 AUD/GB)
- Calls: 0.30 AUD/min
- SMS: 0.30 AUD/SMS
If you consume 1 GB with Telstra Long Life Plus, for 72 AUD, you could get the 50 AUD and 20 AUD Pre-Paid Complete Plans for 28 GB + 8 GB = 36 GB. Data usage with Pre-Paid Complete expensive.
As mentioned earlier, there are 4 different Optus prepaid plans you can choose from.
Optus Epic Data
There are 9 Optus Epic Data plans you can choose from:
|Plan||Data||Validity||Unlimited Local Calls and Text||Unlimited International Calls||Extra Credit 2|
|10 AUD||10 GB||5 days||No. 100 minutes & unlimited SMS||No||N/A|
|20 AUD 1||12 GB||10 days||No. 200 minutes & unlimited SMS||No||N/A|
|30 AUD||10 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||5 AUD|
|40 AUD||20 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||10 AUD|
|50 AUD||30 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||15 AUD|
|60 AUD 1||40 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||20 AUD|
|70 AUD 1||45 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||20 AUD|
|80 AUD 1||50 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||20 AUD|
|100 AUD 1||60 GB||28 days||Yes||Yes||20 AUD|
1. 20 AUD & 60 AUD – 100 AUD plans: recharge only
2. Extra credit: for international calls (to other destinations), international SMS, international roaming, and select premium SMS services.
For some plans, you get more data than mentioned in the table for the first 3 recharges. It is unclear whether this is a temporary promotion or a permanent ongoing one. These are the bonuses:
- 30 AUD: 35 GB instead of 10 GB
- 40 AUD: 45 GB instead of 20 GB
- 50 AUD: 55 GB instead of 30 GB
- 60 AUD: 65 GB instead of 40 GB
- 70 AUD: 70 GB instead of 45 GB
- 80 AUD: 75 GB instead of 50 GB
- 100 AUD: 85 GB instead of 60 GB
All Optus Epic Data plans come with Data Rollover, which means that if you have any unused data and you renew your plan, your unused data will roll over to the new month. You can have up to 200 GB in your data bank.
Additionally, all plans come with dedicated 10 GB streaming data for Netflix, Stan, and ABC iView. Do note that unused streaming data does not roll over.
Unlimited International Calls Destinations
Optus Epic Data plans from 30 AUD and more come with unlimited calls from Australia to the following 15 countries:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
Optus Epic Value
You can choose from 6 Optus Epic Value plans:
|Plan||Data||Validity||Unlimited local calls & SMS|
|10 AUD 1||500 MB||21 days||Yes|
|15 AUD 1||500 MB||28 days||Yes|
|30 AUD||2 GB||42 days||Yes|
|40 AUD||10 GB||42 days||Yes|
|50 AUD||15 GB||42 days||Yes|
|180 AUD||60 GB||365 days||Yes|
1. 10 AUD & 15 AUD plans: recharge only
Unused data rolls over if the plan is renewed before expiry. You can save up to 50 GB.
Optus Daily Plus
There are 6 Optus Daily Plus plans you can choose from:
|Plan||Validity||Unlimited local calls & SMS|
|10 AUD 1||30 days||Yes|
|20 AUD 1||30 days||Yes|
|30 AUD||186 days||Yes|
|45 AUD 1||186 days||Yes|
|60 AUD 1||186 days||Yes|
|100 AUD 1||186 days||Yes|
1. Recharge only
Remember, you pay 2 AUD for 500 MB per day, which resets at midnight Sydney time. If you use more than 500 MB, you will be charged an additional 2 AUD for an extra 524 MB (so 4 AUD for 1 GB for a day). You can get even more data – 500 MB for 2 AUD if you text MENU to 9999 or activate it on the My Optus app. It is unclear whether you can get more than 1524 MB per day.
Unused credit rolls over if the plan is renewed before expiry. There seems to be no limit for unused credit build up.
Optus Long Expiry
There are 9 different Optus Prepaid Long Expiry Plans you can choose from:
|10 AUD||45 days|
|20 AUD||90 days|
|30 AUD||186 days|
|40 AUD||186 days|
|50 AUD||186 days|
|60 AUD||365 days|
|70 AUD||365 days|
|80 AUD||365 days|
|100 AUD||365 days|
You will be charged the following rates with Optus Prepaid Long Expiry:
- Data: 0.07 AUD/MB (or 71.68 AUD/GB)
- Calls: 0.25 AUD/min
- SMS: 0.25 AUD/SMS
Unused credit rolls over if the plan is renewed before expiry. You can save up to 500 AUD of unused credit.
Vodafone has 6 Combo Plus and 5 Pay and Go plans.
Vodafone Combo Plus
You can choose from the following 6 Vodafone Combo Plus plans:
|Plan||Data||Validity||Unlimited Local calls & SMS||International minutes Zone 1||International minutes Zone 2||International SMS||Bonus data for credit card recharge|
|10 AUD||4 GB||7 days||Yes||None||None||50 SMS||100 MB|
|20 AUD||8 GB||14 days||Yes||None||None||50 SMS||250 MB|
|30 AUD||10 GB||28 days||Yes||None||None||50 SMS||500 MB|
|40 AUD||20 GB||35 days||Yes||500 minutes||100 minutes||50 SMS||500 MB|
|50 AUD||30 GB||35 days||Yes||1000 minutes||150 minutes||50 SMS||500 MB|
|60 AUD||45 GB||35 days||Yes||2000 minutes||200 minutes||50 SMS||1 GB|
It appears that there are no restrictions on how to use your 50 international SMS, as long as they are not sent to premium numbers.
Vodafone Zone 1 international minutes destinations
The following 20 destinations are Zone 1 destinations for international minutes:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
Vodafone Zone 2 international minutes destinations
The following 69 destinations are Zone 2 destinations for international minutes:
- Faroe Islands
- the Netherlands
Vodafone Pay and Go
There are 5 Vodafone Pay and Go plans:
|10 AUD||60 days|
|20 AUD||60 days|
|30 AUD||180 days|
|40 AUD||365 days|
|50 AUD||365 days|
You will be charged the following rates with Pay and Go
- Data: 0.04 AUD per MB (or 40.96 AUD per GB)
- Calls: 0.20 AUD per minute
- SMS: 0.20 AUD per SMS
Unused credit will roll over if you recharge before your current plan expires. You can have up to 250 AUD in your credit bank.
What Is the Best Australian SIM Card?
Now that you know everything there is to know about Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, it is time to figure out which SIM card is the best for you. In these scenarios, I will solely focus on data allowances, as almost all plans of all the operators come with unlimited local calls and SMS.
Moreover, Pay As You Go plans will not be considered because they are expensive for moderate data use.
The Best Australian SIM Card for Budget Travel
You are traveling in Australia and are on a budget. You do not want to spend a lot of money on mobile data in Australia. Which SIM card will be the best? The answer changes depending on how much you are willing to spend on data.
Spending 1 AUD
In some countries, 1 AUD, or the local equivalent (such as USD, EUR, GBP, etc.) will get you some credit or even data. Most of the time, the data allowance is limited, but some operators are generous and will give you more than 100 MB.
Sadly, Australia is not such a country. 1 AUD will only get you a Vodafone SIM card if ordered online. You can get a Telstra SIM card for free when ordered online. You have to spend a bit more.
Spending 10 AUD
Now you finally have something to play with. 10 AUD is enough to get the cheapest plan with all the operators. Let’s see what your options are.
|Operator||Plan Name||Data Allowance||Validity|
|Telstra||Pre-Paid Complete||1 GB||7 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Data||10 GB||5 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Value||500 MB||21 days|
|Vodafone||Combo Plus||4 GB||7 days|
Based on these numbers, Optus with their Optus Epic Data plans is the clear winner. The only flaw is that the validity is low at 5 days instead of a week like the other operators. Either way, Optus Epic Data will be the best SIM card if you only want to spend 10 AUD on data.
Spending 30 AUD
With 30 AUD, you get access to exclusive perks, such as (unlimited) international minutes. Let’s see what you get with 30 AUD. For now, I will solely focus on data.
|Operator||Plan Name||Data Allowance||Validity|
|Telstra||Pre-Paid Complete||8 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Data||10 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Value||2 GB||42 days|
|Vodafone||Combo Plus||10 GB||28 days|
You have probably noticed that you get 10 GB if you spend 10 AUD or 30 AUD on Optus Epic Data. That is true, but the validity changed from 5 days to 28 days. Additionally, you get unlimited local and international calls (to select destinations) and unlimited local SMS with the 30 AUD plan. With the 10 AUD plan, you get 100 local minutes and unlimited SMS.
However, we are only interested in data in this scenario. Both Optus and Vodafone will give you 10 GB for 28 days. So both operators should be fine, right? Well, there is a catch.
Optus has been running a promotion for ages where they will give you more data for the first 3 recharges. I am not sure if this promotion will ever end. If not, then you will get 35 GB instead of 10 GBif you purchase the 30 AUD plan.
Therefore, Optus Epic Data will be the best if you only want to spend 30 AUD on data.
Spending 50 AUD
With 50 AUD, you expect to get at least double the data allowance compared to spending 30 AUD. Let’s see what your options are.
|Operator||Plan Name||Data Allowance||Validity|
|Telstra||Pre-Paid Complete||28 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Data||40 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Value||15 GB||42 days|
|Vodafone||Combo Plus||30 GB||35 days|
Optus Epic Value has finally picked up with its data allowance, but it still lacks behind the others. It looks like Optus gives the most data, 40 GB, with Optus Epic Data.
Remember that potentially never-ending promotion with Optus Epic Data? You get 65 GB instead of 40 GB for the first 3 recharges.
Optus already won this race, but they won it even more, offering more than double the data than Vodafone does. As a result, Optus Epic Data will be the best if you only want to spend 50 AUD on data.
Spending 100 AUD
This will be a tricky one because not all operators sell 100 AUD plans. If they do not, I will select a plan between 50 AUD and 100 AUD. If that does not apply either, a 50 AUD plan will be selected.
None of the operators allow you to stack plans, and it is unlikely that they will allow you to activate the same plan before it expires. You certainly could get a more expensive plan, but then you would spend more than 100 AUD.
Let’s see what your options are.
|Operator||Plan Name||Price||Data Allowance||Validity|
|Telstra||Pre-Paid Complete||50 AUD||28 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Data||100 AUD||60 GB||28 days|
|Optus||Optus Epic Value||50 AUD||15 GB||42 days|
|Vodafone||Combo Plus||60 AUD||45 GB||35 days|
Only Optus with Optus Epic Value sells a plan for 100 AUD. As to be expected, it gives the most data. And yes, there is more.
You will get 85 GB instead of 60 GB for the first 3 recharges.
On that account, Optus Epic Data will be the best if you only want to spend 100 AUD on data.
It is quite remarkable to see one operator win all these scenarios. Remember, this is solely based on data allowance. I have a few more tests to run.
The Best Australian SIM Card for Speed
Internet speed is, together with price, the most crucial factor for choosing an operator. You could get all the data in the world you want. However, if you only get access to 2G speeds, you would have a hard time consuming 1 GB.
I usually do 3 speed tests throughout the city I am staying. In addition to those, I do 1 speed test for the individual review video and 1 speed test for the comparison video. As a result, I have done 5 speed tests with Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone while I was in Melbourne.
But there is a catch. I could only do 2 location reviews with Optus. I forgot that the 10 AUD data package from Optus lasts only 5 days instead of 7 days, like the other operators. As a result, I had to rush the Optus speed test.
Sadly, I had not enough time to get the 3rd test done. In fact, the Melbourne CBD test with Optus was done at a different location (Flinders Station) instead of a McDonald’s in town.
Does that affect the results a lot? It could, but I cannot say that with certainty. However, I want to be transparent with the methodology for those who are interested.
Let’s see who is the fastest Australian operator.
The Fastest Operator in Terms of Absolute Download Speed
I got the fastest download speed, 349 Mbps, with Telstra in South Melbourne.
The Fastest Operator in Terms of Average Download Speed
With Telstra, I managed to get the fastest average download speed of 226 Mbps throughout Melbourne.
The Average Download Speed Ranked
- Telstra: 226 Mbps
- Vodafone: 106 Mbps
- Optus: 44 Mbps
The Fastest Operators in Terms of Absolute Upload Speed
I got the fastest upload speed, 58 Mbps, with Telstra in South Melbourne and Vodafone in Melbourne CBD.
The Fastest Operator in Terms of Average Upload Speed
With Optus, I managed to get the fastest average upload speed of 42 Mbps throughout Melbourne. However, I could only do 4 speed tests with Optus instead of 5 like with Telstra and Vodafone, which may skew the results.
The Average Upload Speed Ranked
- Optus: 42 Mbps
- Telstra: 37 Mbps
- Vodafone: 28 Mbps
So, Who is the Fastest?
Based on these results, Telstra is the clear winner, having more than double the average download speed than Vodafone, and much more than Optus. Optus may have the best average upload speed, but I missed one test with them.
If I would remove that location from the equation, then Telstra would have the best average upload speed and the highest absolute upload speed.
Either way, upload speed does not matter that much. As long it is in the double digits, your upload experience should be fine for general web browsing and social media uploads.
I am, however, surprised by Vodafone. They are known for having the “worst” speeds throughout Australia. In fact, Vodafone customers referred to Vodafone as Vodafail. Even the news caught on with that term (see: 1, 2 & 3).
With that in mind, I was already prejudged towards Vodafone. They have worked on their network a lot over the past decade, and even the news has changed its tone (a bit – see 1 & 2).
Even with their transformation, Vodafone is still the least favorite Australian Mobile Operator based on customer numbers.
But I can say that I am pleasantly surprised at their speeds when I was in Melbourne. Their speeds may be awful in other cities, though – especially in the Outback. Only first-hand research will tell, but many customer reviews state that speeds are subpar in the Outback, so you may want to avoid Vodafone if you plan on going to the Outback.
In the next section, I will determine which operator is the best for those exploring the Outback.
For now, it is safe to assume, when taking all these findings into consideration, that you will get the best speeds with Telstra while in Australia.
The Best Australian SIM Card for the Outback
Not everyone travel likes to just be in big cities. Instead, some go on road trips to explore the country, especially in Australia. Backpackers love to be in the Outback.
Therefore, knowing the coverage of each operator is important. Otherwise, you would not be able to post your experiences online, which would be a shame.
Below are the coverage maps as reported by the operators themselves.
Vodafone’s map only works when you zoom into states. npref.com showed me this map.
This map is, unfortunately, highly inaccurate, so you are better off using Vodafone’s map and look for the places you are planning to visit.
Based on these maps, you will see that most of central Australia is not covered by the operators. Not many people live there, so the operators cannot be bothered to set up antennas there, which I can understand. Expect many moments where you have absolutely no coverage for hours if you plan on making an interstate road trip.
Now, which operator is the best in the outback? Backpackers who work on farms for their Working Holiday visas often report not having any sort of connection at all when in the Outback, while those with Telstra do not face this issue (that much). With Optus, it is a hit or miss compared to Telstra, but they have better coverage than Vodafone.
With that being the case, Telstra is the best operator for those going to the Outback.
The Best Australian SIM Card for Calling and Texting Abroad
Many operators around the world will charge you a hefty premium for calling and texting abroad. Some of them offer attractive international packages, which are (much) cheaper than Pay As You Go international rate, but are still on the pricy end. Only a few offer (unlimited) international minutes.
Australian operators, however, offer international minutes as part of their plans, which is incredible. Some provide unlimited minutes to, as they call, Zone 1 destinations and some minutes to Zone 2 destinations. Some include international SMS while others do not, unless they give you special credit for non-standard use.
So what do Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone offer?
- Telstra: With Telstra Pre-Paid Complete, you get a lot of minutes to 20 Zone 1 destinations and fewer minutes to 30 Zone 2 destinations.
- Optus: With Optus Epic Data, you get unlimited minutes to 15 destinations.
- Vodafone: With Vodafone Combo Plus, you get a lot of minutes to 20 Zone 1 destinations and fewer minutes to 69 Zone 2 destinations.
What can we conclude from this?
- Optus allows you to make unlimited calls with some of their plans, but it is to a mere 15 destinations.
- Both Telstra and Vodafone include international minutes to various destinations, but you get fewer minutes for zone 2 destinations.
- Vodafone is the only operator that includes international SMS, 50, in all their plans.
- Telstra and Optus plans come with extra credit that can be used for international calls to non-Zone 1 and 2 destinations, and also for international SMS.
How much do you need to spend to get access to these perks?
- Telstra: at least 20 AUD for extra credit and 30 AUD for a minimum of 300 Zone 1 minutes and 60 Zone 2 minutes.
- Optus: At least 30 AUD for unlimited international calls to 15 destinations and 5 AUD extra credit.
- Vodafone: At least 10 AUD for 50 international SMS an at least 40 AUD for a minimum of 500 Zone 1 minutes and 100 Zone 2 minutes.
Now it is time to compare where we can call with each operator.
|Argentina||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Bangladesh||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Brazil||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Cambodia||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Canada||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Canary Islands||Zone 2|
|Cayman Islands||Zone 2|
|Chile||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|China||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Colombia||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Costa Rica||Zone 2|
|Czech Republic||Zone 2|
|Denmark||Zone 1||Zone 2|
|Dominican Republic||Zone 2|
|Eswatini (Swaziland)||Zone 2|
|Faroe Islands||Zone 2|
|France||Zone 2||Yes||Zone 2|
|Germany||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Greece||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Guam||Zone 1||Zone 1|
|Hong Kong||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Iceland||Zone 2||Zone 1|
|India||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Indonesia||Zone 1||Zone 2|
|Ireland||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Israel||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Italy||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Japan||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Lebanon||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Malaysia||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Mexico||Zone 2||Zone 1|
|Nepal||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Netherlands||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|New Zealand||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Zone 2|
|Pakistan||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Peru||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Philippines||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Puerto Rico||Zone 1||Zone 1|
|Romania||Zone 1||Zone 1|
|San Marino||Zone 2|
|Saudi Arabia||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Singapore||Zone 1||Zone 1|
|South Africa||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|South Korea||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Spain||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Sri Lanka||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Sweden||Zone 2||Yes||Zone 1|
|Taiwan||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|Thailand||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|United Arab Emirates||Zone 2||Zone 2|
|United Kingdom||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|United States||Zone 1||Yes||Zone 1|
|Vatican City||Zone 2|
|Vietnam||Zone 1||Zone 2|
- If you would buy a SIM card from each operator, you could call to 92 different countries without additional charges, of which Vodafone covers 85 of them.
- All operators include Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States as part of their Zone 1 or Zone 2 inclusions.
- Telstra is the only operator to include Kenya and Kuwait.
- Vodafone is the only operator to cover Andorra, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brunei, the Canary Islands, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eswatini, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Laos, Luxembourg, Macau, Malta, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela
- Optus does not cover any country that Telstra or Vodafone cover.
- Vodafone does not cover Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Norway, while Telstra does.
Based on these findings, Vodafone is the best SIM card for those who want to call and text internationally.
The Best Overall Australian SIM Card
Now that we have gone everything you need to know about Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, it is finally time to determine which operator is the best.
If you only take one factor into consideration, such as only the price of the packages and the data allowances, or the speeds, you will get different answers for each scenario.
That is why I went through the most important factors travelers take into consideration when buying a local SIM card. Based on all of that, it is easier to say which operator will be the best for you.
You have seen that each operator is the best in some way. Optus is the best when considering the price to data allowance ratio into account, Telstra has the best speeds and the best coverage throughout Australia, and Vodafone will be the best for those who wish to call and text abroad.
So, which Australian operator is the best? If you do not mind sacrificing on quality and speed a bit and do not plan on calling or texting abroad when in Australia (and take advantage of social media and VoIP apps to call friends and family overseas), then Optus will be the best prepaid SIM cards for travelers visiting Australia.
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