In Australia, there are only three physical mobile phone networks (signalling towers, repeaters etc), owned by Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. However, since the launch of Virgin Mobile in 2000, a growing list of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) has created a much more competitive market, by purchasing access to those networks and passing that on to customers at competitive prices.
Many MVNOs offer cheaper deals than the three network owners, but it’s best to look closely at the amount of data offered as this varies widely from 5 GB per month up to about 35 GB per month within the $20-30 per month price range. High data plans may only be of value if you have a need for them; and it is possible to find a modest-sized plan for an even lower price.
Another key element to look at is the billing cycle – these vary typically from 28 to 35 days. A 28 day month means you’ll make 13 payments in a year, whereas a 35 day month means only 11 payments are required. Some plans offer up to 365 days before expiry. Finally, initial or discount offers for new customers may offer significant discounts in the first 1-3 months but then revert to a much higher price. Unless you are very vigilant in changing your contracts regularly, these offers may result in higher costs once the initial discount runs out.
There is no government-backed comparison site for mobile phone providers, like there is for energy, though there are several commercial comparison sites. The WhistleOut site currently lists 29 providers, whereas Finder lists 50 providers of mobile phone plans. Both of these sites enable you to filter and compare a variety of mobile phone offers, but both may earn a commission for referring customers to providers.
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