When you arrive in Australia, one of the first things you’ll probably want to do is set up an Australian mobile plan. Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy stunt to pull off. Here’s a how-to list to help you out!

1Choose a mobile network

Australia has tonnes of mobile phone and broadband providers. But they all operate on three networks: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

Which to choose, depends what you’re doing and where you’re going. But unless you plan to spend some quality time away from civilisation (in which case Telstra is probably your best bet), you can’t go too wrong with either.

2Make sure your phone is compatible

Photo by Radovan - Unsplash
You don’t have to have the latest and greatest phone to use it in Australia. Just as long as it’s not 2G only. Photo by Radovan – Unsplash

This used to be a big thing in the olden days – as anyone who travelled in Japan before the age of smartphones can attest to. Nowadays, there’s really only one thing to note: Australia has switched off its 2G network. That means, if you have a rather ancient phone that relies on GPRS or EDGE, you’ll find yourself out of luck.

For everyone else, Australia’s 3G networks run on 850MHz, 900MHz and/or 2100MHz while the 4G networks operate on 700MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz and 2600MHz. 5G is being rolled out too, but it’s not widely available yet.

3Choose an operator

As mentioned, Australia has lots and lots of operators. Sure, you can sign up with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, but you may not always get the best deal. Lately, I’ve had mobile plans with iiNet (Optus network), OVO (Optus network) and Aldimobile (Telstra network).

iiNet

Pros
Great customer service

Cons
Pricey for what you get
Not the best coverage
No rollover of unused data

I was a post-paid subscriber with iiNet for the longest time. While their customer service was always good, their mobile plan inclusions are not that great value. So, I took a back-to-the-future plunge and opted for a pre-paid plan elsewhere: First with OVO and then with Aldimobile.

OVO

Pros
Good value plans
Big data allowance

Cons
Not the best coverage
No rollover of unused data

OVO operates on the Optus network, so they have decent coverage in the big cities but (in my opinion) not as good as Telstra in some spots. They offer unlimited SMS in Australia, unlimited calls on their AU$14.95 plan and higher. You also get between 2GB and 40GB of mobile data each month.

I consider their best-value plan at the moment to be their $29.95/month plan, which gets you unlimited talk and text in Australia, as well as 30GB of data and 100 minutes of talk time to a handful of countries.

You don’t get to send international SMS with OVO (although you can receive them). But in this day and age with iMessage, Viber, Messenger, Snapchat and every other instant messaging app you could possibly need, who cares?

Aldimobile (editor’s choice)

Pros
Great coverage
Big data allowance
Rollover unused data
Great value mobile plans

Cons
Nil

For me, Aldimobile works best as their cellphone subscriptions offer a nice combination of unlimited calls and SMS, and tons of mobile data. It’s on the Telstra network, you get unlimited calls and text messages to a handful of countries and 100-300 minutes of calls to a decent number of other countries.

I find the $25 value pack to be a great deal, giving you 18GB of monthly data, although if you need more data the $35 cap gives you 35GB of data.

You also get to keep your unused mobile data for as long as you stay on the same or a higher plan and recharge within 24 hours of your monthly package expiring. This is a great feature that has helped me out more than once when my home broadband connection has gone belly-up on my work-from-home days.

4Setting up your mobile plan

Regardless of which mobile plan you pick, you’ll need a couple of things.

  1. Purchase a SIM card. You can normally buy SIM cards online on the operator’s website or in supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations and airports. (Selection will vary depending on which operator has deals with which sales outlet.)
  2. Prove your identity. During the sign-up process, which is generally done online, you’ll need to prove your identity. This is normally done with your passport, although if you’re actually an Australian resident you can also use your driver’s license.
  3. Add your credit card. Along with proving your identity, you’ll also need to enter your credit card details and select your plan. You can normally use VISA and Mastercard everywhere. Some operators may also let you get away with Amex or other credit card providers.
  4. Get activated and get going. Once you’ve completed the signup process with your operator of choice, you should normally be online within hours. Just keep in mind, if you’re porting your number (i.e., if you already have an Australian mobile number (in which case, why are you reading this?) and transfer to a new operator), your new plan normally will not go active at night or on Sundays.

5Wrapping it up

Photo by Nakita Cheung - Unsplash
Photo by Nakita Cheung – Unsplash

So there you have it. Australia has lots of mobile operators, most of which offer pretty good value for money. Before you sign up, work out whether you rely more on mobile data, international calls, domestic calls or SMS, and select your plan accordingly.

Be mindful also, that while most pre-paid plans are good for 30 days, some are good for just 28 days or even 7 days. On the flipside, some will last you anywhere from 35 days to half a year or a whole year.

And finally, don’t forget to disable auto-recharge if/when you leave Australia. That way you will avoid additional months of mobile plan charges after you leave.

6And one last thing…

Don’t drive and handle a phone at the same time. It’s just really, really stupid!!! Photo by Marlon Lara – Unsplash

Don’t ever, EVER, never-ever handle a mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle in Australia. It’s stupidly dangerous, inconsiderate and a fatal crash waiting to happen. It’s also illegal throughout Australia and will result in a fairly decent fine if you’re caught (up to $1000 in Queensland).

This article was originally published on koalaplanet.org

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