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Save hundreds off your mobile phone bill


Jenneth Orantia

The best value for money lies with small mobile carriers, writes Jenneth Orantia.

"We don't sponsor any footy teams" ... Peter O'Connell, Amaysim.

"We don't sponsor any footy teams" ... Peter O'Connell, Amaysim.

Here are two scenarios you may be familiar with. The first: you try to make a phone call on your mobile, only to be greeted by a pre-recorded message telling you that you've run out of credit. The second: you rip open your monthly mobile bill, only to be greeted by an outrageously-high amount owing. In both cases, you could have sworn you didn't use your mobile that much.

The smart thing to do is take your money elsewhere. The big three carriers, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus, may be the first companies you think of when it comes to mobile phone service, but the best value for money lies with the smaller operators.

MVNOs, short for mobile virtual network operators, rent network capacity off the established networks, and the considerably smaller overheads allow these companies to pass the savings on to their customers.

Peter O'Connell, chairman and co-founder of Amaysim, says the higher prices charged by the big three carriers is due to the millions of dollars they spend on advertising and maintaining their network infrastructure and retail presence.

MVNOs, on the other hand, tend to run tighter ships. Many of them operate over the internet only, and the reason you don't hear about them as much is because their advertising budgets are considerably smaller. "We don't sponsor any footy teams, we don't have any corporate boxes in stadiums, we don't have shops, and we don't do handset subsidies," says O'Connell.

Amaysim offers a $39.90 month-by-month plan that includes unlimited standard national calls, unlimited SMS and MMS, 4GB of data and unlimited Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare and eBay access.

To get the same sort of perks on Optus, the network that Amaysim uses to provide its service, the closest prepaid deal is the $2 Days offer, which works out to be $60 a month for unlimited standard national calls, unlimited SMS/MMS and unlimited mobile internet, although downloads and smartphone tethering aren't included.

If you want to use your mobile data for things like VoIP, media streaming, and downloading files, you would need to move up to Optus's post-paid $129 Timeless plan, which offers the same 4GB of data and unlimited calls and texts as the Amaysim deal. Stretch that out over a year, and you'd be paying an extra $1069.20 with Optus over Amaysim, despite both of them using exactly the same network infrastructure.

Red Bull Mobile, which launched in Australia last year, is another MVNO, and its plans seriously undercut those of its wholesale provider Vodafone. The Red Bull Mobile Access 365 plan costs $365, lasts for the entire year, and comes with unlimited standard national calls, unlimited SMS and MMS, and 5GB of data every month. Spend an extra dollar, and Red Bull also throw in the HTC Explorer smartphone, which typically costs $149 when bought separately.

For the same inclusions on Vodafone, you could either go on a $50 Vodafone All-time recharge, which comes with unlimited calls and texts and 1GB of data per top-up - and you'd have to pay an extra $116 up-front for the HTC Explorer, or a $99 plan over a 24-month term, which comes with unlimited calls and text and 4GB of data a month, with the handset thrown in for free. Compared to the Red Bull Mobile deal, then, you'd be paying an extra $350 and $822 respectively per year with Vodafone, and have less mobile data to play with per month.

Other worthwhile prepaid deals include Crazy John's $39 FLATChat Unlimited prepaid plan (unlimited calls and messages, 4GB of data), DoDo's $39.90 Unlimited prepaid plan (unlimited calls, unlimited messages, 5GB of data, 100 international minutes), and Live Connected's Zen 40 (Series III) month-by-month plan (4000 minutes to any standard national number, unlimited SMS and MMS internationally, unlimited video calls, 5GB of data and $90 of international calls).

But it's not all roses and rainbows with these smaller operators, and it pays to scrutinise the fine print to find out what the catches are. Crazy John's, for instance, caps the "unlimited text messages" to 100 per day, while Live Connected doesn't offer any phone support, and all of the MVNOs each have different policies on the premium numbers that are included within the unlimited calls offer.

Also, while each MVNO use either the Optus or Vodafone networks to provide the phone service, customer support and billing is handled by the MVNOs, which may or may not lead to an inferior after-sales experience.

That said, the lack of lock-in contracts and large selection of cheaper providers makes it easy to switch to another service if you're not happy, and given the big savings on offer, the rewards seem to be well worth the risk.

Correction: The tenth paragraph originally stated Vodafone did not offer any unlimited deals on prepaid. Vodafone does in fact offer such a plan.

51 comments so far

  • Sure go with Amaysim. They are really cheap. Then try making a phone call. I live in the centre of Adelaide and I couldn't even make a call inside the Uni without it dropping out ever. You're just signing up to a dodgy Optus line. But they are cheap.

    Date and time
    April 24, 2012, 8:21AM
    • I'm on Amaysim prepaid and I have no problems with coverage plus it's super cheap, $15 credit doesnt expire for 3 months and you get 12.5c SMS and no flagfall. The data rates are great as well, it's $9.90 for 1Gb which expires in 30 days and if you go over the limit it's only 5c per Mb charge (instead of $2 per Mb from Optus prepaid).

      I also find the customer service is a lot better. You call up and you can talk to someone who speaks English.

      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:15AM
    • Well said Elena. Now get back to work.

      Amaysim CEO
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:26AM
    • Blaming Amaysim for network problems is like blaming Sony for all the ads on your new TV - they aren't the carrier.

      The best deal by far hasn't been mentioned - Live Connected $10.99 for $500 of calls/texts (including 18/13 numbers and voicemail), $500 of on network calls, 1.5GB data billed in 1kb increments (a big trap is some players who charge by the MB). That would surely cover most people's usage, as long as you are withn the Optus network.

      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 11:58AM
    • Hi Elena,

      The Canadian telco Pennytel offer a 'Pay As You Go' plan which has no contract. You pay $5.00 for the sim card and they give you $8.00 in credit. Credits NEVER expire.

      No flag fall and no connection costs. ALL calls and SMS $0.0115c. Why pay for SMS when there are so many free messaging APPS AND EMAIL. These guys also offer special deals such as the 30% extra if you top up you account with $10.00 or more. Does Amaysim give you any extra credits when you top up?

      Pennytel DATA plan cost $8.88 per month no contract for 1GB with $0.03c per MB thereafter. Casual DATA plan $0.03c per MB. All billed to the KB. Also a Pennytel APP allows you to use VOIP when a wireless hotspot becomes available making it even cheaper.

      Pennytel access both Optus and Vodafone networks.


      T Hedman
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 2:00PM
  • I ported from Optus to TPG earlier this year.
    As I have my internet with TPG I get the exact same inclusions as the Optus $49 cap plan for $14.99 per month.
    1.5GB Data, $550 worth of calls & Text, Unlimited Voicemail & Social network etc etc etc.
    Plus TPG Customer service has been quite simply amazing in comparison to Optus.
    The only difference between the two services is that you need to buy a handset separately... not too difficult considering that you can buy a great phone for $500 fully unlocked :)

    Date and time
    April 24, 2012, 9:00AM
    • Interesting Article and some false information here - Optus $129 is unlimited data with the handset plus 10GB to share with a device i.e iPad etc. The reason why the top 2 carriers charge the most (Don't count Vodafone as TOP with their current issues) is to keep upgrading current towers technology etc which these little carriers piggy-back off. You want better coverage speak to your council to allow more towers....

      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 9:08AM
    • I'm also with TPG and pay $17.99 per month for the same as what iang pays. I can also vouch for TPG Customer Service as being top notch. And no, I don't work for TPG.

      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 9:23AM
    • I moved to the same plan with TPG.
      I was using my phone just the same (if not more, as I inherited my Mum's old iphone so was texting and using data) and instead of unpredictable $70+ bills with Optus I have never paid more than $15 with TPG. Plus, I have used them for international roaming many times with no problems or obscenely high costs. I'm in Canberra and have no problems with reception.

      Me too
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:12AM
    • Yes you can buy a decent handset for $500, but I would rather spread that $500 over a 2 year period, means more money in my pocket now.

      The biggest problem is that people don't keep track of what they use, and when the sales person asks them how much they use, I suspect that people undercut how much they actually use to try and get a better deal, but in the end it actually costs them more by under estimating how much they actually use.

      I have never had a phone bill blow out in the 9 years that I have had contract phones, and that is because I track my usage.

      If the service of some MVNOs can be worse than that of the big 3 providers, that makes for some awful service based on my experiences with the big 3.

      I use my phone sensibly
      Date and time
      April 24, 2012, 10:16AM

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