For many, many years, Telstra has jealously held the title as the leading provider in the market for internet and mobile coverage in Australia, especially for those travelling outside of urban and highly populated regions. This has allowed them to charge a premium on their services in exchange for greater reliability – something their customers have been all too happy to pay, given our ever-growing online presence.
And yet, in the last decade, other providers are closely catching up to the service delivered by Telstra, now making many travellers consider whether these premiums are still justified, or should they move to a more affordable option. Smaller networks, such as Optus and Vodafone, have worked hard to build out their network and establish themselves as viable alternatives on the market, especially for those spending time in regional Australia.
So, what is the coverage difference between Optus and Telstra? Before you sign up for your newest home or caravan internet plan, the team at Out There Internet explores this question in more detail.
Optus vs Telstra: Which Telco Offers the Best Coverage?
As the titans of the industry here in Australia, your choice will likely reside between the nation’s two largest Telco’s: Optus & Telstra. But who’s best for your needs?
Well, 99.4% of populated Australia is said to be covered by Telstra’s 4G network, and thanks to their Blue Tick Initiative, they are working towards offering the best coverage in Australia’s most remote areas, even areas with lower population density.
In comparison, Optus is boasting coverage of 98.5% of populated Australia. While that is only a 0.9% difference, over approximately 26 million people in the country, this can prove quite substantial. With that being said, users of Out There Internet have found many remote areas where Optus has better coverage, such as Kings Canyon located in Petermann NT, population 159.
You can view more Telstra v Optus locations on our speedmap.
How Do Optus & Telstra Compare in Terms of MVNO Coverage?
MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, are wireless service providers that don't have their own wireless networks. Instead, they piggyback off the coverage of the major carriers. So, when you're using an MVNO, you're actually using the same cell towers as the larger Telco’s, namely Telstra or Optus.
The big advantage of MVNOs is that they can offer cheaper plans than the major carriers because they don't have the same overhead costs. But there is a downside: since they don't have their own networks, they can be at the mercy of the big carrier's network. That means they may not have access to the full network.
As two of the largest Telco’s in Australia, Telstra and Optus are often the providers that share their networks and enable MVNO coverage. Currently, Boost Mobile is the only Telstra MVNO that has access to the full Telstra 4G network, so if you’re looking for the benefits of a greater range of plans, whilst maintaining the same Telstra coverage, then Boost is your best choice.
Optus, on the other hand, allows MVNOs to operate with the same exact coverage as their own users. This offers the market better deals without stressing over locations with coverage.
Based on plans with the biggest data allowances and the lowest prices, our top two picks to get on the Optus network are Circles.Life and SpinTel.
How Do Optus & Telstra Compare in Terms of Pricing
If you are looking for a budget option, then, unfortunately, neither Optus nor Telstra will best suit your needs. Naturally, you will be able to find plans at all different price points depending on your usage requirements, but in terms of their cheapest offerings, the two plans compare like this:
Optus: The $45 Optus Choice Plus Plan will offer you 20GB of data with unlimited standard calls and texts, 5G access and no lock-in contract
Telstra: The $55 Small Upfront SIM Plan will offer you 40GB of data with unlimited standard calls and texts and no lock-in contract. Those on this plan will not, however, have access to the 5G network. That can be found on the $65 Medium Plan.