KATE Bennie and her husband Scott live in regional south east Queensland and have always had mobile plans with the country’s largest network provider, Telstra, to ensure they had coverage where they need it.
But after they figured out they were spending about $300 a month on their mobile plans and home internet, the couple looked for ways to cut their bills.
The pair work in social media so coverage when travelling to rural parts of the state was vital. When they realised they could continue using Telstra’s network with other virtual providers, they made the switch to a no contract phone plan with Aldi.
Ms Bennie was previously paying $95 per month ($51 was paying off the handset) with 5GB of data on a 24 month Telstra contract. “But I would always go over so it was often more like $120 (a month),” she told news.com.au.
She guesses that she’s been continually paying off new phones with Telstra for the past 14 years but by maintaining their old handsets, her and her husband are saving hundreds on the cheaper plan.
The $35 per month Aldi value pack comes with unlimited text and call, international calls and 9GB of data that rolls over to the next month. Ms Bennie says she hasn’t noticed a difference in reception or 4G download speeds.
Compared to her old Telstra contract, the difference in the cost of data is only $16 per month but that figure still adds up to $192 a year.
She’s part of a growing number of Aussies who are being targeted by Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), which pay to use the networks of the big three telcos but have far fewer overhead costs so can offer cheaper plans for customers just looking for basic call and data services.
“What’s happening is a lot of people are becoming more aware of what they can get for their money,” says Alex Kidman, from consumer comparison website Finder.com.au.
“These MVNOs might not have all the bells and whistles but by keeping it lean they can do a lot of data, or more data, at the same price points than the networks.”
Virtual providers like Boost, Woolworths, Telechoice and Southern Phone all use Telstra’s network and offer customers the chance to get quality coverage on a cheaper plan without the extras that may be offered by the big telcos.
A vast majority of MVNOs use Optus’ network including companies like Amaysim, Vaya, Dodo, OVO and Virgin Mobile while Vodafone hosts the likes of Kogan Mobile and lesser known MVNOs like GoTalk and Hello Mobile.
But you need to read the fine print as many of the MVNOs that piggyback on Telstra aren’t getting full access to the entire network. So if you find yourself in far flung places where there is not much space on the network, you might find you’ll essentially be deemed as a second class mobile citizen and your coverage can drop off.
However that’s not the case for the many virtual providers who use the Optus network. “It is exactly the same network and speed,” Mr Kidman said. “They always advertise it as the full Optus network.”
Due to the high number of MVNOs competing for market share and given they don’t include lock-in contracts, if you’re willing to be proactive, you can always shop around a take up the latest and greatest deal.
“If you’re happy to swap around every six months or so you can save a lot of money,” Mr Kidman said.
“It’s actually not that difficult to do. You get to keep your same number and you can take advantage of seasonal deals” as the large number of MVNOs compete to lure customers.
Despite the potentially big savings on offer for proactive mobile users, new survey data from Finder.com.au found “surprisingly high levels of loyalty” among Australian telco customers, Mr Kidman said.
The company surveyed more than 2300 mobile users and found that the average Aussie has been with the same mobile phone provider for 6.5 years.
The majority of phone users (71 per cent) stay with the same provider because they are happy with the service (47 per cent) or because they think are on a good deal (23 per cent).
Meanwhile 10 per cent said they avoid switching because it’s too much effort while a further six per cent said they remain loyal because they think comparing different options is too confusing.
An easy way to compare the best deals currently on offer can be found here at Finder’s mobile plans comparison page.