Australian prepaid mobile broadband roundup

We compare prepaid mobile broadband from Telstra, Vodafone, 3, Optus, Virgin, Exetel, Dodo and Boost Mobile

Shopping for mobile broadband can be an arduous task; with so many plans, pricing and data offers, it can quickly become confusing. In anticipation of the fast-approaching end of the financial year — perhaps now's the time to splurge on a starter kit — we've compared some of offerings from the leading prepaid mobile broadband providers to find the best bang for your buck.

For prepaid plans, we've selected a $30 recharge as a basis of comparison across all the providers. This is an ideal option for entry-level users who may need to regularly check their e-mails, update their Facebook status and browse basic Web sites without going overboard on YouTube or other online videos.

Telstra

Telstra is well known for having the most expansive coverage and the fastest mobile broadband speeds in Australia, but it is often expensive when it comes to mobile phone plans and fixed-line broadband. Thankfully, its prepaid mobile broadband option is tempting. Getting connected on the Next G network will set you back $99 and includes a USB modem and 1GB of data to get you started. A $30 recharge will then provide you with 400MB of data with a 30-day expiry (7.5c per MB). If you recharge before the 30-day expiry, any unused data will roll over.

Vodafone

Vodafone offers far more value than Telstra, even if Telstra's network is vastly superior. It will cost you $79 for a Vodafone modem starter pack, which includes a USB modem and very generous 3GB of data. From here, a $29 recharge will provide 2GB of data which lasts 30 days. Like Telstra, any unused data will be rolled over provided you recharge before it expires. Up to 14GB data will be rolled over provided you recharge before it expires.

Optus

Optus offers a prepaid mobile broadband starter kit for just $69, which includes a USB modem and 2GB of data — though this offer is only available if you purchase the pack online. (It is normally $79 with 1GB of included data.) Once you've purchased an Optus starter pack, a $30 recharge buys you 1GB of data to use over 30 days, though this is extended to 1.15GB if you recharge online. Up to 10GB of data can also be rolled over if you recharge before expiry. Unfortunately, Optus counts data in rather high 10MB increments, so even if you use 2MB of data in a session, you lose 10MB of your included data.

3

3 offers a similar deal to Vodafone, but with much less included data on your initial outlay. A 3 prepaid mobile broadband starter kit will set you back $79, but only includes 200MB of data when you purchase online, which is less than Telstra offers in its starter pack.

From here, a $29 recharge will provide 2GB of data which lasts 30 days. Any unused data up to 15GB will be rolled over provided you recharge before the expiry date.

Virgin Mobile

A subsidiary of Optus, Virgin Mobile offers competitive deals for mobile broadband, including many special offers when you sign up or recharge. A Virgin prepaid mobile Internet starter pack will set you back $89 and includes a modem and 1GB worth of data. However if you sign up before 30 June, Virgin is offering an additional 4GB worth of data in your first month.

Recharge options start at $15 but a $30 recharge will net you 2GB worth of data per month, which compares favourably to most service providers. This data expires after 30 days, but if you recharge within that time period, it will carry over. The more data that you recharge with on a monthly basis, the longer you get to use it.

Dodo

Dodo's prepaid mobile broadband line-up includes some bonus goodies when you sign up to a starter pack. For $99, you get a USB modem plus the option to choose from 250MB per month for 12 months or 5GB in the first 30 days or 100 hours of access (also to be used within the first 30 days).

A $40 recharge gives you 3GB of data with a generous 60-day expiry time. Although you can recharge up to 15GB on Dodo's prepaid mobile Internet, there is a monthly data limit of 8GB.

Exetel

Exetel uses the Optus 3G network infrastructure for its mobile Internet options and doesn't have a start-up pack for prepaid customers. You can signup for a $15 data pack that will get you 550MB of data but you will have to purchase a modem at an extra cost of $95.

The $30 recharge option from Exetel leaves you with 2GB of data to play with and expires in 90 days. Unlike the other service providers, no rollover options for data are offered by Exetel.

Boost Mobile

Boost uses the Optus network for its mobile broadband service and most of its terms and conditions are the same. The $79 start-up pack nets you get 1GB of data in the first month as well as a USB modem.

A $30 recharge gets you 1GB of data but this can be beefed up to 1.2GB if purchased online. Like Optus, data rollover is limited to 10GB per month but Boost also charges data in 10MB increments.

Provider Initial cost & data Data recharge size* Recharge cost Rollover?
Optus $69 (2GB) 1GB $30 Yes (up to 10GB)
Telstra $99 (1GB) 400MB $30 Yes (no limit)
3 $79 (200MB) 2GB $29 Yes (up to 15GB)
Vodafone $79 (2GB) 2GB $29 Yes (up to 14GB)
Virgin $89 (1GB) 2GB $30 Yes (up to 10GB)
Dodo $99 (5GB*) 3GB $40 Yes (up to 8GB)
Exetel $110 (550MB) 2GB $30 No
Boost $79 (1GB) 1GB $30 Yes (up to 10GB)

We've looked at an entry-level price of $30 in this comparison; telcos offer more expensive recharge options that include more data and a lower cost per gigabyte (N.B. Dodo does not offer a $30 recharge option)

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