It's true – MVNO or mobile virtual network operator telcos like Amaysim, Kogan Mobile, Woolworths Mobile, Coles Mobile, Lebara, Vaya, OVO and all the rest offer very compelling deals these days.
MVNOs have shaken up the market in a big way, especially since Amaysim burst onto the scene a few years ago with its $40 per 30 days of unlimited calls and text in Australia with 4GB of data prepaid each month (or post-paid if desired).
These days, most of these MVNO plans are offering around 15GB data for the same $40 figure, although this amount of data varies depending on the inclusions, and several of the providers have gone to 28 day plans.
This has led to the parent telco companies striking back, notably with Vodafone offering pre-paid plans with 35-day expiry terms, while also seeing companies like Telstra taking a different tack, too.
By the same token, there are those, like me, who have tried various different phone providers, all with very happy results – Amaysim, Boost, Kogan Mobile, Vodafone, Telstra and others.
Now, despite my happiness with all these providers, I have recently moved to one of Telstra's 12-month Mx deals, which means I am locked in with Telstra for a year.
Telstra's Mx Go Mobile Plus Online BYO plans are different to the norm, with the current deal (expiring by the end Tuesday 3 April) being 25GB of data on Telstra's network for $49 per month, on a 12-month contract.
The "catch" if you will is that you need to manage everything online through your Telstra online account, your Telstra 24x7 app, and Telstra's 24x7 live chat.
Now, if you miss out on this deal, Telstra will make new offers on its Mx plans, clearly keeping up the competition with everyone else, but what the deal will be next time is to be seen.
When I signed up in January this year, the deal was a $39 plan with 10GB of data, and other inclusions you'll read about below that made the deal worthwhile for me despite the lower data inclusion that 10GB offers compared with new plans today, and whatever the inclusion, your mileage will vary naturally vary.
The $39 deal I signed up to was normally $49 but was at $39 if you did everything online, with the "threat" of taking away the $10 discount if you called Telstra on the phone.
This is billed as "rewarding you for doing everything online", but given you are still speaking to an actual person, who is duty bound to help you, I was comfortable with this, and prefer online chat services to waiting on interminable hold to speak to a person only to be transferred to someone else, only to go through yet more hoops waiting on a live phone call in frustration.
So, given the inclusions (as I list below) that were important to me, I signed up to the deal, and thus far, I haven't had a problem at all. I even managed to score a multi-product bonus of 5GB so I ended up with 15GB per month, with which I was very happy.
However I decided to check when my bill was due at Telstra's site, as I knew it was coming up soon and wanted to pay it early, and noticed Telstra was now offering 25GB of data for $49 per month as an "Easter online offer", which was clearly marked as "SIMply irresistible" and also clearly marked as being for new customers only.
The deal is 10GB with 15GB bonus data per month, and it appears the "threat" if you call Telstra on the phone while on this Mx plan you're supposed to self-manage and only contact Telstra via text with is to take away the 15GB bonus monthly data, but with text-chat so simple and managing everyone online effectively effortless, it's a good deal for today's tech-savvy youth.
So, what I decided to ask Telstra anyway by text chat if I was able to upgrade to this plan, fully expecting to be told "no" and that it is for "new customers only".
Well, that's what I was told, but given that I have been a good customer (presumably because I pay on time or even a few days early each month and have not had issues with my plan that have required any kind of technical support), I was offered an addition 5GB per month without paying anything extra!
This was obviously a very welcome deal which I happily accepted!
Obviously, there's no guarantee Telstra will offer every one of its customers anything extra at all – especially if everyone starts ringing and asking for a better deal.
Of course, you can try — just as is recommended to do with your electricity provider — but if you are a good customer, well, just as I've seen recommended in other tech and mainstream news sites in Australia to their telcos as better deals emerge, it certianly doesn't hurt to ask.
I didn't actually ask for any extra data for free – indeed, I actually wanted to pay $10 more to go on the 25GB plan, but given that I was offered 5GB extra as a bonus per month, taking me to 20GB instead for the same $39 I'm already paying, it is an excellent deal for me, even though I'm still on a contract and not on a month-to-month plan.
So, with competitive MVNO plans out there, and given the fact I've ported between various services before, why did I decide to go on a 12-month BYO mobile contract with Telstra?
Well, I have had the chance to travel overseas a few times last year, and I found Vodafone's $5 per day roaming to be an excellent deal during those times, and I've ported to and from Vodafone several times last year with my primary number.
Still, I got bored and slightly annoyed with the whole porting process. It's not difficult, far from it, but as I do spend most of my time in Australia, and given I have more than one mobile phone, nothing stops me from signing up to a Vodafone month-to-month RED plan with $5 roaming including, and a few gigabytes of data so I can use that service when overseas.
Indeed, now that I am on a Telstra contract, I do just that when travelling overseas just so I have a second phone number that lets me call anywhere in the $5-per-day-compatible country I'm in and back to Australia, as a back-up.
What I've done with my Telstra number is to put up with Telstra's own International Roaming Day Pass, which got slightly better earlier this year when it went to 200mb per day rather than 100mb.
Telstra's cost is sadly double the cost of Vodafone's, but includes some countries Vodafone doesn't (and presumably vice versa), and while Telstra's $10 per day rather than Vodafone's $5 per day only offers 200mb per day rather than Vodafone allowing you to use your full data allocation for that month, it is good enough for my purposes when travelling.
One saving grace (despite costing extra!) is Telstra's roaming day pass letting you pay $10 for 500mb of data that you can use while overseas until you have used it up (on that trip), so if you're judicious and make use of Wi-Fi (with a suitable VPN) then Telstra's roaming is good enough, even if not, again, anywhere near as competitive as Vodafone's, but as noted, is good enough for me and indeed better than it ever was in the past.
So, why else did I go with Telstra despite all the competitive MVNO choices?
Well, as a subscriber to Apple Music, I am a fan of Boost and Telstra's data-free Apple Music streaming. I love listening to all my favourite tunes without it impacting on my data allowance.
Given that Telstra Mx prices are very competitive with Boost's prices, albeit with Telstra on a 12-month contract, and despite not including international calls as Boost does, Telstra inclusions of 4GX speeds and compatibility with my Apple Watch Series 3 LTE smartwatch made the difference.
And, while Boost has the same coverage as Telstra, I was with Vodafone at the time (due to having travelled overseas), and after visiting friends 30 minutes from Tamworth where Vodafone and Optus coverage just doesn't stretch to - Telstra was right for me.
My plan is also "data sharing eligible" if I want to get another Telstra SIM to share data with, although at this point I don't need that.
Its inclusions are good enough for me and Telstra is always slowly improving its deals, so things will be better by next January (when my 12 month contract is up), so I can go back to a month-by-month proposition then if I want, or even hit Telstra up for a better deal then.
In addition, while Vodafone offers Visual Voicemail for iPhone users, (as does Kogan Mobile), Telstra does too and has for its post-paid customers for some years now.
Telstra even does so with RCS messaging on compatible Samsung devices, which is like Telstra's own version of iMessage-style higher quality photo sharing and voice messaging, including a type of visual voicemail.
So, despite the very attractive deals from MVNOs and telcos out there in general, which I have become well accustomed to switching between as I pleased, Telstra offered enough inclusions for me to switch as a paying customer and take the company up on its 12-month deal.
It obviously won't be for everyone, and there may well be some killer deal later this year I simply won't be able to take up (on my primary number, at least), but 12 months isn't forever, and Telstra will no doubt keep doing better as time goes by too, in the hope of keeping me and everyone else as voluntarily paying customers.
Telstra's $49 plan with 25GB is here, and it expires Tuesady 3 April if you're curious to port to it.
What Telstra's deal will be on Wednesday 4 April, I don't know, but if you haven't heard of Telstra's Mx deals before, well, you know about them now, and you can make use of all the information above as you wish.
Whatever you decide to do, the golden age of amazing telco and MVNO pricing with the best smart devices we've ever seen getting better year after year continues, and I sincerely hope that it never ends!