If you are looking to travel Australia and are wondering what the best mobile phone network is, today we take a look at your options.
Historically, Telstra has always had the best reputation for phone coverage in Australia. You won’t find anyone in a remote area who uses anything else, and that is a pretty good indication.
However, there are some random places where Telstra reception is not nearly as good as Optus, although they are few and far between (like the Gibb River Road!).
Best mobile network in Australia
In order of best mobile network for reception in as many places as possible, it goes like this: Telstra, Boost, Aldi/Belong, Optus and then Vodafone.
You can use Telstra without using Telstra
Telstra knows how to charge, and if you want their service without paying Telstra directly, you can sign up with a couple of companies that use some, or most of the Telstra network at a fraction of the cost.
Aldi, Belong and Boost are the 3 options that work, with Boost the only one to use almost all of the Telstra network. Belong and Aldi use a lot less of the Telstra network and will be obviously less good when travelling Australia (although some people may not notice the difference).
For this reason alone, we signed up with Boost and have been using them extensively for the last couple of years. We pay $300 a year for unlimited calls and 300GB of data, which is more than enough for our general use. I will say that the Boost customer service is on par, or even worse (if that’s even possible) than Telstra, so don’t go in expecting amazing things.
Reception is pretty important
I remember a few years ago making the decision to get access to the Telstra network, and it stemmed from heading away on 4WD and camping trips with TPG, who uses Vodafone and having very limited reception outside of Perth. We had it in some of the larger towns, but were quite amazed that there were plenty of towns that you had absolutely nothing.
With our 80 Series Land Cruiser having some issues towards the end of our ownership, I decided that paying a small amount of money extra every year was worth the peace of mind, in having the absolute maximum reception that you can get.
One breakdown that could be solved or made easier with phone reception would pay for a year or more of better reception, so it became a no brainer.
When you need more data
When we leave on our big lap, we’ll be running this blog from a 4G/5G connection, and will have to sort something else out. I eventually narrowed it down to a Netgear Nighthawk M6 mobile modem, connected to Telstra with 300gb of data a month. You can read more about this at Caravan WiFi.
This connects to the 4G and 5G towers, and whilst its not as good as Star Link in terms of speeds and data allowances, its compact, light, economical, easy to use and requires minimal setup. If I needed reception all the time we’d probably have gone the Starlink option, but we can live without it for days and even weeks at a time if we really need to, and the extra weight, cost and gear just didn’t seem worth it.
Alternatively, you can just hotspot from your phone, with a decent data plan.
Your mobile phone type plays a big role too
One thing a lot of people don’t factor in is that the phone you have will also limit your reception. For example, our previous phones were a Samsung A5, and they were a Telstra Blue Tick phone, and almost always had more reception than others using Telstra. It was actually almost laughable, with us having reception at times where others had nothing, standing right next to each other.
We’ve moved to Samsung S20FE’s, and despite being a much nicer phone their ability to get reception is much, much worse. Not the end of the world, but certainly something I overlooked when we picked them up!
Satellite phones for the win
If you want the best reception ever, and are prepared to pay for it, get a Satellite phone. We’ve just ordered an Iridium 9555, and spent a long time writing the guide above, so you don’t have to spend as many hours researching as we did!
You pay a fair bit for these, but they give you the best reception available anywhere as they use satellites instead of phone towers.
I wanted to have reception all the time, and money aside, I knew I would never forgive myself if we could have easily picked one up and didn’t, so we’ve spent a fair bit of money on one.
What mobile phone network do you use? Does it annoy you?