The best unlimited data phone plans on the market


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If you chew through mobile phone data like there's no tomorrow, and have been stung by excess usage charges in the past, then new unlimited data plans are the answer to your prayers.

Vodafone and Telstra were the first to introduce unlimited data phone plans in early May.

At the same time Optus is currently running data promotions on its SIM-only plans which, for all intent and purposes, act like unlimited data deals. So, how do they compare?

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Vodafone has three unlimited data plan options while Telstra offers just one, and each of them requires you to sign up to a 12-month contract.

Each month you get unlimited access to the internet, where a portion of the data is accessible at full, fast 4G internet speeds, and data thereafter is throttled to 1.5Mbps.

This is similar to the way internet companies handle broadband plans with download limits.

Telstra's unlimited data plan costs $69 a month and caps full speed data at 40GB per month, while Vodafone's $60, $80 and $100 per month options cap at 40GB, 70GB and 120GB of full speed data respectively.

You might ask whether the 1.5Mbps speed limit matters. For most people the answer will be, "probably not" for two main reasons.

Firstly, Vodafone says it settled on the 1.5Mbps limit because it's the minimum speed needed to stream a Netflix video in standard definition. If it's fast enough to stream video then it should also be fine for web browsing and typical app or social media use.

Secondly, the data limits are so high that most people should rarely reach them. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures say the average Australian only uses about 2.5GB of mobile data each month, so there would need to be some radical behaviour change for most people to start reaching 40GB or more every month.

That said, if you want to regularly enjoy high definition video, share your data with a laptop or tablet, or you're simply a "dataholic", then plans like these could be just the ticket.

This brings us to Optus which is offering double data on 12-month SIM-only plans to new and recontracting customers. Its $30, $40, $50 and $60 per month plans give users 6GB, 30GB, 60GB and 100GB data respectively, with no speed caps. You just have limited time in which to sign up - by May 20 to be exact.

So should you get an unlimited plan?

It really is a case of horses for courses.

If you'd like the simplicity of having a set-and-forget plan and not worrying about data use or bill shock, then go for it.

Otherwise, there are big savings in finding the right plan for your current usage over choosing the largest option. There are also other inclusions and features to consider, such as international calls or whether you need a new smartphone with your plan.

Ask yourself a few questions about your own phone use and whether it would change with access to unlimited data.

It's great that unlimited data mobile plans are now a reality, but there are lots of cheaper options available that still offer generous data. And remember that telco promotions, like the Optus double data deal, happen all the time so it pays to look around for what's on offer.

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Kenny McGilvary is communications manager at WhistleOut.