Australian telcos Telstra and Optus have their 4G offerings up and running, and are battling to get users onto the faster speeds.
The ultra-quick data transfer rates translate to faster web browsing, smoother video streaming, lag-free video calls and zippier photo and video sharing.
To join the party, you’ll need a 4G-compatible smartphone, and depending on who your service provider is, you may need to sign up for a contract before you can access the 4G service.
Telstra is open with its 4G network; so long as you have an LTE handset that works on the 1800MHz band, popping any Telstra SIM into it will automatically connect you to the faster 4G network if you’re within a 4G coverage area.
Optus isn’t so welcoming. If you own a 4G smartphone outright that isn’t the Apple iPhone 5, there’s no way for you to connect to its 4G network, even if you sign up for a contract.
CRN revealed earlier this month Optus does not currently offer plans to 4G smartphones, other than the iPhone 5, purchased outside of Optus for its 4G network.
Optus has month-to-month BYO plans available for the iPhone 5. It told CRN it will also be rolling out BYO plans for the Galaxy S III 4G in the next few months.
Virgin Mobile, which uses the Optus 4G network, doesn't offer 4G to prepaid customers either, but it's a little more flexible than Optus. All of its postpaid plans are available on a month-to-month basis, and these can be used with any 4G smartphone - not just the Apple iPhone 5.
In terms of speed, Optus scored best, with a Sydney download speed of 63Mbps, compared to Telstra's similarly impressive 58Mbps.
Best plan for $50
Virgin Mobile’s Big Plan $39 is $10 off if you bring your own handset. This comes with $450 of credit, 1GB of data, and Virgin Mobile perks like unlimited calls and texts to other Virgin Mobile users, free voicemail, and the ability to rollover unused credit. You can then add a $20 Mobile Internet Data Plan; normally this comes with only 2GB of data, but if you sign up to the plan for 24 months, it doubles to 4GB of data.
Don’t stress too much about the 24-month requirement – you can cancel the data subscription after six months with no penalty. Even if you cancel it sooner, you’ll only have to pay a $50 penalty fee. Total data per month if you combine the call plan and the mobile Internet plan is 5GB.
Best plan for $70
Again, Virgin Mobile leads the charge here. Its Big Plan $49 works out to be $39 on a month-to-month basis when you bring your own smartphone, and it comes with $450 of credit and 2GB of data, plus the usual Virgin Mobile perks. If you purchase a $30 Mobile Internet Data Plan on a 24-month contract, this gives you an extra 6GB of data a month, for a grand total of 8GB of sweet, sweet 4G data.
Best plan over $100
If you happen to be a business customer with an Apple iPhone 5, Optus has the best plan for you. The $129 Business Timeless Plan (available on a month-to-month basis) comes with unlimited calls and texts, unlimited voicemail, and unlimited data. Yes, that’s right, unlimited 4G data. But there’s a catch – it's only unlimited for data you use directly on your iPhone, so this excludes tethering of any kind. However, the plan also includes a generous 10GB for those occasions when you want to share the 4G love with other devices.
Don’t meet the above requirements? Virgin Mobile is there to pick up the slack. For $110 a month ($79 for mobile access on a month-to-month basis + $30 Mobile Internet Data Plan on a 24-month contract), you’ll get unlimited calls and texts, $89 to put towards international calls and texts, and 10GB of data a month (4GB with the plan + 6GB on the mobile Internet pack).