New Optus plans rejig international roaming: will you be better off?

Optus customers can select from several plans where roaming is included, or build their own plan for the same result.

By Chris C., November 25 2019
New Optus plans rejig international roaming: will you be better off?

Optus is revamping global roaming as part of a sweeping revamp of its mobile phone plans, with options ranging from add-on bundles of 1-4GB of data roaming per month to a top-shelf plan with 10GB of roaming – albeit at an equally top-shelf price.

Let Executive Traveller bring you up to speed on the new globetrotter-friendly roaming packages, and how they compares to the offerings of Telstra and Vodafone.

Optus One offers a little of everything

The new Optus One plan lands as the company’s flagship scheme with a whopping 500GB of domestic data and 10GB of roaming data for a hefty $119 per month.

The roaming is available across what Optus categorises as ‘Zone 1’ countries, and includes unlimited talk and texting.

Primarily centred on North America, Asia and Europe, Zone 1 includes Canada and the USA, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, and almost all European countries, as well as New Zealand, Fiji and others, indicated in teal below:

Despite the $119/month price tag, Optus One may prove to be good value for high flyers who regularly visit these destinations, particularly when making longer visits where daily roaming rates would quickly add up.

There's also unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international talk and text from within Australia to a separate list of 35 countries, ‘network priority', offering faster download speeds in Australia during peak periods, and a "dedicated 24/7 Optus One expert" with customers issued "a unique number to call or SMS anytime so they are personally taken care of."

Optus One is a plan “for a multitude of consumers in the Australian market that travel extensively, are time poor and want a one-to-one customer service experience,” explains Matt Williams, Managing Director Marking and Revenue at Optus.

New Optus SIM plans mix price, inclusions

In simplifying its other pricing, Optus also now offers Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large post-paid SIM only plans, some of which also include international roaming within the monthly fee: that is, at no extra cost per day.

Both the Large ($59/month) and Extra Large ($79/month) plans offer unlimited talk and text within Zone 1 countries as identified on the map above, with Large plans also providing 2GB of roaming data – and the Extra Large plans, 4GB of roaming data – for use while abroad in those same destinations.

However, there’s a catch: exceed that data allowance and you’ll be billed for international roaming at the full retail rates. That's a $1 per MB sting in those Zone 1 countries, as well as in most other overseas locations where included roaming isn’t available, amounting to a whopping $1,024 per GB.

These plans also offer unlimited talk and text from within Australia to a separate set of countries – including many of the Zone 1 destinations where members can roam, along with the likes of Brazil – plus 100GB (Large) or 120GB (Extra Large) of monthly data to use within Australia, and unlimited domestic calls to most numbers.

The lower-priced Medium and Small SIM only plans don’t include roaming, however, although Medium does offer the same inclusion of unlimited calls and text to set overseas countries made from within Australia, as with the higher plans.

Build your own Optus post-paid plan

Those with more specific roaming needs – or who require more of one thing and less of another – may instead find better value in building their own plan, where the amount of domestic data, international calls/texts, and roaming inclusions can be customised.

All plans include unlimited standard calls and texts within Australia as standard, paired with a choice from each of the following categories. The amount of domestic data selected dictates the plan’s base monthly price:

  • Domestic data: 30GB ($45), 60GB ($47), 100GB ($55), 120GB ($67) and 150GB ($79).
  • International calls and texts from Australia to select destinations: No inclusion by default. Add unlimited text and 500 minutes of calls for $1 per month to the above plans, or unlimited texts and unlimited calls to the same countries for $2 per month.
  • Zone 1 international roaming: No inclusion by default. Add 1GB of data with unlimited calls and texts while roaming in Zone 1 countries for $5 per month on the 30GB and 60GB base plans, or $1 per month on plans with 100GB+ of domestic data. Make that 2GB and pay $10/$2 per month, or 4GB for $18/$10 per month – with those discounts being for customers on those 100GB+ Australian plans.

Combine everything to get your final price. For instance, a customer choosing 30GB of data at home, with no international minutes or texts send from Australia, but 2GB of Zone 1 roaming data (with calls and texts also covered in Zone 1) would be charged $55 per month, being $45 + $10.

It’s worth noting that this DIY approach also gives a 10GB domestic data option for $39 per month, although the options for international calls, texts, and Zone 1 roaming cannot be added to this plan. Instead, you’ll need to select the 30GB option at $45 per month (or higher) to be eligible.

Optus Travel Packs for overseas roaming

Separate to the options above, Optus also continues to offer 'travel packs' as a roaming add-on for plans that don’t otherwise include international roaming.

Priced at $10 per day, these packs offer unlimited calls and texts from Zone 1 countries, plus 100MB of daily roaming data, which is cumulative. For example, when roaming for seven days, purchasing a seven-day Optus Travel Pack costs $70, and offers 700MB in total data, which can be used at any time across that week-long window.

Given the price tag, these packs are better-suited to travellers who only venture abroad occasionally, as those who visit those Zone 1 countries more regularly may find savings by choosing a plan where Zone 1 roaming is included in the plan’s base price.

Optus vs Telstra, Vodafone on roaming

When it comes to international roaming, Optus is currently the only telco of the ‘Big Three’ where this can be included as standard within the monthly plan price – Telstra, however, sells International Day Passes as roaming add-ons, while Vodafone has $5/day roaming.

On the one hand, an advantage of Vodafone’s $5 roaming is that customers can use the full inclusions of their home plan while travelling overseas, including their entire domestic data allowance – up to 120GB/month on some plans – while only being charged $5 per day in countries covered by the deal.

Vodafone offers $5/day roaming in the countries coloured red above.
Vodafone offers $5/day roaming in the countries coloured red above.

Comparatively, Optus puts aside a much smaller pile of data for use while roaming, with charges levied for exceeding the allowance topping $1,024 per GB ($1/MB) in most countries.

A customer using 120GB of out-of-plan roaming data would be hit with charges of $122,880 with Optus, which is much higher than Vodafone’s $5/day for access to their plan’s total data allowance, even when factoring in Vodafone’s extra charge of $10 per GB for data consumed beyond a plan’s usual limits.

Telstra customers must instead remember to activate the appropriate number of International Day Passes before their roaming commences, charged at $5/day in New Zealand and $10/day in other countries covered by the deal, with calls and texts included, but only 200MB of data per day.

It’s also worth remembering that each of the three telcos nominates the list of countries where these better-value roaming options can be used – versus pay-as-you-go roaming elsewhere at much higher rates – and those included countries vary between providers.

For example, only Telstra provides lower-cost roaming in the United Arab Emirates, home to the global travel hubs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai as are popular with Australians, while travellers planning a South American adventure would look to Vodafone for $5 roaming in Peru, which isn’t covered by Telstra’s International Day Pass and is a ‘Zone 2’ country with Optus, rather than the more favourable Zone 1.

Similarly, Optus groups Mongolia in that Zone 1 set where these plans’ inclusive roaming can be used at no extra charge, which isn’t a destination covered by the Telstra International Day Pass or Vodafone’s $5 roaming.

Also read: Virgin Australia inks Velocity partnership with Optus

Chris C.

A former contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 353

Optus have increased costs from earlier in the year with less international data included, but are still better value than Telstra.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 594

Yea it's way more expensive compared to my current plan, I'm currently paying just $30 a month and have 80gb (4gb roaming) with unlimited international talk/text


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Aug 2015

Total posts 38

Telstra currently does offer plans that include 2gb international data roaming along with calls and texts from tier 1 countries per month without having to purchase international day pass separately.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2546

Hi gsx, we've scoured all the SIM only plans that Telstra is currently offering for public sale, and couldn't find any that include roaming by default: all list roaming as being available by extra charge only, via the purchase of an International Day Pass.

Perhaps Telstra previously offered this to the public and withdrew that plan (leaving existing customers to make use of the plan they signed up for, but without accepting new customers), or such included roaming may only be available as part of a different category of plan than discussed and compared here.

Of course, if you have a link to a current Telstra SIM only plan that includes roaming, do share it here and we'll certainly take a look!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 791

Those awesome Telstra plans were about a year ago, we signed up to them in October 2018. XL $129 (60GB and 2GB/month roaming) and XXL $199 (unlimited domestic data at full speed, 10GB/month roaming). They weren't offered for very long.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 171

I'm on a Optus plan that was on sale earlier this year, getting 100GB/mth plus 4GB/mth roaming for $45 ...

But boy, going over the 4GB is way too expensive - wish the $10 roaming pack gave you more than a measly 100mb.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 121

yep, i'm moving to voda on the basis of this. They missed their chance to improve their daily roaming product.

Optus - No!

11 May 2018

Total posts 12

Great Chris, highly informative post..appreciated

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 411

Vodafone needs to get with it in the middle east. Totally useless there.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 171

Vodafone aren't the only ones ... Optus too - UAE isn't in Zone 1, so is massively expensive. You would think with all the Aussies being funneled through Dubai and Abu Dubai with Emirates and Etihad they would have at least covered that off.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 May 2015

Total posts 31

Wow, 2gb roaming? I'm laughing all the way to Vodafone. Seriously who are Telstra and Optus trying to kid? Vodafone has had globally roaming at AUD$5/day for years (it was once free when travelling in NZ) and it makes use of your entire plan, in my case data 60gb and unlimited calls back home. The Voda network in Europe is one of, if not, the biggest networks and never had reception problems even when in small remote villages. Sick of paying $$ to fat lazy telcos.

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