Pooled Data for Mobile Devices and New Optus Offering

As someone who is a regular user of mobile data (laptop, iPad and mobile), both for work and when travelling, I have longed for a data sharing plan that would give me a pooled data allowance to use across all my devices. Tethering provided that to some degree, but has the downside of putting additional drain on my iPhone’s battery, and also isn’t nearly as convenient as having a separate data SIM in an iPad. I had heard about such plans in the US, but not in Australia until recently.

Some months ago Telstra launched a data sharing plan in Australia that allowed customers to obtain up to five additional SIM cards that could share the data allowance on their mobile phone plan. However, the plan seems to have a nasty sting in that each additional SIM costs an extra $10 per month, and that extra charge doesn’t increase the base data allowance in the slightest.

Worse, despite having to pay an extra $10 per month per SIM, the base data allowances on Telstra’s mobile plans aren’t exactly generous. At the time of writing Telstra offers the following data allowances within its mobile phone plans (charged monthly):

S M L XL
Cost $45 $55 $70 $95
Data 500MB 1.5GB 2.5GB 3GB

In comparison Optus has just launched a shared data plan for customers on its My Plan Plus mobile plans that offers up to five additional SIMs able to share the mobile plan’s data allowance for a one off cost of $5 per additional SIM. And the data allowances in Optus’s My Plan Plus mobile plans are significantly more generous (charged monthly):

$30 $45 $60
500MB 2GB $5GB

This seems like a significantly better deal, and one I’ll likely explore in the near future—although it will trade off the coverage benefit I currently get from having an Optus SIM in my mobile and a pre-paid Telstra SIM in my iPad (and the ability to tether to either device depending which has the better connectivity in any particular location).

Making the Optus offer even more enticing is that on their My Plan Plus plans, users who blow through their data cap are automatically provided extra data allowances in 1GB blocks, charged at $10 per GB, as opposed to the Telstra plans where the cost of additional data packs are $5 for 250MB, $15 for 1GB, $30 for 3GB or $60 for 6GB.

If nothing else, the Optus offering will increase the appeal of cellular capable tablets over wi-fi only models, having eliminated the ongoing cost associated with dedicated tablet data plans—whether they be monthly plans or pre-paid.