Optus adds new global roaming options, but there's still a data sting

Optus has joined Vodafone in offering lower-cost global roaming options for travellers with simplified plans, although they’re much better if you’re a frequent caller than a data user.
From the middle of September, Optus will offer pricing for global roaming across two tiers; Zone 1 covers New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Europe, UK, USA, Canada and Asia, while Zone 2 covers Latin America, Africa and The Middle East. Zone 1 is much cheaper, with 50c/texts, $1/min calling rates (sending and receiving) and 50c/MB data; the rates for Zone 2 are double that. Those are plans that cover both postpaid and prepaid Optus users.
Optus will also offer $10 “Travel Packs” for postpaid users from November. They’re applicable for Zone 1 destinations only, covering unlimited text and talk but only 30MB of data usage. That’s something of a concern if you’re even a moderate data user, as it’s very easy to flick through 30MB of data in just a single online session without realising it.
Vodafone made particular news recently with its own global roaming $5 packs. So how do the two compare?
Optus covers quite a larger swathe of territory, with Vodafone only offering the $5 packs in the UK, US and New Zealand. But looking at the two across those areas (Zone 1 for Optus) is interesting, if only because they’re quite different propositions.
Vodafone charges a flat $5 per day to access whatever is already on a Vodafone prepaid customer plan, where Optus’ $10 rates are on top of whatever plan you’re on. That could be especially important for data users, because presuming the Optus rates flick over to Travel Rates (so 50c/MB for Zone 1) when you’ve exhausted your 30MB/day, it’d be pretty easy to rack up quite a bit more than $10 worth of additional usage, whereas that $5 flat fee could enable you however many GB of data a Vodafone plan came with. On the other hand, Optus offers its Travel Rates to pre-paid customers, something that Vodafone has yet to announce.
Naturally, all eyes are on Telstra now as the biggest telco, and the one that’s yet to announce any kind of roaming relief plan. I’d still say if you’re planning to travel internationally it’s worth looking at your actual regular (or planned) usage, and researching around local SIMs, travel SIMs and pre-purchased bundles from your telco. Whatever you do, however, don’t just travel abroad and use your phone without some kind of plan in mind. That way lies bankruptcy.

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