Mobile phone

This page provides advice on getting a mobile phone connection to your rural, regional, or remote location.

Can I get mobile voice access?

Mobile voice and internet

Mobile phones require reception, in the same way your television or radio does.

Mobile reception tends to be measured in “bars”, or sometimes dots, on the screen of your phone.

  • Five bars shows a full-strength connection. Phone calls should be strong and clear.
  • Four to two bars are solid connections.
  • One bar is a barely-there connection. Phone calls may drop out regularly.

If you have even one bar of reception at your location, however, it may be able to be improved to provide a solid and reliable phone and even internet service, with the appropriate equipment.

You may also be able to use your mobile phone to make calls over the internet with Wi-Fi calling.

Make sure that the provider has coverage in the areas you plan to use your mobile phone connection (e.g. at home, work, school). You can check coverage maps on telcos’ websites or give location information to the sales person in store or over the phone so they can check coverage for you.

Check coverage here:

You can also use resellers of these networks, but check that they actually do supply voice services in your region. Not all resellers have full access to their suppliers’ networks.

A mobile graphic showing the relative coverage of the three main mobile suppliers in Australia

A mobile graphic showing the relative coverage of the three main mobile suppliers in Australia

Note that even if a map suggests you’re in a coverage area, your specific location may be in a “black spot” due to local geography – hills, thick tree coverage, and so on. Always confirm in writing with your mobile broadband provider that you can get coverage at your location before entering into a contract.

Mobile signals can be blocked or disrupted by vegetation, heavy trees cover, hills/mountains, tall buildings, and other factors that may prevent you from physically seeing the tower.

In some areas, you may currently be connecting to a 3G connection. The 3G network is being converted across to 4G, and 3G will be switched off entirely in 2024. Ensure whatever equipment you get for your connection is compatible with both 3G and 4G networks.

The Regional Tech Hub Desk Check is a free service that can assist you with determining if there is mobile reception in your area and what equipment might be needed to get connected.

The Regional Tech Hub Desk Check can then put you in touch with a specialist in your area who understands the requirements for your state. The report will advise likely signal levels, the sort of mobile services available, the best antenna and extension device for your location and where to point your antenna.

You can also use websites such as:

to look for plans and providers.

Note that whole useful, comparison sites may be funded by providers advertising fees. They may not provide a comprehensive review of all available services in your area.

If you can get some mobile coverage at your location (or close to your location), a network extension device (such as a passive antenna or active repeater) may assist you in boosting your signal. Ensure any equipment you purchase is licensed, as illegal repeaters/boosters can interfere with the mobile network.

Understanding mobile phone network plans

ACCAN provides a summary of things to look for when choosing a mobile plan .

Plans are supplied by individual mobile service providers.

Mobile phone plans come in three main types:

  • Phone plans: Over the length of your contract with your chosen supplier, you pay off the handset – the phone itself – as well as the monthly plan cost, and any additional costs for services not included in the monthly plan. This is the main way to afford the otherwise quite expensive high-quality smartphones such as iPhones.
  • SIM Only Plans: These are also called “Bring Your Own Device” or “BYOD” plans. You already own a phone, and only need a plan that covers all the calls and services you need each month. These can be contract plans, or month-by-month.
  • Prepaid Plans: You own a phone and pay for services before you use them. These can be very flexible plans, but you need to find out how to “top up” your phone if it gets low on credit, and ensure the top-up method works for your lifestyle.

Keeping your phone number: Some people stay with a provider because they don’t want to lose their phone number. No matter what mobile plan you choose you will always have the option to transfer your phone number. There are even laws that protect your right to do so.

Cost

This can have multiple parts.

  • Service cost. In all plans except pre-paid plans, there will be a fixed monthly cost for your phone plan. This will be charged to you on the same day every month.
    • This cost will come with a certain level of inclusions – for example, 100 local calls, unlimited text messages, 2Gb of data, and 20c STD calls.
    • Once you use up all your inclusions, you will be charged a set fee for any more calls or services that you use. These fees must be set out in the contract documentation you sign when you signed with your provider; check it carefully before you accept it.
  • Pre-paid service cost. This is the cost of buying more credit for your phone to use. This can range from under $10 to over $100. Note that you run out of credit, you cannot make calls until the credit is recharged. You may be able to receive calls, depending on the nature of the plan you’re on.
  • Phone cost. If you’re paying off the phone itself with your plan, this will be an additional cost, until you’ve paid off the phone.
  • Insurance. Plans that come with a handset may offer insurance against the loss/damage to the handset, as an optional extra. Weigh up the additional monthly cost over the lifetime of the contract with the actual final cost of the phone, to ensure you don’t end up paying considerably more than the phone is actually worth.
  • Other extras. Plans may have extras for a few cents or dollars here and there. Check carefully to determine if the cost of the extras is actually worth the cost of the service.
    You should carefully check all the possible fees that may apply with each plan as they differ with each retail service provider.

Contract length

Some contracts are available month to month, while others have a minimum duration (such as one or two years). Longer contracts may not have upfront equipment and connection fees but will charge if you terminate the service early.

If you need assistance in understanding a contract, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has useful information on their website.

Inclusions

Data: There’s no point paying for more data than you need, so it’s worth checking your current usage before buying a new plan.

Extras and deals: It’s worth looking at the extras you can get with some phone plans – inclusions like streaming services, international roaming, and overseas calls. Some of these may be free, while others may be additional fees. Check the fine print of your contract carefully to determine what you’re signing up to.

Equipment

Generally, all you need is the phone handset itself, plus the SIM provided to you by your service provider.

Insert the SIM into a charged phone and turn the phone on. It should immediately “see” the network, register itself, and be available for use immediately.

If you’re in an area with minimum reception, you may wish to look at additional services and equipment to help you use a mobile phone in your region.

See our pages on the following resources to help you.

  • Wi-Fi Calling (allowing you to use an existing Internet connection to send and receive mobile calls and SMSs)
  • Aerials, poles and antennas (going high enough above obstructions to find good reception)
  • Mobile extenders (boosting and extending barely-there reception into a reliable resource)