Calling Overseas From Your Mobile

Which mobile plan and carrier has the cheapest international call rates? Dog and Bone sets out to compare the rates from a range of Australian telecommunications providers. At the risk of spoiling the ending, the answer is that budget providers such as Amaysim typically provide the lowest rates (by some margin).

Virgin Mobile yesterday sent out an email to its subscribers announcing that their international calling rates will see an significant increase on February 28th. One questions widely this outrage was felt, although it proved sufficient to register on the delicate instrument we have developed to measure affront, which we call the internet. One paper ran the provocative headline ‘Virgin's call rates increase by up to 1289%’. 

Although we are typically the last to defend price rises, we feel duty-bound to point out that only international(IDD) call rates are increasing, and that the only customers who’ll suffer a 1289% increase are those calling Tokelau, a small series of atolls to the northeast of New Zealand. Standard IDD rates are increasing by a more modest, yet still substantial, 300%. It’s certainly worth noting.

In any case, the short answer to the question I posed at the top is that no mobile plan has the best call rates. They’re all quite poor, and not to be compared with low fixed line rates (to particular countries) or the many inexpensive or free web-based products, such as Skype.

However we do acknowledge that sometimes you do have to call overseas on a mobile. Perhaps it is an emergency. Perhaps you lack both a landline (common) and a computer (less common), and cannot wait until either of those devices are available. There areany number of business reasons. Let’s assume you have your reasons for regularly calling overseas on a mobile phone, such that the call rates inform your decision of which plan suits you best.


The following table shows the standard call rates to a number of commonly called countries, by several carriers. All rates are listed by the minute.




The upshot is that budget carriers Amaysim and Kogan are both radically cheaper than the more mainstream offerings.Their standard call rates to many common destinations are 6c and 10c per minute respectively, which is very cheap.

Meanwhile Virgin Mobile is now by far the most expensive of all carriers, while Telstra runs it a distant second. Optus and Vodafone both round out the middle of the pack.

If for whatever reason you really need to regularly call overseas from your mobile, it will be considerably cheaper to go with the budget carriers (Amaysim or Kogan). Depending on the volume of your calling, it might even be worth your while to purchase a separate cheap plan on those carriers, just for your IDD needs. Amaysim is the more desirable option in this case, since its cheapest plans are, well, cheaper, and its call rates are on average slightly lower. Furthermore, it should also be mentioned that Kogan’s default mobile plans do not allow IDD at all. In order to call another country, Kogan users must purchase an additional Premium Access bolt-on pack for $14.99, in addition to their cheapest plan (which is $29, compared to $19.90 for Amaysim).


On the subject of bolt-ons, most carriers also offer a number of 'calling packs'  - such as this one from Telstra - that can be purchased in addition to your regular plan. Tese can provide additional value when calling overseas. I will be back to look at these bolt-on products soon.