I think I'll start writing a series of blogs giving my own tips to new migrants in Australia. I believe this information will help new migrants to Australia settle down easily and avoid making expensive mistakes. I'll start off with hand phones (Aussies call them mobiles).
Telstra and Optus are the big boys among the service providers. That doesn't mean they have the best deals. Hutchinson "3" and Vodafone are also competitive. Mobile phones that you buy here are usually locked to one of the service providers, although you can buy unlocked phones. Also, if you sign up for a plan with one company, typically the phone has to be unlocked before you can use it with another company. However, your phone number can be transferred.
Common mistakes: (1) "Free" phone plans. Many people are taken in with phone plans because they come with a "free" phone. Believe me, the cost of the phone is well hidden in the fees. For example, a $19/month plan may seem to be reasonable if it comes with a free phone. But the so-called "capped limits" are usually reached very quickly (newcomers take time to wise up to this, believe me). If you are not careful, you might think you have signed up for a "capped limit", but you can easily get slugged with a few hundred dollars in your bill. (2) Bundled plans. Service providers often try to tie you down with several products and services (e.g. landline + mobile + internet). Be very careful! I have often found bundled packages to be more expensive.
Suggestion: Do not subscribe to any monthly plan. Buy a phone outright. There are many inexpensive ones for less than AUD$100. Sign up for a prepaid plan. I am with Optus prepaid. Vodafone prepaid is also very attractive. There are several prepaid options. I go for the low usage option, whereby the $30 is good for 6 months unless you used up the credits. It also comes with 100min of free calls to 5 nominated numbers (all Optus, of course) each time you top up. Prepaid plans are good if you only make calls within the restricted numbers, or only receive outside calls. Otherwise, go for Suggestion #2.
Suggestion #2: If you are a heavy user, it is best to sign up with TPG Mobile. For $15/month you get $300 worth of calls. You bring your own phone. There is no contract to tie you down. I have found that currently this is the best mobile plan around. They also have $9, and $13 plans for different call quota. You can buy any unlocked phone, or any Optus phones (they also work on TPG Mobile). TPG Mobile doesn't have a shop front. Go to their website for detailed info: http://www.tpg.com.au/mobile/plans.html