Not many people have heard about Lebara, a mobile service provider that leases its bandwidth from Vodafone and sells it to the public. I have only heard about it today from a friend and I immediately wanted to try it out as it sounds too good to pass. I bought a Lebara SIM card from a bloke who peddles it outside a grocery shop in Glen Waverley. It costs only $10 and is loaded with $10 of call credits. Activation is just a simple step on the internet, which I did myself when I got home. Within minutes of activation I was able to use the phone. It costs only 3c a minute to call to Malaysia (albeit 15c a min to call within Australia). As this is about the same rate I pay on my VOIP phone, what could be better? There's no contract and no monthly fee. This is fully prepaid. The only snag is that it also charges a flagfall of 25c, which my VOIP doesn't. If it works well, this might be the cheapest mobile in Australia.
My initial experience with Lebara has not been too good though. I tried twice to call to Malaysia. As the other end did not pick up the phone, a recorded message came on and I was charged for the flagfall plus one minute each time. The two calls cost me 96c. Later, I made another call to Malaysia at night and the quality was so bad that I had to hang up. I don't know if it was due to Lebara or due to poor reception at the other end.
Conclusion: assuming that the call quality was just a one-off thing, the Lebara might work well for people who are after the cheapest mobile rate. Unfortunately the flagfall and the charge-by-minute makes it less attractive than using my VOIP to make calls back to Malaysia.