The Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple's iPhone 5 are by far the two most popular 4G compatible handsets available in the market at the moment. They aren't however the only ones. HTC has the One XL which also accesses the LTE networks.
If you are lucky enough to be able to buy one of these handsets prepaid (ie outright without the contract) you would expect to be able to access 4G speeds automatically. However this is not necessarily the case. I spent some time over the weekend researching the mobile phone plans, which you can actually use for 4G access.
Unfortunately what I find is that your options are actually quite limited.
If you have purchased your 4G compatible phone outright, it is also likely that you are currently using a mobile phone plan that you might like to stick with. Unless you are with Telstra, the chances of keeping your existing mobile phone plan is next to zero.
Your 4G network options are currently limited to Telstra and Optus. Telstra has been promoting its 4G network for well over a year now and boasts some 500,000 customers.
Telstra's has a much broader 4G network than that of Optus. Telstra covers over 100 locations nationally supported by 1,000 mobile phone towers. It is actually planning to expand the towers to over 2000 over the coming 12 months. Whilst Telstra has a significant 4G client base already (most of it being mobile broadband customers) Optus has its 4G network covering Sydney, Newcastle, Perth and Melbourne.
Vodafone on the other hand is planning on launching its 4G network in 2013. Whilst it has improved its 3G coverage in 2012, it has yet to announce trials of 4G speeds, so 2013 will be a big year.
In terms of mobile plans however, it is Telstra which is actually leaps and bounds ahead of Optus. In fact if you have invested in a 4G compatible mobile phone, it is the Telstra network which gives you the option of using their postpaid as well as prepaid mobile plan range.
Optus on the other hand is playing it a lot safer. If you buy your mobile phone directly through Optus on a mobile plan, 4G access is available, however if you own the phone outright and wish to use their prepaid mobile phone plans you will soon discover that Optus is not a viable option. To assist customers wishing to use their 4G network, Optus launched a range of monthly mobile plans which are no contract plans and offer call credit and data access. They aren't as competitive as they really need to be, however being month to month they might be an easy entry point before you switch into something better.
For $30/mth Optus offers $200 in credit and 200MB in data. Telstra Prepaid Cap Encore offers $250 in credit and 400MB. Telstra offers much better value.
Optus is obviously ensuring that speeds on its 4G network stay fast and customers stay satisfied. I expect them to expand access over the coming months and this means access through its resellers including Virgin (which also offers its BYO plans at 4G speeds), Boost, TPG and Amaysim. Once these gates are actually allowed to open it is highly likely that Optus' 4G customer base will closely match that of Telstra.
Learn more about your prepaid mobile options at http://www.prepaidplans.com.au/.