Not that long ago this was seriously a no-brainier! You paid a premium for Telstra and got a better service everywhere and particularly in remote parts of Australia.
During our trip we’ve found that it is not so black and white anymore. As a general rule Telstra is still better on rural roads – if you are travelling however we’ve had more than one occasion where Optus actually had service while Telstra did not. These are examples just from our WA portion of the trip:
Gibb River Road
I got reception once with Telstra on the gibb which was just west of Home valley station. Optus on the other hand provided reception in numerous stations along the gibb river road.
Karijini National Park
While there was no Telstra service at all within the park we had Optus at both dales campground and at the visitors center.
This was one where there was reception from Coral Bay (both Optus and Telstra) however we were able to get Optus reception but were not able to get Telstra while staying at 14 mile. In addition we used the below method to improve the reception even more. We had 3 bars and a reasonably quick internet connection using this method.
💡⚠️ Maximize mobile broadband coverage for under $40 ⚠️💡This is not an Optus v Telstra post – saying that, its a fact…
After a bit of digging it seems like Optus actually has been lifting their game in servicing remote areas through the governments mobile black spot program. You can find more here including a nice list of areas which are already serviced or to be serviced soon by Optus:
Our spread across the two carriers (particularly for data) has worked well. Optus is generally much, much cheaper than Telstra per GB and in most camps/cities you get both. For the odd occasions where we do not have Optus reception and we have Telstra we tether our phones and use some of our mobile plan data. This has worked out really well for us.