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The Rollout Of 5G Internet In Australia. How Does It Compare To The Controversial NBN?

In 2018, a small part of Australia experienced an introduction to internet speeds that we should expect in a country so technologically advanced. Speeds of up to 1.4 Gbit/s are currently being experienced in this one special area, where the national trials are being tested. Unfortunately for most Australians, we won’t be experiencing these speeds for quite some time yet.

The failed NBN rollout brought on by a Government that clearly had no idea what they were doing seems like an extraordinary waste of tax payer money now that the tests have been conducted for 5G network internet.

When comparing 5G with the NBN, the speeds speak for themselves. NBN customers (those who are lucky enough to have been in an area where the installation was conducted before they were frozen) are experiencing many difficulties, including slower speeds than what they are paying for.

Personally, I pay for a 100mb/s NBN account like many other Australians, yet I struggle to get speeds over 50mb/s at any given time. Of course, it’s better than the speeds I was achieving with ADSL (averaging less than 5mb/s).

Telstra announced back in August 2018, that they were rolling out trials of the 5G network around the Gold Coast right in time for the Commonwealth Games, creating Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said it was just the beginning of Telstra’s roll out of 5G technology, with more than 200 5G-capable sites planned to be live around the country by the end of 2018.

Telstra switched on 5G for the first time at sites in Melbourne and Sydney in December, with early access to the 3.6GHz spectrum offering 5G-enabled sites in all major cities across the country.

They are the first mobile provider to achieve this milestone in Australia, and this also means when commercial 5G devices become available to buy in 2019, the Telstra mobile network will be ready to connect them.

In Sydney, Telstra have upgraded their Customer Insight Centre at 400 George St with 5G technology as well as a mobile base station near Sydney Airport. In Melbourne the Telstra Labs at 242 Exhibition St has also been enhanced with 5G. A 5G mobile base station near Melbourne Airport will also came online in December.

The 5G upgrades are also expected to help deliver far better 4G speeds with a live speed test revealing the 2Gbps  peak speed capability of the device on Telstra’s mobile network. The 5G rollout is the culmination of around $8 billion of investment from Telstra, and when compared to the more than $51 billion in NBN costs to December 2018, it seems like a far better investment.

Optus has revealed that it will offer a 5G-based fixed wireless alternative to NBN in some areas from January 2019. Optus CEO Allen Lew announced the plan at a press briefing mid-2018.

“In Australia we will have 5G available to people in the capital cities starting from January 2019,” he said.

“The first application will not be mobility because the standards for that will not be finalised until June 2018. But the standards for fixed wireless access using 5G to provide, for example, 100mb/s to a home. Those standards have been set.”

5G has already been rolled out in the United States in the second half of 2018, with big Telcos AT&T and Verizon pioneering the technology. With the NBN rollout not due to be completed before the end of 2021, the turn of the new decade will see a dramatic uptick in internet speeds across Australia, even without full the rollout completed.

What will it all cost though?

When Australia moved from the 3G network to 4G, there were no changes to what we paid  to access the changes, therefore there shouldn’t be the need for any price changes. In fact, Telstra Chief Operating Officer Robyn Denholm stated that 5G will enable providers to reduce the cost of traffic, and from a consumer perspective this means we should expect cheaper data prices.

5G networks are more efficient than current generation mobile networks, which means there will be the need for larger plans, as you might well be able to burn through current plans literally in minutes.

Vodafone is a bit more held in reserve in their approach to 5G. CEO Inaki Berroeta recently downplayed the hype, saying that the new spectrum will not realistically be available for a few years and in that time NBN could gain even further ground.

Although it seems Vodafone is backing down on the NBN build-up, they are pushing a ‘coexistence’ model rather than 5G taking over NBN.

Of course, only time will tell how it will all pan out. The good news is of course, we will finally be on par with the rest of the civilised world (eventually).

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