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4G is the name for the fourth generation in mobile wireless connectivity. What’s mobile wireless connectivity, you ask? It’s how you access the Internet from your phone, or via other types of connection that use the same network, like Mobile Broadband and Home Wireless Broadband. 4G connectivity allows for things like streaming high definition videos, online gaming and video calling.2
5G is – surprise – the fifth generation of mobile wireless technology. It’s the new and improved version of 4G.3 Basically, to quote Daft Punk, it’s harder, better, faster, and stronger. It offers greater service, speed, reliability and capacity.4
Like its predecessors, 5G is not a single product but an industry standard. Using updated technology, Internet providers and phone companies transmit 5G over radio waves.5 Our phones or other devices pick up the waves, and we get online.
5G networks have a higher bandwidth than 4G.6 Bandwidth is the term for how much data can be sent and received over an Internet connection in a given amount of time. When it comes to Internet connections, bandwidth is generally measured in megabits or gigabits per second.
5G networks also have lower latency than 4G.7 Latency is the amount of time it takes for data to transfer from a sender to a receiver and back again. Ever noticed a brief time lag when you’re gaming or streaming a show? When there’s lower latency, there’s less of that. For context, the latency on a 5G network is as fast as 1 millisecond,8 while the latency on a 4G network is as high as 30 milliseconds.9
Depending on the plan, while top 4G download speeds can range from 50 to 180Mbps, 5G download speeds sometimes peak out at 250Mbps.10,11 But that number doesn’t come close to the fastest 5G can get. In the best conditions, it can reach a whopping 20Gbps.12
If you’re asking, ‘What does that actually mean, though?’ – that’s fair. For context, 20 gigabits (what you’d get per second with top speed 5G) is about the data you’d need to download two episodes of Charmed at the highest resolution.13 Two hundred and fifty megabits (the per-second rate of more common 5G speeds) is enough data to download about 70 seconds of the show, and 180 megabits (a high estimate for 4G’s max speed) gets you about 50 seconds.14
As of late 2023, 5G is available in every capital city in Australia except Darwin.15 It’s also available in some regional centres in every state except the Northern Territory.16 Sorry, NT!
By the end of 2021, Australia had around 4,000 operational 5G base stations installed across the country.17 This makes Australia a world leader in the 5G rollout.18 Nicely done, Straya.
Download a movie in less than 10 seconds? Sure, some 5G can do that.19 But that’s just the start of it. Some of the things 5G allows us to do are actually wild. Here are a few of them:
You may have heard some misinformation and rumours about 5G.
It’s important to know that there is no scientific evidence to support any statements that 5G radio signals are harmful to anyone’s health.24
1 Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Australia’s untapped potential in 5G opens doors in digital industries – and far beyond
2 More – What is the difference between 3g, 4g and 5g?
3 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts – What is 5G?
4 As above
5 As above
6 As above
7 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts – What is 5G?
8 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts – 5G for Australians, p1
9 Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association –5G and EMF Explained, p3
10 Tangerine – What network does Tangerine use for mobile broadband?
11 Aussie Broadband – 5G vs 4G – Which network is best?
12 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts – 5G for Australians, p1
13 Stan – How much storage space do I need for downloads?
14 As above
15 Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and The Arts –What is 5G?
16 As above
17 Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Australia’s multibillion-dollar 5G opportunities
18 As above
19 Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and The Arts – What are the benefits of 5G?
20 As above
21 As above
22 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts – 5G for Australians, p1
23 As above, p2
24 Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency – Misinformation about Australia’s 5G Network