GUIDES & RESOURCES

5G Versus the National Broadband Network (NBN)

When it comes to high-speed Internet in Australia, two titans dominate the landscape: NBN Broadband and 5G Wireless Internet. But how do they compare? And which one would you declare victor?
5g Vs. NBN in Australia

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Updated 12/10/2023
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Updated and expanded information on both 5G and NBN, included comparison of 5G and NBN, updated future predictions
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Written by

Francis Taylor

Updated 12/10/2023

What changed?

Updated and expanded information on both 5G and NBN, included comparison of 5G and NBN, updated future predictions
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

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What is 5G Internet?

Global wireless Internet technology has been a staple for mobile phones since the early 1990s and it keeps getting better.1 You might be familiar with 3G and 4G Internet. These are just different successive generations of global wireless Internet technology. Each generation continues to use radio waves so you can access the Internet without a cable connection.

5G is the latest and greatest iteration of this tech. It’s faster, drops out less and makes for smoother communications between devices.2 5G is now offered as a part of many Home Internet Plans, including Home Wireless Internet Plans.

About 98.7% of Australians can enjoy 4G coverage where they live.3 The aim is for 5G to be just as convenient with 95% of Australia’s population expected to have access to the tech by 2025.4 FYI: this isn’t the same as getting 5G across 95% of the country. Since Australia’s population tends to cluster in certain regions, coverage for 4G and 5G follows these trends.

What is NBN Internet?

The NBN is Australia’s national Internet network. It’s a massive project that uses fibre-optic cables, existing copper cables and a range of other technologies to deliver high-speed Internet. As of September 2023, more than 12 million properties are ready to connect to the NBN and over 8 million are already connected.5

NBN technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution though. While most NBN connections rely on fixed lines and cables, Aussies in regional and rural areas can also jump on the NBN with a satellite connection or wirelessly with the right router and equipment.6

 

What’s the difference between 5G and NBN?

Aspect 5G NBN
Download Speed Can reach over 200Mbps but varies depending on the plan.7 Can reach nearly 1000Mbps but varies depending on the plan.8
Latency Fast network communication.9 Fast network communication.10
Installation Typically very easy installation and likely to not need professional assistance.11 May require professional installation to connect.12
Technology Wireless; relies on radio waves.13 A mix of fixed-line, satellite and wireless networks.14
Availability Presently focused on major population centres.15 Currently being rolled out across the country, including regional and rural areas.16

What equipment do you need?

This is going to depend on the type of Internet connection you choose. Connecting to a 5G network on your mobile phone is going to look a lot different from a 5G Home Internet Plan and that goes for the different types of NBN connections too.
 
Sometimes, you’ll get all the equipment you’ll need to connect as part of your NBN or 5G Plan, but this isn’t always a given. It may be worth being extra clear with your provider before you sign up to avoid confusion. In the meantime, here’s a handy list of what you’ll usually need to get set up:

  • Fixed Line NBN
    These connections use cables to bring high-speed Internet into your home. An NBN technician, usually organised by your Internet provider, will help install much of the necessary hardware. However, you will often require a router and/or a modem in addition to this.17 Therefore, it’s also an idea to speak to your Internet Provider to find out precisely which of the two devices you might need.

  • Wireless NBN
    Fixed wireless NBN involves a slightly different set-up. An NBN technician will need to install an NBN outdoor antenna and an NBN connection box at your home. Your Internet Provider will also need to supply you with a modem or router, and an ethernet cable to connect your devices.18
     
  • Satellite NBN
    Some people in rural or remote areas can also connect to the NBN through the Sky Muster satellite service You’ll need a satellite dish on the roof of your home and an NBN-supplied modem, both set up by an NBN-approved technician.19
     
  • 5G Mobile
    If you have a 5G Mobile Phone Plan, connecting to the Internet is actually pretty easy. You just need a 5G-compatible mobile phone and to be in a 5G coverage area to access that sweet high-speed Internet!20
     
  • 5G Home Internet
    The equipment you’ll need here can vary depending on your set-up. However, you’ll generally need a 5G modem or a router.21 The latter will be especially necessary if you’re looking to use 5G Internet through your home via a Wi-Fi signal.

Remember, it’s a good idea to speak to your provider to find out what kind of Internet set-up you’ll need at your house, including whether they’ll supply you with all the necessary equipment to get online. Some plans won’t come with a modem or router, which means you might need to pay for them from your own pocket.

NBN or 5G? Which one is suitable for me?

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t need a stable Internet connection at some point during the day. But when it comes to narrowing down what that connection should look like, you’ll need to get into the specifics.

First and foremost, double check if both 5G and NBN are actually available at your place. Depending on where you live, you might get to pick between the two or you might have the decision made for you. Better to confirm this at the start though rather than get too caught up in the finer details unnecessarily.

From there, you can think about how you intend to use the Internet. If you’re just looking to watch Netflix or scroll through Facebook, 5G will have the speed to handle it. On the other hand, if you’re working from home and sending big files back and forth, the NBN and its higher speeds may be the better option.

Finally, the plans available to you may impact your decision too. While you might be able to choose between 5G or NBN, the respective plans may mean one is a clear winner for you. This can include pricing, data limits, bundles and more. It’s worth comparing the plans out there. For instance, using a comparison service like iSelect, you can easily see which NBN plan offers you the most value from a range of providers*.

What does the future hold for 5G and NBN?

Unless you have a crystal ball, predicting the future — especially when it comes to technology — can be a pretty tricky endeavour. While we don’t have any magical materials lying around, we have seen a few trends stay consistent over the past few years. So, as of October 2023, these are our tentative predictions for what could be on the way:

  • Wider coverage: The NBN will continue its rollout, equipping millions more households and businesses with high-speed Internet. 5G is also likely to go beyond 4G and expand its coverage to all areas in Australia — not just where most of the population is.22
     
  • Increased competition: 5G Internet will become more widespread and more capable of offering high download speeds,23 giving the NBN a run for its money. However, with its superior stability and availability, NBN Broadband is likely to remain an Australian fixture, particularly if you have access to the faster speed of the Fibre Connect program.24
     
  • Convergence: Competition isn’t the only outcome though — we might also see NBN and 5G technology complement each other. Homes might rely on NBN for tasks that eat up a lot of data, such as large downloads or online gaming, while 5G networks could help smart devices like home security systems and smart door locks talk to each other in an instant. Essentially, you can get the best of both worlds!

Where can I find and compare NBN Plans?

With 5G still a little while away from reaching its prime, choosing NBN for your home can be a way to stay connected. iSelect has partnered with CIMET to make comparing NBN Plans from a range of providers easier. Discover what’s possible for your home Internet today.*


Sources:
1 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - What is 5G?
2 As above
3 Tangerine - Mobile Network Coverage
4 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission - Communications market report 2021-22, p5
5 NBN Co - NBN Co Weekly Progress Report 20 Septemberp1
6 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - Getting ready to connect to the NBN
7 The Guardian - Optus best mobile network for overall availability and Vodafone leads for 5G, report finds
8 NBN Co - Upgrade to nbn's full fibre
9 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - Fact Sheet: 5G mobile technologyp1
10 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission - Broadband performance data
11 7NEWS Australia - Why 5G might be better than NBN for your home internet
12 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - Connecting to the NBNp1–2
13 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - What is 5G?
14 NBN Co - The technology that connects your premises
15 Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - What is 5G?
16 NBN Co - Enhancing broadband in Regional Australia
17 Aussie Broadband - Not all nbn® modem routers are equal
18 NBN Co - Fixed Wireless explained
19 NBN Co - Sky Muster satellite explained
20 Tangerine - Do I need a 5G ready mobile phone or device to access 5G?
21 7NEWS Australia - Why 5G might be better than NBN for your home internet
22 9News - The evolution of 5G: The gamechanger coming to Australian mobile coverage
23 Aussie Broadband - 5G Broadband vs NBN: Which is better?
24 As above

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