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To truly get the best out of all of this new technology, our mobile networks need to continue to advance as well. This is where 5G comes in. Short for fifth-generation wireless, it’s the new mobile spectrum on the block and it’s here to change how you use your smartphone.
But 5G isn’t just going to improve your ability to watch Netflix on the train. In fact, the capacity for the network goes far beyond simple one-way streaming; it is likely to revolutionise a variety of industries in Australia and around the world.
Have you ever wondered how you can travel across the world and still be able to connect your smartphone to a mobile network (provided you have international roaming activated)? That’s no coincidence.
Consider it this way. In Australia, our public transport providers and systems differ from state to state, but when it comes to the main arterial roads, they can be used by everyone and work the same way. It’s the same with the mobile networks across the world. While plans and providers change, the network is accessible to everyone.
That’s because the framework for the mobile networks are set out by the United Nations’ specialised agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). They’re responsible for allocating spectrum and ensuring mobile communications are developed globally so that they can smoothly interact with each other1.
As mentioned above, 5G stands for fifth-generation wireless, and it’s the latest mobile network to be guided by the ITU. Succeeding the 4G, 3G and 2G networks, the 5G network offers faster speeds, reduced latency, and enormous device connectivity.
Technology advancements can come in leaps and bounds – or in small, incremental steps. You may have already noticed this with your smartphone. One year an iPhone 7 is released, and the next an iPhone 7S comes out with only a few improvements. But then the following year, the iPhone X is released and everything changes.
The same can be said for mobile communications networks. When 3G was introduced in Australia in 20032, it was the first system that offered email and internet use on mobile devices. It was continuously upgraded until the launch of 4G in 20112, which paved the way for HD streaming. Since then, there’s been even more improvements to the 4G network, with Telstra rebranding some of these improvements as “4GX”.
5G is the next step beyond this again. The iPhone X, as it were, where 4GX was merely the 7S.
Learn more about the differences between 4G and 5G.
When 4G was launched, it was built on two types of mobile communications technology3:
The same can be said for 5G. There will be some networks that improve the existing LTE network (referred to as LTE Advanced or LTE-A). There will also some built on new mmWave technology.
mmWave is an incredibly high-frequency technology1, which can offer much faster speeds than mid-band frequencies, and is the technology that was used in Telstra’s Gold Coast trials4. That being said, taking advantage of LTE-A is beneficial, as it typically has a longer range than mmWave1, making it valuable for regional areas in Australia.
In order to build the network, each telco provider in Australia will partner with a mobile equipment provider. For the Gold Coast trial site, Telstra partnered with Ericsson5.
Learn more about the 5G network in Australia.
Depending on the technology used, 5G can achieve extremely fast speeds. Like its predecessors, though, the speeds you can realistically achieve depend on a number of factors. These include:
That being said, 5G aims to reduce a lot of these pain points. What you can expect from 5G mobile communications include6:
As it’s still early days for 5G, only a handful of smartphone manufacturers have confirmed upcoming handsets to be 5G-compatible. While there are rumours for other manufacturers, below is a list of confirmed handsets7:
Some of Australia’s largest telco providers have already started implementing their plans to deliver 5G to Australians. Last year, Telstra tested its 5G network in the Gold Coast4, while Optus launched its 5G trial in Broadbeach during the Commonwealth Games.
Vodafone, on the other hand, conducted its first live public 5G demonstration in Australia with Nokia at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 20168. It’s anticipated that 5G mobile communications will be available for customers on these three networks as of 2020.
Learn more about when 5G will become available.
Historically speaking, mobile plans typically don’t change when a new mobile communications technology becomes available. If you have a compatible phone, you’re simply able to access the new network.
That being said, there are two things to consider initially:
Over time, it’s likely Australians will see a reduction in the cost of access to the network. As 5G becomes the norm, and more users are able to connect to the service without concerns about congestion1, the providers will become more competitive.
At present, there are approximately 300 mobile phone providers in Australia10, however only a handful of them own network infrastructure. It’s these few, along with one or two others who have currently announced their plans for the 5G network.
Some of these providers include:
It’s anticipated that these providers will announce their 5G plans throughout 2019.