Everything You Need To Know About 5G

In this article, you’ll learn more about what 5G is, what makes it so different from its predecessors, and – most importantly – when and where it is due to be available in Australia.
What is 5G?

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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.

What is 5G?

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.

3G vs 4G vs 5G: What’s the difference?

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.

What technology is used in 5G?

When 4G was launched, it was built on two types of mobile communications technology3:

  • Improvements on 3G’s HSPA network, referred to as HSPA+
  • The LTE network, which is considered the “true” 4G.

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.

What speeds can 5G achieve?

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:

  • Geography (trees, buildings, etc.)
  • How many other people are connecting to your cell or tower
  • Your hardware
  • What you’re using the internet for

That being said, 5G aims to reduce a lot of these pain points. What you can expect from 5G mobile communications include6:

  • High data rates (1 Gbps for hotspot, 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload)
  • Massive connectivity (1 million connections per square kilometre)
  • Ultra-low latency (1 millisecond)
  • High reliability (99.999% for mission critical “ultra-reliable” communications)
  • Mobility at high speeds (up to 500 km/h, i.e. high speed trains)

Learn more about potential 5G speeds and 5G technology.

Are all phones 5G-compatible?

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:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, as well as additional unnamed phones confirmed
  • LG V50 ThinQ 5G
  • Lenovo Motorola Moto Z3, but requires a modular accessory
  • Huawei Mate X
  • ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G

When is 5G coming to Australia?

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.

How much will 5G cost?

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:

  • The cost of a 5G-compatible handset may be a higher price than previous handset models7. If you purchase one as part of your mobile phone plan, your bill may increase.
  • Faster speeds and reduced latency may mean your data usage increases as you spend more time on more HD services9. Depending on your plan, this could lead to excess data usage and therefore a higher monthly bill.

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.

Will 5G be available on every network?

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.