5G vs NBN: What’s the best internet?

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With 5G now a reality for selected lucky Australians, there’s one hot debate that’s set to dominate the telco world in 2020. Can the next generation in mobile network technology replace the NBN as Australia’s go-to broadband connection?

Although it’s still early days for 5G in Australia, the new network is anticipated to reach gigabit speeds. In comparison, the NBN has been met with controversy as it seemingly flounders – despite offering top speeds of up to 100Mbps. With 5G home broadband plans now available from Optus and Telstra – and Vodafone set to launch its own 5G options later this year – could this new mobile network really be better, faster, and more reliable than the NBN?

Read on to find out more about what 5G can offer, and if it’s truly the ‘NBN killer’ Australia deserves.


5G vs. NBN: key points

  • 5G is a next-generation mobile technology that will offer faster-than-ever speeds for mobile phones, tablets, and more.
  • Telstra, Vodafone and Optus have switched on 5G in limited areas, and are currently expanding their 5G networks across Australia. 
  • Optus 5G home broadband and Telstra 5G mobile broadband plans are available now in selected areas. 
  • 5G offers faster maximum speeds than the NBN, but coverage is currently extremely limited in comparison.
  • 5G could be a NBN alternative for some users, but is unlikely to replace other broadband plans and options.

5G Phone Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Woolworths Mobile phone plans for the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Woolworths Mobile phone plans for the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month Telstra and Optus phone plans for the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Compare NBN Plans

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What is 5G internet & when will it arrive in Australia?

5G is the natural progression of 4G mobile internet, but this next generation looks set to be a big one. Pundits say it could deliver speeds up to 20 times faster than the fastest fixed line internet in Australia, so it has some big claims to its name already. Access to 5G services is now available to Optus and Telstra customers in selected areas, while Vodafone went live with its 5G network in 2020 and currently only offers 5G-capable phones.

In comparison, the NBN rollout is due to be completed nationally by 2021. So overall, the turn of the new decade could see a dramatic uptick in internet speeds across Australia, thanks to the combined adoption of the NBN and 5G cellular networks.

Telstra 5G Mobile Broadband Plans

Telstra was the first to launch 5G mobile services, and now offers several 5G-ready phones and plans. Customers in 5G-enabled areas can also access the fledgling network through Telstra’s 5G home broadband device, the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro. The modem is available now to customers on a 24-month mobile plans, which you bundle with a month-to-month mobile broadband plan.

The 5G Wi-Fi Pro offers coverage both on the new 5G network and Telstra’s existing 4GX service, and 5G access is provided free to all customers on select plans. If you’re on a Medium or Large mobile broadband plan, you will have access to 5G included, but customers on Small and Extra Small options not be able to access the 5G network.

The below table features all published Telstra mobile broadband plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance.  These prices do not include the cost of the 5G Wi-Fi Pro. These are products with links to a referral partner.

Telstra Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $25 over one month

20GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G network access included

min. cost $50 over one month

60GBMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G network access included

min. cost $75 over one month

200GBMax Data**/billing period $75Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Optus 5G Home Broadband Plans

Optus’ new 5G network is live in selected suburbs, and the telco now sells several 5G-capable smartphones. If you’re looking for a 5G home internet solution, then Optus is also offering unlimited 5G Home Broadband to customers in eligible areas. Qualifying customers can now enjoy unlimited data on the 5G network for only $70 per month, with Optus even throwing in your first month free.

Optus 5G Home Broadband is available both on a two-year contract and on a month-to-month plan. 24-month plans feature no additional setup costs, but month-to-month customers will need to pay a $200 upfront start-up fee. Both plan options include a wireless Nokia 5G modem with 4G/LTE backup, and customers can add optional extras such as Optus Sport or Fetch from an additional $10 per month.

Optus 5G Home Broadband also comes with a 50Mbps Satisfaction Guarantee. Customers who don’t achieve download speeds of a least 50Mbps, or who experience 5G signal issues, are free to cancel their service with no cancellation fees, provided the included Nokia 5G modem is returned in good condition.

The following table shows selected published Optus 5G home broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

Optus 5G Home Broadband (24 months)

  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Includes the Optus supplied Nokia modem
  • Special offer: one month free

min. cost $1,680 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $70Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

Optus 5G Home Broadband (month-to-month)

  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Includes the Optus supplied Nokia modem
  • $200 setup fee
  • Special offer: one month free

min. cost $270 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $70Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

5G Vs NBN: What could be better for home internet?

Aside from speed comparisons, what ends up being better for home internet could entirely depend on which provider you’re with, and what technology they’re backing. However, there is no good reason why 5G and NBN cannot complement each other – like how 4G is used for mobile applications, and NBN services home internet needs today.

While Telstra and Optus have not been coy about their support for 5G, the third big carrier in Australia, Vodafone, is a bit more reserved in its approach to 5G. CEO Inaki Berroeta has downplayed the hype, saying that the new spectrum will not realistically be available for a few years, and that in that time NBN could gain even further ground. Nevertheless, Vodafone has starting rolling out its own 5G network, playing catchup to the big two.

Vodafone is the newest of the ‘Big Three’ telcos to offer NBN plans, while Optus and Telstra have had their offers available for some time, offering broadband along with entertainment bundles, discounts, and deals. While it may seem Vodafone is backing down on the NBN hype, its CEO did push the ‘co-existence’ model, rather than 5G taking over NBN or vice versa. Although some think that 5G might be the death of the NBN, the broadband network is certainly not going away.

Fast NBN plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Pros & cons of 5G

The fastest speeds currently available in Australia are 1Gbps, with Wollongong in NSW being dubbed ‘Gigatown’ after MyRepublic picked the city to debut its one gigabit-per-second broadband plan. However, this is still up to 20 times slower than the speeds which are theoretically possible with 5G.

The fastest NBN speed tier available to most Australians is 100Mbps, while 5G could reach up to 20Gbps – 200 times faster. Aside from speed, 5G may also reduce ‘ping’ times, which could lead to a significantly improved experience for online gamers.

Optus currently guarantees speeds of at least 50Mbps on its 5G home broadband plan, and has reported that customers have so far experienced peak speeds of 295Mbps. Telstra’s 5G network has recorded speeds of over 1Gbps on 5G-enabled devices such as the OPPO Reno 5G and Galaxy S10 5G, and both mobile and broadband speeds are noticeably faster than what you’ll experience with 4G.

While 5G is undoubtedly faster than 4G, it’s unlikely to be as widely available as the 4G services operated by Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. Around 99% of Australians can access some form of 4G coverage, but 5G isn’t expected to be nearly as expansive — another reason why the NBN isn’t likely to be usurped as Australia’s number-one broadband option.

4G Mobile Broadband Plans

Not yet covered by Telstra or Optus’ 5G networks? 4G data is still widely available as an on-the-go alternative to fixed broadband. The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans from leading providers on Canstar Blue’s database.

Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Over 100GB

The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with over 100GB of data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G access included

min. cost $75 over one month

200GBMax Data**/billing period $75Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Ovo Logo

OVOBoom XL

  • Unlimited sport and radio on OVOPlay
  • BYO modem option

min. cost $79.95 over 30 day billing period

250GBMax Data**/billing period $79.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: 100GB

The following table shows a selection of published 100GB mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

100GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $720 over 12 months

100GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Ovo Logo

OVOBoom Large

  • Unlimited sport and radio on OVOPlay
  • BYO modem option

min. cost $64.95 over 30 day billing period

100GBMax Data**/billing period $64.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Large

  • SIM Only

min. cost $780 over 12 month plan period

100GBMax Data**/billing period $65Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Over 50GB

The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with 50GB – 100GB of data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 50GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $40 over 28 day billing period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Medium

  • SIM Only

min. cost $480 over 12 month plan period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

60GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $540 over 12 months

60GBMax Data**/billing period $45Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Ovo Logo

OVOBoom Small

  • Unlimited sport and radio on OVOPlay
  • BYO modem option

min. cost $49.95 over 30 day billing period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $49.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • 5G access included

min. cost $50 over one month

60GBMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 90GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $60 over 28 day billing period

90GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Under 50GB

The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with less than 50GB of data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 7GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $15 over 28 day billing period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $180 over 12 month plan period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

5GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $180 over 12 months

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $300 over 12 month plan period

15GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Small

  • SIM only plan
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • Includes data-free sports and music streaming
  • No 5G access

min. cost $25 over one month

20GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

25GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $360 over 12 months

25GBMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

The final word on 5G

While 5G may not totally replace the NBN, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a little excited about it. With up to 20Gbps download speeds a theoretical possibility, Australia could experience a whole new world when it comes to the internet. And with 5G now live in major metro areas (and a growing number of 5G-capable devices now on the market), lucky Australians finally have the opportunity to test out this next-generation technology for themselves.

With its fast speeds, low latency, and high bandwidth capacity, 5G has the potential to revolutionise internet in Australia – but don’t count out NBN just yet.

More information on 5G in Australia

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