Vodafone backs NBN over 5G for home internet

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Vodafone Australia still has faith in the NBN to deliver the bulk of the nation’s internet needs, even amid controversy over speed issues and with the rollout of 5G looming.

5G is the next step for mobile data and is set to give phone users upwards of 1Gbps maximum download speeds. Main rivals Optus and Telstra have both said they will have some form of 5G internet service live in 2019, but Vodafone is sceptical.

At Vodafone’s full year results briefing, CEO Inaki Berroeta was hesitant in his predictions for 5G home internet, which differs from his two main rivals’ stances.

“There has been a lot of talk around 5G plans, but in reality, the spectrum will not be available for a few years, and if you look at [the] latest comments… it looks like the earliest we’ll see consumer devices [with 5G] is late 2019 or early 2020,” Mr Berroeta said.

Even though 5G could be available in 2019, Mr Berroeta said that mainstream rollout could take a lot longer and that the NBN will be the go-to service for some time.

“I don’t think we’ll have a significant impact in the market until well inside 2020… that I would say is probably the earliest anyone can use 5G,” he said. “In the home I think that NBN is going to ultimately prevail… these two technologies coexist very well and the development of 5G relies a lot on good fixed infrastructure.”

Vodafone recently launched NBN plans, which are gradually being made available across the country.

Coexisting rather than substitution looks to be the way forward, with the NBN already delivering 4G services through its fixed wireless network. NBN Co has already reported maximum speeds of over 1Gbps using the technology as part of a test in Ballarat in April 2017.

Could 5G replace home internet?

5G is the natural successor to 4G, which is already enjoying a healthy group of customers who like the service over traditional fixed line internet services. 4G internet can theoretically reach over 100Mbps in speeds, and providers such as Optus have gone on to offer ‘home wireless’ internet plans, which offer 200GB of 4G data in a wireless router. These wireless services then act like any other home broadband plan.

While 5G is not expected to be widely available for a few years, it still may not entirely replace fixed line home internet services. NBN Co has reduced its wholesale costs for NBN 50 plans, which Vodafone CFO James Marsh said is a step in the right direction.

“With the most recent price changes it gives us far greater certainty in terms of the overall margin over the plan period,” Mr Marsh said.

Mr Berroeta echoed the sentiment, saying: “We will use whatever is more suitable for customers at any point at any location.

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