2019 is likely to be the year of 5G in Australia (and around the world). The next-generation mobile technology promises fast data speeds, more reliable connections, and a brave new world of ‘inter-connectedness’ that has been dubbed ‘Everything on Mobile’.
With so much talk in the tech world of how 5G will change the mobile and internet game, you’re probably wondering when exactly you’ll be able to start using 5G networks. In preparation for the nationwide launch of 5G in Australia, we’ve got the answers to your most pressing 5G questions, including when you’ll get it, how to get it, and why you’ll want it.
5G in Australia: the key points
- 5G is a next-generation mobile technology that will offer faster-than-ever speeds for mobile phones, tablets, and more.
- Telstra and Optus have switched on 5G in limited areas, and are currently expanding their 5G networks across Australia. Vodafone’s 5G network is likely to go live in 2020.
- In order to access 5G, you’ll need a 5G-capable smartphone or device.
- Generally, 5G phone plans are likely to be on par with existing plan prices; however, Telstra will eventually charge customers on lower-tier plans an additional $15 per month to access its 5G network. 5G mobile plans for Optus and Vodafone are yet to be announced.
- 5G could be a NBN alternative for some users, but is unlikely to replace other broadband plans and options.
What is 5G?
5G is the next step up from 4G mobile – a new set of specifications for networks that will lead to faster speeds and the ability to transmit even more data. Estimated potential 5G speeds could be anything from four to 20 gigabits per second – at least in theory – and 5G is expected to offer about 10 times the bandwidth of existing 4G networks.
5G will also see a serious reduction in mobile latency – or the ‘lag’ between when a command is issued, and when a network responds. This paves the way for advancements in industries and online activities that rely on quick responses, such as remote surgery and medicine, the ‘internet of things’ (including self-driving cars), and even virtual reality and gaming.
Overall, 5G networks will be able to handle more data and more users than Australia’s existing 4G and 3G coverage. With an expanding population now using more connected devices than ever before, 5G will be an essential next step in improving (and maintaining) existing mobile speeds and capacity.
When can I get 5G in Australia?
Launching 5G isn’t as simple as flicking a switch – it involves building new infrastructure, upgrading existing mobile stations, and adapting existing engineering and signal processing techniques. It’s an expensive and time-consuming venture, but will pay off by providing a stronger, faster mobile network to Australians across the country.
After months of waiting, 5G is available to consumers in Australia, but only in selected areas. Telstra customers can access 5G via several 5G smartphones, or through Telstra’s new HTC 5G Hub smart hub and hotspot, while a very small amount of Optus subscribers have been selected to use the telco’s 5G mobile broadband service. However, as all three major mobile providers (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) are currently in the process of building and switching on their respective 5G networks, coverage is still limited.
Telstra’s 5G Network
Telstra is rolling out 5G mobile base stations across the country, with plans to make the technology available to customers in 35 towns and cities by the end of June 2019. Coverage is limited to CBD areas and airports during the initial rollout, but Telstra anticipates this will cover up to 4 million Australians to some degree.
Telstra has achieved a number of world-firsts in the 5G arena – including launching 5G enabled hotspots – and recently confirmed it has hashed out exclusive Australian partnerships with 5G device manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, and Oppo.
In May, Telstra announced that it had begun selling Australia’s first 5G mobile device, the HTC 5G Hub, on two-year mobile broadband plans. The Hub can connect to up to 20 WiFi devices, and offers coverage on both Telstra’s 5G (where available) and 4GX networks.
Telstra also now stocks four 5G-enabled phones: Samsung’s 5G-enabled Galaxy S10 smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, the OPPO Reno 5G , and the LG V50 ThinQ. The telco has also launched new phone plans with 5G connectivity, which are available now to all customers.
Telstra 5G Phone Plans
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, LG V50 ThinQ, and OPPO Reno 5G are now available from Telstra, and will allow Australians to access the telco’s initial 5G network rollout (as well as 4G across the country). Each device is available to buy with your choice of a 24 or 36-month device payment period.
You can find more information on Telstra’s Samsung Galaxy S10 5G plans here. The below table features Telstra postpaid phone plans over 24 months for the 256GB Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance. Depending on your chosen storage size and payment period (and choice of plan) your monthly repayments will vary. You’re also free to switch between these postpaid plans from month to month. These are products with links to referral partners.
Vodafone’s 5G Network
Vodafone hasn’t been quite as open with its build and rollout as Telstra and Optus, but has confirmed that it plans to launch its 5G network in 2020. The telco is currently awaiting approval for a possible merger with TPG – and has said it will fight the ACCC in court if necessary – but it’s unclear how this deal will affect the implementation of 5G for both companies.
TPG recently abandoned plans to build its own 4G network, as a ban on infrastructure partner Huawei in Australia has created a huge roadblock to an eventual upgrade to 5G. Without the option of moving to 5G in the near future, TPG decided that launching its own network was no longer commercially viable; instead, it intends to merge with Vodafone to create ‘Mobile JV’, assuming the deal isn’t blocked by the ACCC’s opposition.
Like Optus and Telstra, Vodafone has spent hundreds of millions on 5G spectrum in preparation for its network launch. Although it may be a little bit behind its two rival networks in terms of a switch-on date, Vodafone’s investment in the new mobile standard has been ongoing, and the telco even ran the first live public trial of 5G in Australia two years ago.
Vodafone 4G Phone Plans
While you’re waiting for Vodafone’s 5G network, you can sign on for 4G service on the telco’s Red SIM-only postpaid plans. The table below shows a selection of Vodafone 12-month SIM-only postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance. Use our comparison tool to see a range of plans from other providers. These are products with links to a referral partner.
Optus’ 5G Network
Optus has also begun to send its 5G sites live in very selected locations, and has announced plans to launch the first Australian 5G home broadband plan – although customers can’t access it without a compatible Optus device. After previously only offering this plan to customers in selected areas – and even then, on an invite-only basis – Optus has now made its 5G home broadband available to all Australians who are covered by the new 5G network.
The $70 Home Broadband plan includes unlimited monthly data, and is available on both a 24-month contract or a month-to-month basis. Two-year plans feature no setup costs, and all plan options currently come with one month of free service. Optus is also offering a satisfaction guarantee to all 5G customers, promising speeds of 50Mbps and up.
Along with an unlimited data 5G broadband plan, Optus will also offer 5G-capable devices, including Nokia’s 5G home hub. Mobile 5G will also be a priority for Optus in 2019, and the company has already tested 5G during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. Optus has also launched plans for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G device — the first 5G phone to be available from the telco.
As of May 2019, the telco has confirmed it is working with Ericsson to build fifty 5G sites across Sydney and Melbourne, which will form part of the 1,200 5G sites Optus plans to roll out by March 2020. Currently, Optus has switched on 5G in limited areas, but you’ll need to check your address online to see if your suburb has coverage. Confirmed 5G-live locations include Auchenflower, Bonnyrigg, Castle Hill, Cook, Glendenning, Kallangur, Kenmore Hills, Kingsford, Macquarie Park, Minchinberry, Niagara Park, Rosebud, and Strathpine.
Optus 4G Phone Plans
Optus currently offers competitive BYO-phone and phone-on-a-plan options on its 4G Plus network. While the telco’s 5G network isn’t quite up and running, Optus has plans for the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G device. The following table includes all published Optus 512GB Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost from lowest to highest and then by data allowance. Use our comparison tool for more plans from Optus and other providers.
Despite the number of 5G sites now live in Australia, you won’t be able to access these networks until 5G-capable devices become commercially available. Your existing smartphone, tablet, or broadband device isn’t able to support the frequencies that 5G will run on, so you will eventually need to upgrade to a compatible handset.
Luckily, 5G smartphones are already in stores, starting with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G which was first available on 28 May exclusively through Telstra. Samsung has also launched the Galaxy Note 10 series including a 5G device, which is available through Telstra and Optus. The OPPO Reno 5G is also now available to buy from Telstra, as well as the new LG V50 ThinQ. Other major phone manufacturers – including Huawei, and OnePlus – have all confirmed plans to release 5G handsets this year, and Sony and Nokia are also developing 5G devices.
Apple hasn’t yet announced plans to launch a 5G iPhone, but industry insiders speculate that this will happen in 2020. Regardless of brand, 5G-enabled phones won’t use 5G exclusively, but will instead be able to switch between 5G, 4G, LTE, and possibly 3G (depending on the best available coverage, and in addition to Wi-Fi networks).
Outside of smartphones, companies such as Nokia and HTC have been working with Aussie telcos to launch 5G-enabled home broadband devices, which are likely to be available before smartphones or tablets. HTC’s 5G Hub is now available on Telstra mobile broadband plans, and provides 4G and 5G coverage via Telstra’s networks.
How much will 5G cost?
It’s unclear whether the launch of 5G for mobile and broadband will see an immediate change in plan pricing in Australia. However, the demand for more data that providers experienced after 4G is likely to be repeated, meaning telcos may tweak their plans to offer more gigabytes (including unlimited high-speed data).
Telstra has confirmed that it will initially offer 5G coverage on phone plans free for the first 12 months, but lower-priced plans will then need to pay $15 per month for continued 5G access. However, customers on Telstra’s top two new phone plans – priced at $80 and $100 per month – will receive included 5G access at no extra cost.
Regarding 5G broadband, the only provider to release 5G-specific plan details so far is Optus. As noted above, the telco has announced it will offer a 5G home broadband plan with unlimited data on both two-year and month-to-month contracts, and will price both options at just $70 per month. Currently, Optus’ largest 4G wireless broadband plan is priced at $85 per month for 500GB of data (on a 24-month contract and month-to-month), so the telco’s upcoming 5G plan could be extremely competitive.
Comparatively, Telstra’s HTC 5G Hub is now available on mobile broadband plans on a two-year contract, with prices beginning at $70 per month for your device and 25GB of data. Telstra’s Medium HTC 5G Hub broadband plan includes 60GB for $94 monthly, while the Large option offers 100GB for $104. This includes 5G connectivity where available, and 4GX network access elsewhere.
If current pricing is anything to go by, expect Vodafone to offer the most affordable 5G mobile and broadband options, followed closely by Optus and then Telstra. As the three big networks are likely to eventually resell 5G access to smaller operators (such as Amaysim or Boost Mobile), it’s also possible that some serious 5G deals will be available down the line.
Is 5G better than the NBN?
While there’s already been plenty of speculation that 5G may be a potential ‘NBN killer’, it’s unlikely that wireless 5G networks will replace fixed broadband connections – at least not within the next decade. There’s no doubt that 5G promises impressive speeds (and may be significantly faster than existing premium NBN 100 plans), but it’s likely to be several years before coverage is available across Australia.
The NBN itself is still only in the rollout stage, and – if future upgrades go as planned – fibre NBN connections may eventually offer real-world speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. 5G will be fast, but probably not quite that fast – and it will require huge investments in infrastructure and backhaul to become a truly viable NBN alternative.
Even if 5G could operate at full capacity, 5G broadband plans are likely to be expensive in comparison to existing NBN options. Optus may be planning to release a $70, unlimited-data 5G plan straight off the bat, but this isn’t necessarily a strong indicator of future 5G broadband prices and data inclusions. 5G coverage will also be severely lacking when compared to NBN availability, and again would require Australian telcos to invest heavily in order to reach the same coverage levels as existing 3G and 4G networks.
In general, 5G is likely to complement the NBN, rather than replace it. When it comes to high-bandwidth, data-intensive online activity, the NBN’s fixed-line connections will still be the go-to broadband option for the majority of Australians.
Telstra 5G Coverage by Suburb
Telstra hasn’t released a specific list of enabled 5G sites, but it does offer 5G coverage maps which show the telco’s ‘anticipated coverage areas’. These are locations in which 5G is scheduled to go live by 30 June, 2019.
Below is a list of some of the suburbs and areas which may be covered by Telstra 5G by mid-2019, according to Telstra’s coverage maps.
NSW 5G Suburbs
- North Sydney
VIC 5G Suburbs
- East Melbourne
- South Melbourne
- West Melbourne
QLD 5G Suburbs
- Brisbane Airport
- Bulwer Island
- Eagle Farm
- Fortitude Valley
- South Brisbane
- Surfers Paradise
- Tweed Heads
ACT 5G Suburbs
SA 5G Suburbs
- North Adelaide
- Torrens Island
WA 5G Suburbs
TAS 5G Suburbs
- Battery Point
- Geilston Bay
- Lenah Valley
- North Hobart
- Sandy Bay
Optus 5G Coverage by Suburb
Here is a list of suburbs that have been confirmed by Optus as its first 5G sites to be built by Ericsson.
The sites, which will be built across Sydney and Melbourne, will form part of Optus’ plan to build 1,200 5G sites across Australia by March 2020.
NSW 5G Suburbs
- Macquarie Park
- North Baulkham Hills
- North Ryde Business Park
- North Sydney Central
- North Ryde
- North Ryde West
- Enfield East
- Riverside Corporate Park
- Castle Hill
VIC 5G Suburbs
- Preston East
- Hoppers Crossing
- Dandenong South
- Laverton West
- Geelong West
- Campbellfield South
- Williams Landing
- Greenvale Reservoir
- Mt Martha
- Croydon South
- Noble Park South
- Mt Evelyn
- Springvale South
- Arthurs Seat
- Noble Park
- Rye Central
- Wantirna South
- Rosebud East
- Fishermans Bend
- Reservoir North