A week after its 5G network was named the fastest in Australia, Optus has unveiled its first in-building mmWave 5G coverage at its Brisbane retail store on Queen Street. Thanks to its partnership with Nokia, Optus is able to deliver in-store speeds of more than 4.7Gbps — that’s almost five times faster than the maximum speed attainable on NBN plans.
Optus has made no secret of the investment made into 5G, and the Brisbane mmWave demonstration is designed to give customers a real-world taste of just how fast the technology can be. If you’ve suffered through buffering when trying to stream this year’s Olympics, had your connection drop-out mid video call, or struggled to send a selfie from a sold-out stadium, 5G could be the solution.
5G offers a huge range of benefits, both to everyday Aussies and to businesses big and small. But many Australians aren’t yet sold on the next-generation smartphone technology: in a recent Canstar Blue survey, 42% of respondents said they did not need 5G and weren’t interested in upgrading.
To help give readers a clearer idea of what 5G is — and how it will benefit Australians, both at work and at home — Canstar Blue spoke to Harvey Wright, Head of 5G at Optus. We shared some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject, including queries on how 5G works, whether it’s the ‘NBN killer’ some have predicted, and if those promised 5G speeds can actually live up to the hype.
The benefits of 5G
First of all — what exactly is 5G, and how is it different from 3G and 4G?
“5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology, and it works together with the 4G network, in the same way the 3G and 4G networks co-exist,” said Mr. Wright. “4G introduced faster internet speeds, mobile applications, HD TV on mobile and higher quality video calls.
“5G is much faster than 4G, today it is around 10 times faster but we expect these speeds to continue to increase as the technology matures. This provides a game-changing experience for consumers and businesses given our critical reliance on data in today’s world.”
Using 5G can super-charge your internet at home and on mobile, speeding up download times and offering quick reaction times for online gaming. The technology will also offer more bandwidth than 4G, meaning more devices can connect at once without impacting your speeds or performance — great news for families, or in areas where network congestion is an issue.
mmWave technology is especially useful for pumping up speeds at densely populated locations, such as footy games, concerts, or even airports and shopping centres. The higher frequencies used offer much more bandwidth over short distances, meaning the traditional struggle to send texts or use data at jam-packed events could be a thing of the past. However, Optus is also confident about the business benefits of 5G.
“5G will enable a raft of use cases for businesses in Australia over the coming years,” said Mr. Wright. “Examples include: retailers using drones for delivery, real estate agents offering real-time home inspections via VR/AR, health providers combining 5G with wearables to deliver real time analytics, and service staff using AR/VR to attend service calls instead of traveling to site.”
Mr Wright also pointed out that as the implementation of 4G led to a boom in mobile streaming and gaming and all-new app-based industries, it’s highly likely 5G will similarly open the door to new applications and industries.
“12 years ago we didn’t even have 4G and I am certain that the majority of people today cannot imagine life without streaming services, photo sharing and the vast wave of e-commerce apps such as Uber that have hit the scene thanks to the technology afforded by 4G.
“Perhaps the most exciting thing with the rollout of 5G is that there are applications and businesses that do not yet exist today but, thanks to 5G technology, may well be applications that we cannot imagine living without 10 years down the line.”
When can I get 5G (and what will it cost?)
As of mid-2020, eight out of 10 smartphones sold by Optus are 5G-capable. But although 5G-ready devices are now in the hands of millions of Aussies, not everyone has coverage — and for customers in regional Australia, the wait for 5G continues.
Optus is switching on sites across capital cities, but it’s unclear when and where the technology will be widely available to consumers outside metropolitan areas. Mr. Wright acknowledged that the Optus 5G rollout is a ‘multiyear build’, but that the company is working to deliver 5G to customers across the country.
“Optus offers the fastest 5G in Sydney and Melbourne and also provides 5G coverage in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and key areas outside of these cities with more sites being switched on every week,” said Mr. Wright.
“Just last month Optus also announced Bathurst as our first regional town in Australia to get access to our award winning 5G service with next generation connectivity now enabled across much of the city.”
Fortunately for customers, right now Optus’ 5G phone plans won’t cost you extra, regardless of your location — and 5G home internet is also surprisingly affordable. All Optus postpaid mobile plans include 5G network access alongside 4G, and the telco has implemented a ‘5G price match guarantee’ across all its available 5G-ready phones.
If you’re weighing up 5G as an NBN alternative, Optus’ 5G home internet plans offer unlimited data from $75 per month. Unlike NBN, 5G internet is simple to set up at home, although you will need to look out for start-up fees if you opt for a no-contract plan.
“One of the key advantages of our Optus 5G Internet is immediate access to fast broadband,” explained Mr. Wright.
“While NBN is wireline technology, Optus 5G Internet is wireless and runs on the Optus mobile network. As a result, customers don’t need to wait for a technician to install the service – it’s a modem that you can plug in yourself.”
If 5G is available in your area, it may be an option if your existing home broadband plan isn’t up to scratch, although the technology itself isn’t designed to replace the NBN.
Busting the biggest 5G myths
Two of the most frequent 5G concerns voiced by Aussies regard both the safety and necessity of 5G technology. There’s plenty of misinformation out there about 5G, but telecommunications providers and health organisations worldwide have assured customers that 5G is safe to use.
“The safety of the community is paramount and when we plan new towers we do so in accordance with international best practice,” said Mr. Wright.
“But Australians don’t need to just take our word for it, all 5G mobile networks must comply with science-based regulations mandated by the Federal Government, which are based on international guidelines and informed by scientific research on the possible health effects of mobile phone use.
“When submitting a proposal, Optus conducts an assessment on the proposed site’s projected EME levels, with these findings made available to the community.”
In short, there’s plenty of information available about 5G and EME safety, including guides from the Australian Department of Health and from the World Health Organisation. If you’ve never been concerned about 4G, then there’s no need to panic over the 5G rollout.
While 5G can be a controversial topic, the speed and network upgrades on offer have the potential to supercharge the way we work, study, entertain ourselves, and interact with the world. And although it’s still early days for the technology, there’s already plenty of benefits on offer for customers who jump on board.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about 5G is that it doesn’t impact the lives of Australians right now. While yes, in the future, 5G will drive fundamental change across industries from robotics in manufacturing to drones in agriculture, the immediate benefit of 5G is happening for Aussies and in Australian homes and businesses right now,” said Mr. Wright.
“An example of this is how we watch sports and entertainment. This means that the bandwidth that the 5G network offers will provide seamless video streaming and viewing. The new high-speed 5G wireless network can handle much more data than 4G, which undoubtedly enhances the user experience. And customers can access this right now.”
Compare 5G phone plans
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The following table shows a selection of 24-month 128GB Google Pixel 7 plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly 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.