Telstra still number one for 5G mobile speeds and coverage

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Although it’s still early days for 5G networks in Australia, the next-generation mobile technology is becoming increasingly available in major metro and suburban areas across the country. Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are each in the 5G rollout process, but a new independent benchmarking report shows there’s still one telco with 5G service that’s head and shoulders above the competition.

Analyst Umlaut has released the results of its latest audit report into 5G mobile in Australia, which saw the firm test the performance of the ‘big three’ 5G networks in our nine major cities. Tracking 5G availability, download throughputs and peak speeds for each telco, Umlaut’s report provides a good oversight into the overall state of 5G in Oz – and crowns one provider the clear best in 5G speeds and service.

5G speeds: Telstra still fastest in Australia

Telstra topped Umlaut’s tests not only for most extensive 5G coverage and availability, but also for fastest peak speeds and fastest average performance. The telco offered the best speeds and coverage in all nine cities where Umlaut conducted its testing, with an impressive maximum download speed of 1120Mbps (megabits per second) recorded in Sydney.

Umlaut’s tests were performed on a 5G-capable Samsung Galaxy S20+ smartphone set to 5G mobile as its preferred data mode. Extensive drive testing was undertaken between December 1 and December 12 of 2020, with routes based on official Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 5G coverage maps across the following cities:

  • Adelaide
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Gold Coast
  • Hobart
  • Melbourne
  • Perth
  • Sydney
  • Toowoomba

Taking into account both average and maximum 5G download speeds, Telstra was the fastest network provider in almost every city tested, although Optus did deliver slightly faster average speeds in Adelaide. Telstra’s performance was particularly impressive on the Gold Coast, where Umlaut recorded a peak 5G speed of 1077Mbps (compared to 366Mbps from Optus, and 235Mbps from Vodafone).

Overall, Telstra’s fastest 5G speed was recorded in Sydney, where the network hit a blistering 1120Mbps (with an average speed of 490Mbps). In second place was Optus, with a highest speed overall of 746Mbps in Melbourne and a fastest average of 439Mbps in Sydney, while Vodafone achieved a maximum speed of 410Mbps in Sydney, with a fastest average speed of 277Mbps in Canberra.

Melbourne and Sydney tests showed strong overall performances from Optus and Telstra, and respectable speeds from Vodafone. Telstra and Optus users can each now expect average speeds of between 400Mbps – 500Mbps in both cities, with Vodafone at around the 220Mbps mark.

The below graph shows the average and maximum 5G data stream download speeds recorded in the most recent Umlaut tests for Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

Graph of average Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 5g speeds
Image: Umlaut

5G coverage: Telstra still number one

In addition to offering the fastest average 5G speeds in Australia, Telstra is also number one for network reach. Telstra was found to be the most widely available in all nine cities featured in Umlaut’s report, which recorded the percentage of time a 5G-LTE connection was present in tests, versus LTE-only.

Hobart showed the biggest coverage gap, with Telstra 5G available in 88.2% of tests and no Optus or Vodafone 5G signals present as yet. Looking at cities in which all three providers have live 5G coverage, Telstra’s network is still more widely available, although Optus is catching up across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

As Vodafone’s 5G network rollout is admittedly behind that of its competitors (launching in early 2020, as opposed to late 2018 for Telstra, and early 2019 for Optus), coverage is still limited even in heavily populated cities. The best locations for Vodafone 5G as of December 2020 appear to be Sydney and Canberra, with a 5G connection present in 4.6% and 4.5% of Umlaut’s tests respectively.

Results from Umlaut’s 5G availability testing across all cities are listed in the graph below.

Graph of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 5G coverage
Image: Umlaut

Unsurprisingly, Telstra is thrilled with Umlaut’s findings, and confirmed that it is on-target to extend its 5G coverage to 75% of Australians by June this year.

“We’re incredibly proud that all the work our team are putting into Telstra 5G is paying off in the real world,” said Sri Amirthalingam, Commercial Engineering Executive at Telstra.

“We’re ahead where it counts, and we reach places where our competitors can’t.”

5G phone plans compared

Telstra’s head start in rolling out 5G means it’s ahead of the pack when it comes to both coverage and speed, but that doesn’t mean you should yet discount Optus or Vodafone. When compared to the Umlaut’s 5G audit report from August 2020, both providers have shown significant improvements in their 5G networks, and this is set to continue as rollouts progress throughout 2021.

If you’re interested in trying out 5G (and live in an area with coverage), you can access any of the three 5G networks with a 5G-capable smartphone. You’ll need to pair your device with a 5G phone plan from Telstra, OptusVodafone or SpinTel (which offers plans on Optus’ 5G network).

You’ll find a selection of 5G-ready SIM-only plans below.

The following table shows selected published Telstra 5G plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you’d like to compare more 5G phone plans from different providers, use our mobile phone comparison tool. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows selected published Optus 5G plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you’d like to compare more 5G phone plans from different providers, use our mobile phone comparison tool. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows selected published Vodafone 5G plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you’d like to compare more 5G phone plans from different providers, use our mobile phone comparison tool. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows selected published Spintel 5G plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you’d like to compare more 5G phone plans from different providers, use our mobile phone comparison tool. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

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