Telstra switches on 5G in Sydney and Melbourne

Telstra’s bid for future 5G dominance is well underway, with the telco announcing it has switched on the next-generation mobile service in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia’s biggest mobile provider released the news yesterday, confirming that it now has 5G-enabled sites in all major cities nationwide. Telstra now boasts 187 5G-ready mobile base stations across Australia, with 13 more scheduled to go live this month – but unfortunately, customers will have to wait until later next year to actually use 5G technology.

Telstra’s latest 5G announcement comes one week after the telco dropped a cool $386 million in the ACMA’s 5G spectrum auction. Out of the 350 lots of 3.6GHz spectrum up for grabs, Telstra won 143, with rival Optus securing 47 lots and Mobile JV Pty Ltd (Vodafone and TPG) winning 131 lots.

Although the ACMA originally licensed the available lots to be released from March 2020, it seems Telstra has been granted early access to enable its newly-acquired spectrum. 5G has now been switched on at Telstra’s Customer Insight Centre in Sydney, and at Sydney Airport. The telco has also enabled 5G at the Telstra Labs in Melbourne, with its Melbourne Airport base station also scheduled go live sometime this week.

Telstra has spent considerable time and money preparing for 2019’s 5G network launch. The company has recently claimed several 5G firsts – both in Australia and worldwide – including completing the first end-to-end 5G data call, launching the world’s first 5G-enabled WiFi precinct on the Gold Coast, and showcasing Australia’s first 5G e-sports demonstration. Earlier in December, Telstra also unveiled its first 5G-ready device, the HTC 5G Hub for mobile broadband.

What is 5G (and when can I get it)?

5G is the next step in mobile technology, offering 10 times the bandwidth of existing 4G networks. With the launch of 5G across Australia, customers can expect significantly faster mobile speeds – potentially up to 20 gigabits per second – and a noticeable reduction in network congestion, especially during peak usage periods.

As exciting as Telstra’s 5G investment is, the telco’s customers won’t actually have access to 5G services until compatible devices become commercially available – something that isn’t expected to happen until well into next year. So far, several major manufacturers – including Samsung, OPPO, Huawei and OnePlus – have all confirmed plans to release 5G-capable phones over the next 12 months. Noticeably absent from this list is Apple, but the company is predicted to launch a 5G-enabled iPhone in late 2020.

Although we’re stuck playing the waiting game for a little while yet, the early switch-on of 5G does offer some advantages for existing Telstra phone customers. The telco has stated that its 5G network is expected to help improve its current 4G speeds, so Telstra customers will reportedly enjoy an overall better 4G performance in the months ahead.

Telstra’s 5G focus also means that rival providers Optus and Vodafone are feeling the pressure to develop and roll out their own respective 5G networks as soon as possible. Optus, having already purchased a significant amount of 5G spectrum, was excluded from buying metropolitan spectrum lots in the ACMA’s most recent auction, and had previously trialled its 5G network during April’s Commonwealth Games.

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