Australia’s 5g Network and You

March 06, 2019 By Southpoint Tuggeranong

It’s official: 5G technology is here. But what does it mean for you and what should you know about it? If you’ve spent any time in the technology section of your favourite news site, you’ll have experienced growing news buzz about the 5G network. The launch of 5g services is one of the key consumer technology developments for the year. And it’s an essential element in the Internet of Things (IoT) reaching its full potential. And the hype has just hit a new level of intensity. The Australian announced the advent of “the 5G age” this week and Telstra announcing it has 200 5g sites operational across major centres, including Canberra.

What is 5g?

Most of us make use of 4G technology every day. It’s the standard for current mobile technology. The the advance from 3G to 4G made the downloading of large amounts of data from mobile networks possible. It made watching a movie or listening to music via your phone practical. The spread of the 4g network turned mobile phones from communication devices into our on-the-go point of access to the Internet. The 5G network takes that access to a whole new level of speed and reliability. It will mean that the exploding number of smart devices around the home and wearable devices we take with us everywhere can all communicate effectively.

Faster speeds, less latency & more connections

There are three key advantages 5G technology offers over existing networks and the NBN:
  1. Faster Internet speeds – Eventually 5G networks will be capable of download speeds up to 20 gigabits per second.  But as Choice points out it will take some time to get to the point where those sorts of speeds are widely available. Regardless, when current broadband networks offer top speeds around hundred megabits, top speeds off even one gigabit would be ten times faster. (Remember: a megabit is a thousand bits of data whereas a gigabit is a million bits of data.) 5G will allow you to download movies in a minute and make lag a thing of the past.
  2. Near elimination of latency – Whenever you ask a device to do something there is a pause as the you wait for a response, this is called “latency”. Along with speed of data transfer it’s a key factor in how responsive technology you access via the Internet is. With 4g response times average around 45 milliseconds. Pretty fast. But slow when 5g will reduce that time to less than a millisecond.
  3. Handling larger networks with ease – We talked about the exploding number of devices in our homes when we looked at <link to smart home tech blog>smart home technology</link>. In doing so, we noted the fact that smart hubs take pressure of Wi-Fi networks. Essential as the number of smart devices in our how is set to reach 37 by 2022. But unnecessary with 5G, as it can handle huge numbers of connections with ease.

What does all that mean for you?  

When we looked at <link to CTT blog>consumer tech trends for 2019</link> the key trend was the increasingly connected nature of technology. We said: “A world where just about everything is ‘smart’ and connected is coming.” 5G technology makes that world real by enabling fast instant connections. It will mean that your future smart car will react to information it receives from the cloud and its sensors faster. The difference between 45 milliseconds and 1 millisecond has huge safety advantages. It will make your driverless car much faster to react and ensure a future drone bringing you a pizza dodges other drones much more easily.   It will mean that you can control the 40 devices in your home without delay wherever you can connect to the web in 2022. And it’ll mean that there is no delay on your virtual and augmented reality devices. But pause before you make plans for managing your home via the 5G mobile network. Data used via the mobile 5G network is likely to be more expensive than data via your broadband connection for a long time. Broadband will be an essential building block of <link to smart home tech blog>a smart home</link> for a while yet.

Joining the 5G world

Indeed, before we get too excited, it’s important to understand where the rollout of 5G is at. Mobile network providers are taking slightly different approaches and mobile phone makers are at different stages of development when it comes to 5G. As, Telstra CEO, Andy Penn told News.com.au: “The timing on the rollout of 5G is dependent on the availability of all the devices…”
  • Should your next phone be a 5G phone? Your 5G phone options, when they arrive, will be limited for a while yet – a 5G capable iPhone isn’t expected until 2020 -- and pricing for 5G network access is not yet set. As covered by News.com.au and The Sydney Morning Herald, there are likely to be only a few phone options: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which you will be able to upgrade to from the S10+; the LG V50 ThinQ; the, very expensive and foldable, Huawei Mate X; and a new smartphone from Oppo. The Mate X is set to cost $3600 and the S10 $2300. So, 5G access won’t come cheap this year. 
  • Where will 5G be available? Telstra has been testing 5G technology for a year and has its network in place as part of making 5G a focus of their operations. As we have said, Telstra has 200 5G sites operational across major centres and regional cities. But whether you can access it will depend on where you live. Rural areas may have a while to wait before 5G reaches them. Optus has opted to introduce 5G as a home broadband option rather than compete with Telstra’s mobile first approach. And you’re in luck if you live in any of the nine Canberra suburbs that will have access to 5G home broadband by 2020, starting with Dickson and Manuka. Vodafone isn’t rushing to the 5G party. It has announced that its 5G network will not be operational until 2020.  So, you might have to wait until then to embrace 5G, if you’re with Vodafone, or Vodafone TPG as it is set to be.

Should you join the 5G world in 2019?

Vodafone and Apple’s approach might point the way forward for most of us. Early adopters will undoubtedly be rushing to speed up their digitised lives with 5G. But sometimes first in doesn’t mean best served. With device options limited in 2019, it might be best to wait until 2020 when 5G networks are a little more established to start thinking seriously about joining the 5G world.

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