What sort of data speeds will we receive on a 5G plan?
Estimates for what mobile data speeds users will actually receive on a 5G data connection vary enormously.
The lowest bounds of the 5G speed range is expected to be 100Mbps – which is faster than you’d get at home on a fixed line connection with the fastest plan the NBN sells. However, Optus’ current fixed home wireless plan only guaranteed minimum speeds of 50Mbps.
At the high end (i.e. in a laboratory environment) speeds can get as high as 20GBps.
In fact, Optus’ fixed home 5G broadband cites a guaranteed speed of only 50Mbps. Basically, any speed range between these limits can easily translate to instant loading of web pages, high quality vision in Skype chats, and smoother frame-by-frame advancements in complex online video games .
Beyond data speeds, what will be different when we have 5G phone plans?
5G will power the IoT. In many senses, 5G is going to change Australia as much as the iPhone did.
The IoT or Internet Of Things is the name given to the inclusion of cheap sensors and communication facilities in inanimate objects that previously didn’t have them.
5G is different to 4G or 3G. For example, the fact that 5G connections don’t use much power and that many millions of devices can be connected to a radio antenna at the same time. These technology differences mean that new 5G technology will create an environment in which many more of the things that surround us – from lights to front doors – will be attached to the internet.
How does 5G compare to 4G?
All generations of cellular networks, including 4G and 5G, are based on radio waves or radio frequency (RF) signals.
However, 5G works with a set of high and low frequencies that are much different than those of 4G. Since these frequencies were previously untapped, they can now be used to augment existing bandwidths in the face of expanding data connection demands.
These frequencies are also highly directional, meaning that they can be used right next to signals from other generations of wireless networks without interruptions or interference.
And since 5G uses a shorter wavelength, it’s more energy efficient.
So, 5G will be faster and more efficient.
Will I get 5G speeds overseas?
That depends on whether your travel location has 5G network coverage or not.
Historically, many parts of the world take longer to implement new generations of wireless networks than Australia does.
5G integration will most likely follow the same path, given the greater infrastructure it needs for denser signals.
In fact, the international wireless standards body, 3GPP, only got to stipulate the official global standards for 5G new radio near the ending of 2017.
Can I keep my current phone number when I move to a 5G phone plan?
Yes, you can keep your current phone number when you move to a 5G phone plan.
Your phone number is associated with the SIM card you use. It’s the phone, not the SIM card, that carries the radio which supports wireless signals.
What will happen when I am outside 5G coverage?
You’ll fall back on the 4G network, just in the same way that people now fall back to the 3G network outside 4G network coverage.
How much data will I use in my 5G phone plan?
It’s impossible to determine that now because the new networks are not available for users.
However, estimates from the United Kingdom do give us some idea of how much more data you’ll use.
Network provider Giffgaff, from the UK, suggest that in 2025, when 5G is expected to be deeply ingrained into the mainstream, users may be getting through data allowances at an astonishing rate of 100GB per month.
According to their report, 5G users will stream videos of about 73 GB worth of data per month by 2025.
When will 5G phones become available?
More and more 5G devices are available now. Apple have not yet released a 5G enabled device – but there are a variety of Android devices available.
- 5G offers users very fast mobile data speeds.
- Low to zero latency means your web page will load faster.
- 5G will enable IoT devices, too.
- Fixed home 5G broadband services are already available.
- NBN and ADSL alternative with no setup headaches and costs.
- There is a risk of very high data consumption.
- Although fixed home 5G broadband available, coverage is not wide yet.
- 5G still not available in many areas and might take even longer.
- Only a limited range of 5G handsets are available at this stage.
- Very fast speeds on 4G Plus / 5G are already available now.
- Fixed Wireless Broadband 5G products have also been launched.
- Portability of wireless home broadband allows you to take it with you on the go.
- No complicated set-up process, eliminating the need for a technician and set-up fees.
- 5G Mobile Broadband offers an alternative to NBN and ADSL, especially in areas where such access is limited or unavailable.
A 5G phone plan provides 5G data to cover your connectivity needs. These plans couldn’t have come at a better time than now, when the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking off – with demonstrated consumer applications such as smartwatches, kid trackers, pet trackers, dashboard cams, and more.
As such, 5G phone plans may be far more likely to be geared towards, or consider, secondary devices such as smartwatches. This means phone companies offering 5G phone plans will benefit from offering more shared data plans and family plans than usual.
For now, 5G is pretty limited, and is only available from the three major telcos in Australia, along with some Optus MVNOs. So far, Telstra has the largest footprint, followed by Optus, and TPG Telecom (formerly Vodafone) is currently only available in Parramatta. Of the three, only Optus has actualy come out with a standalone 5G plan, but it’s a fixed home broadband plan. The other two telcos allow customers to access 5G on normal plans (postpaid only for Telstra customers).
Australia’s big three telcos’ market share as the 5G market competition begins. Source.
Historically, the roll out of new generations of wireless network has been underwhelming. We have all experienced previous generations of network upgrades which were hyped and then, in large part, never lived up to the marketers’ words.
Telstra waited for 3 years after the introduction of 4G before launching its own 4G network in 2011, and it took nearly 6 years before they could boast of providing 97 percent of the country with 4G coverage. Optus and Vodaphone waited for about 4 years after the introduction of 4G to set up their own 4G networks, and it also took them nearly 6 years after that to cover most of the country with their 4G network.
It’s likely going to take even longer to fully roll out 5G networks because the technology requires so much more signal density. And the big three have always been reluctant to share their higher speed networks with their MVNO partners, although Optus have been a little more willing than the other two – in fact, Optus have hinted at bringing Vocus on board after including their 5G network in a 5-year extension of their MVNO deal. But if you’re with Belong, ADLI Mobile or Amaysim (MVNOs reselling the other major networks), you might have to wait around for much longer to enjoy 5G with your provider.
So here’s a summary of 5G developments from the three major telcos:
- Telstra, Optus, and TPG Telecom (formerly Vodafone) have all turned on 5G sites in select areas.
- Telstra have the widest 5G coverage so far, available in more than 3,200 suburbs and over 200 cities and towns. Click here to check if your area has Telstra 5G coverage.
- Telstra 5G is available on postpaid plans and one prepaid plan for now.
- Optus’ fixed home 5G broadband is available to over 140,000 homes. Click here to check if your area has Optus 5G coverage.
- Vodafone’s 5G network now covers 85 per cent of the population across 10 major cities and towns.
The introduction of 5G is expected to provide several improvements to a number of industries. With the haphazard state it’ll probably be in for the next few years, it’s likely to create disruptions as revolutionizing as the changes the iPhone brought about when it was launched a decade ago.
The iPhone brought about a revolution in mobile technology, serving up the first mobile computer that could be operated with just a finger. iPhones are consumer electronics. Now, imagine that an iPhone is invented specifically for each Industry in Australia – from farming to finance, transport, and education.
The world economic forum believes 5G can bring about some huge economic momentum and increases. They expect 5G to impact most sectors of the world’s economy in the same way that other major inventions did, similar to the automobile, the jet engine, or electricity. Imagine the spin-off effects that 5G will have on cultures across the world.
5G-enabled applications will power more than IoT – it’ll power the ‘Internet of Everything’. Thanks to the technology’s low power requirement and low latency, every object (building, animal, person, coat, car, boat, BBQ) in the world can be connected to the internet in the same way individuals have been connected with smartphones. It’ll enable us interact with our environment and manipulate things around us like never before.
The possibilities of 5G are quite jarring, so much so that even governments are wary of it. For instance, the United States government, under President Trump, is seriously considering building a 5G network owned and run by the American government, to ensure the safety and security of the network in the country.
The Australian government is also quite keen on what’s going with 5G networks in the country. Just like the Australian government banned Chinese tech companies such as Huawei from providing 5G infrastructure solutions in Australia, it’s keen on eliminating any chances of a threat actor gaining control over the country’s 5G networks in the future.
Current 5G networks function just like 4G. They utilise a SIM card and/or an eSIM, depending on the type of device you have. An eSIM is basically a completely digitized version of SIM cards. They’re embedded into devices, and allow you to select plans from various providers right from your device’s screen. eSIMs will allow you to easily switch between different monthly 5G plans of various mobile carriers. But whether they’re offered on a SIM or an eSIM, 5G phone plans will likely be structured in the same way as existing plans: voice, SMS, and data.
Also, 5G mobile broadband plans will most likely compete with the NBN. With 4G speeds competing favorably with those of NBN, more people are subscribing to mobile rather than NBN. In fact, a recent ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) report pointed out that mobile handsets account for 61 percent of all internet activity in Australia. More Australians are coming to prefer having data on-the-go, and that’s bad news for the NBN, which only provides data connections in fixed locations. And with a lower latency and higher speed than 4G, 5G will become an even more serious threat to the NBN.
Comparing 4G and 5G. Source.
Here’s a look at current 5G phone plans:
- Telstra 5G phone plans – If you want access Telstra’s mobile 5G network, you’ll have to settle for one of their bigger plans. Only Telstra’s three largest SIM Only plans offer 5G for postpaid customers, starting at $65 per month. If you want prepaid, then you only have one Telstra prepaid plan with 5G coverage and it costs $65.
- Optus 5G phone plans – All of Optus’ postpaid plans include 5G access at no extra cost, for now. The telco also offer three Optus Flex 5G plans which offer 5G access to prepaid customers. Optus also have two fixed 5G Home Internet plans at $79 and $89 per month, offering 100Mbps maximum capped download speeds and unlimited speeds respectively, a month-to-month basis..
- TPG Telecom (Vodafone) 5G phone plans – All Vodafone mobile SIM plans, both postpaid and prepaid, include access to their 5G network. TPG also offers two 5G Home Broadband plans.
It’s possible that telcos will be charging much more for connections over the 5G network in the future. That’s because phones gulp up more data when connected to a faster network, eating into data plans much faster. A simple example is that YouTube will play in High Definition on a 4G connection and SD on a 3G connection. As a result, simply by virtue of the speeds involved, 5G plans will need larger amounts of data than that of 4G.
Last year, Telstra announced that it would begin charging $15 per month extra for 5G phone plans on its postpaid Small and Medium plans only. However, the telco recently scrapped that idea and has decided to offer 5G free of charge on Medium, Large, and Extra Large plans, but Small plans won’t be able to access 5G.
TPG Telecom (Vodafone) previously indicated that it will not charge extra for 5G. However, they recently backtracked on that commitment, stating that they might charge extra for 5G phone plans in the future. Optus also left the door open to extra charges.
And phone companies can tell which phone network you’re using – 3G, 4G or 5G – so they are likely to charge more for mobile data when it’s provided at 5G speeds.
- Small cells:
These are one of the most expedient facilities for delivering 5G technology. A small cell is an inconspicuous miniature base station which operates with minimal power and antennas that are much smaller than those of traditional cells. They can function as a relay team, preventing signals from being dropped by handing them off and routing data between each other. With each small cell covering a 250-meter radius, carriers can create a dense network by spreading hundreds or even thousands of small cells across a city, including on light poles, on top buildings, etc.
This is another highly expedient component of 5G infrastructure. MIMO, or multiple-input multiple-output, is basically a technological setup that allows for the transmission of multiple data signals simultaneously over the same radio channel. There’s no consensus on a clear definition of a MIMO device, but one widely accepted fact is that it comes with multiple antennas — tens or even hundreds of antennas. The number of antennas here determine the number of possible signal paths deployed. A higher number of antennas would result in better data rates and greater link reliability.
- New spectrum bought from the government under license:
5G has been declared a priority by the Australian g The government is taking a much more proactive approach to the introduction of 5G when compared to its counterparts in other countries. It’s expediting the roll out of 5G in different ways, including by giving access to the various types of radio frequency spectrum required for 5G delivery. Since it’ll power the Internet of Things and allow for broader broadband, the radio frequency types required by 5G are such that have not been used in previous generations of wireless technology. These include frequencies at the lower end of the spectrum as well as those at the higher end which can be used to transport data through long distances and in highly saturated areas such as cities.
- Telstra 5G sites:
Telstra have the widest 5G coverage right now, with over 75 per cent of the Australian population having access to their 5G network. Telstra’s overall network includes 10,766 sites, and 2,695 of those are 5G sites. According to the ACCC, 346 of those 5G towers are in ‘inner regional Australia’, 92 are in ‘outer regional Australia’, 5 are in ‘remote Australia’, and the rest are in major cities where your chances of getting 5G coverage are much higher.
- Optus 5G sites:
Optus have the second most mobile network towers in Australia, with 8,238 sites. 1,010 of those are 5G sites, with 35 of them in ‘inner regional Australia’ and the rest in major cities. Optus don’t have any 5G sites in ‘outer regional Australia’, ‘remote Australia’ or ‘very remote Australia’.
- TPG Telecom (Vodafone) 5G sites:
Vodafone recently announced that their 5G network now covers 85 per cent of the population in 10 major cities and areas. Notice their claim of 85 per cent coverage is only valid in 10 cities and areas, not the entire country, and this makes it quite difficult to determine exactly what their coverage is like. However, we know that TPG Telecom (Vodafone) has 5,892 mobile network sites, and 163 of those are 5G sites. Two of their 5G sites are in ‘inner regional Australia’, while the rest are in major cities.
Apple released a 5G-powererd iPhone in 2020, after settling disputes with 5G chip maker Qualcomm. Source.
Most iPhone users are already used to consuming large amounts of data, so the best 5G plans for iPhones will have to come with large data allowances. iPhone apps consume more data than Android apps, making larger amounts of data somewhat of a necessity.
A 5G-enabled iPhone was released in 2020, but it certainly wasn’t among the first 5G phones to be released. Before the release, Apple inked a new multi-year deal with Qualcomm, the 5G-enabled chip maker. Not too long before that, Apple and Qualcomm had been embroiled in a legal tussle over royalty settlements.
Android phone users consume relatively less mobile data each month. That doesn’t imply they enjoy an inferior user experience when compared to iOS users, as there’s no credible basis for such claims. However, due to their relatively higher sophistication in terms of graphics and aesthetic, the average file size of iOS apps are larger than those of Android apps. Besides, there are swathes of low-end Android phones that have low media specifications in comparison to iPhones, and they, therefore, don’t consume nearly as much data as iPhones.
Nonetheless, we can expect the first 5G-powered Android phones to land in stores nationwide starting from the middle of this year. Samsung has officially announced that the new 5G powered Samsung Galaxy S10 will be available in Australia in the first half of the year, exclusively through Telstra.
Huawei’s 5G-enabled Mate X is also expected to hit international markets within the first half of the year, although we’re not sure when it’ll be released in Australia. OPPO is gearing up to announce the release date of its first 5G-enabled model a few months from now, while other tech giants including Sony, Nokia, LG, and OnePlus have also stated that their 5G models are in the works.
5G may well have launched in Australia but coverage is nowhere near everywhere just yet. It might be a while before 5G coverage is as broad as we’d like it to be. Experts believe that there some unique challenges presented by 5G that will cause Australian Phone companies implementation headaches during the roll-out of the new network.
Users will also have to deal with a few bumps while getting used to the network. For one, the need to manage multiple SIMS in various connected devices may present a new challenge for 5G users. Connected solutions come with various SIM requirements that are specific in most cases based on certain factors. Also, when a consumer connects their phone, pet tracker, dashboard cam, etc, to the internet, they might need to find cost-effective data plans that are also easy to manage. Already, people are overwhelmed with choices as it is.
However, one more factor that’s evident in the 5G dynamic is that the phone company which can take away the pain of managing multiple SIMs along with the data plans on them, will be the biggest winner. Hence, a solution such as the eSIM will sit well with most 5G users. With eSIMs, you can order new phone numbers, group multiple SIM cards into categories, activate and deactivate SIM cards, change tariff plans, carry out recharges, and lots more from the comfort of your phone’s screen.
Nonetheless, despite the anticipation built up over the upcoming 5G roll out, the reality is that 4G networks will likely carry the majority of network traffic for many years to come.
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