Telstra vs Optus on 5G: The First Phones Arrive

Telstra 5G

More updates heat up Australia’s race to 5G

Optus has been in the news lately with a number of announcements regarding its fixed home 5G broadband. But Australia’s largest telco, Telstra, has made a series of moves of its own that arguably place it well ahead of the competition.

Telstra has announced that the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be released on Tuesday. The Galaxy S10 5G is exclusive to Telstra in Australia, and will be the first 5G handset in the country. This puts Telstra in the 5G driver’s seat for now, and there’s even more.

Telstra has also released the HTC 5G Hub, a mobile smart hub that allows up to 20 5G connections via WiFi — it’s the first 5G mobile broadband hotspot device in the world. The HTC 5G Hub can be ordered online now. It will also be available in stores on Tuesday, May 28, alongside the Galaxy S10 5G.

While Optus is working on some mobile devices of its own, Telstra is now ahead in that department, especially with Tuesday’s release of the Galaxy S10 5G. That exclusive deal between Telstra and Samsung will make the telco the first to actually give customers an actual taste of 5G on a smartphone without WiFi, as plans roll out towards the end of June.

Telstra vs Optus on 5G devices 

Telstra began turning on its 5G sites last year, and claims to have a presence in areas where 4 million Australians live, work, or pass through. Optus didn’t slack either; the telco announced its $70 per month unlimited fixed home 5G broadband plan in January, along with the expression-of-interest campaign that allows some customers in select areas test out their 5G network.

Until now, details about Telstra’s 5G plans, unlike Optus, haven’t been entirely clear, perhaps due the lack of actual 5G mobile broadband plans. That just changed, however, with the upcoming commercial launch of Telstra’s actual 5G devices — a step that Optus is yet to take.

Here’s what Telstra’s 5G plans look like:

Telstra’s HTC 5G HubTelstra’s HTC 5G Hu

Telstra’s HTC 5G Hub now available on line; in stores on Tuesday. Source.

  • $75 per month, 24 months, 25GB (10GB + 15GB bonus data), $10 per additional GB of data.
  • $94 per month, 24 months, 60GB (30GB + 30GB bonus data), $10 per additional GB of data.
  • $104 per month, 24 months, 100GB (80GB + 20GB bonus data), $10 per additional GB of data.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G exclusively on Telstra 

Telstra to release first 5G smartphone in Australia.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be available in stores on Tuesday. It is Australia’s first 5G smartphone and will be released exclusively through Telstra. Source.

Telstra’s Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus customers can upgrade to the S10 5G when it’s available in stores on Tuesday. The telco will unveil 5G plans in June.

With Optus’ 5G fixed home broadband being unlimited, it’s clearly the cheaper option so far. But Optus is yet to release any 5G smartphone, and other manufacturers aside from Samsung are yet to do so.

Telstra, however, is offering 5G now — not later — with its already available HTC 5G hub and Galaxy S10 5G which will be available on Tuesday, exclusively on the Telstra network. Both devices place the telco at the forefront of an actual 5G experience, where customers can actually see what the technology is all about on an actual smart phone without the aid of WiFi.

Further, Telstra has announced that when its full 5G plans are announced in June, all customers with Telstra 5G devices will be allowed access to 5G for free for a 12-month period.

Telstra vs Optus on 5G coverage so far 

Optus claims to have 70 5G-ready sites so far. The telco also recently released a list of 50 suburbs where it plans to begin building 5G sites in addition to those already turned on in January (Sydney and Melbourne) along with its fixed broadband announcement:

Optus’ 5G sites.

Optus’ upcoming 5G sites in 50 suburbs in addition to initial sites. Source.

The telco’s average 5G speeds so far, based on its expression-of-interest campaign, hit 100Mbps while it peaked at 295Mbps. Optus guarantees a minimum 5G speed of 50Mbps. The next set of expression-of-interest customers will be selected from:

  • Niagara Park on the New South Wales Central Coast;
  • Cook in the Australian Capital Territory;
  • Bonnyrigg and Minchinbury in Sydney’s west; and
  • Kenmore outside of Brisbane.

Telstra has been turning on 5G sites since last October. It claims to have over 200 sites turned on with coverage areas in:

  • Adelaide;
  • Brisbane;
  • Canberra;
  • Gold Coast;
  • Hobart;
  • Launceston;
  • Melbourne;
  • Perth;
  • Sydney; and
  • Toowoomba.

Telstra promises a larger 5G footprint by the end of June, and has mapped out its anticipated coverage areas on its website. See Telstra’s Melbourne 5G coverage as an example below:

Telstra expects to have a larger 5G footprint by June.

 Telstra’s Melbourne 5G coverage footprint by June 30, marked in purple. Source.

Conclusion — who’s winning?

It’s hard to say who’s leading Australia’s 5G race. So far, Optus has been quite active since January with several announcements resulting from the real-world 5G experiences of its expression-of-interest campaign. The telco’s $70 per month unlimited fixed home 5G broadband is very competitive for both Telstra and the National Broadband Network. We’ve had a chance to follow Optus on its journey so far, as it has already dropped some speed averages based on real world 5G users, again thanks to its expression-of-interest campaign. Thus, we know what Optus’ 5G is really all about so far, but are yet to say the same about Telstra. However, there are no Optus 5G smartphones yet, and its home broadband devices aren’t available to everyone yet.

This is where Telstra steps in. The telco has been turning on 5G sites throughout Australia since October, enough to access 4 million users in areas where they either live, work, or pass through. In addition to that, Telstra now has an actual 5G device that’s available online to whoever wants it. Even better, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be available in stores on Tuesday, offered exclusively by Telstra. This is a major move, placing Telstra in possession of the first and only 5G smartphone to be released in Australia. When South Korea rolled out 5G, the Galaxy S10 5G was the first available 5G smartphone, and consumers flocked the device as it was the only available option. Telstra will likely have a similar experience here.

On the other hand, Telstra lacks concrete 5G numbers on real world speeds, where Optus has just released theirs. Optus guarantees 50Mbps, averages 100Mbps, and peaked at 295Mbps for now; we have no idea what Telstra has, and will not until its devices are released and 5G is tested. Optus also has the cheaper plan when compared to Telstra’s HTC 5G Hub’s, and it’s unlimited; Telstra’s plans range from $75 to $104 and none of them is unlimited. With 5G likely to have an impact on data consumption by increasing it, this should be a significant factor in any 5G race analysis.

However, the fact remains that it’s too early to tell who is winning the 5G race, as neither telco is yet to accomplish a full roll-out. As coverage areas increase for both telcos, and Telstra’s 5G plans continue to emerge along with user experience, more accurate analyses will determine which telco is actually ahead.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.