The first 60 Aussie suburbs to get 5G revealed
HAND-picked Australian households will be able to access high-speed, next-generation mobile internet downloads within weeks after Optus revealed the first 60 Australian suburbs to get access to its 5G network yesterday, as well as plans to launch "unlimited" downloads to compete directly with the National Broadband Network.
The announcement came just weeks before Telstra was expected to reveal its 5G schedule at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as part of a multibillion-dollar upgrade for Australian smartphone and mobile broadband users.
Telecommunications analysts welcomed 5G's early arrival, saying it would change the way millions of Australians used their devices, but they also warned it could raise the price of smartphones, appliances, and internet connections.
Optus chief executive Allen Lew made the announcement in Canberra yesterday (Thurs), revealing two 5G sites powered by Nokia technology were already operational, and another 47 5G cells covering 60 suburbs would be added to the network by March.
"We currently have three live in-network 5G cells but we will be turbocharging our rollout over the next 12 months to deliver 5G cells on the Optus Mobile Network across Australia with the goal of putting this exciting technology into the hands of our customers as soon as possible," Mr Lew said.
Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were not included in Optus' initial plans, however, with the greatest coverage in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.
Optus invited consumers in short-listed suburbs to apply to test the technology early, with successful candidates to receive specialised 5G equipment to receive the high-speed signals as current modems and smartphones were not equipped to do so.
Optus will launch its 5G network as a mobile broadband replacement, offering "unlimited data" downloads on a $70 monthly plan and with a 50 megabit per second guarantee for new customers, putting it into direct competition with the NBN.
But managing director Foad Fadaghi of technology analyst firm Telsyte warned the company had yet to reveal the full cost of the new 5G broadband plans, including set-up fees, and would need to prove that a mobile network could support high customer numbers during peak times.
"There's still more information we need around upfront costs, and there are still question marks around speed," he said.
"While they've guaranteed 50mbps, will the network support that when there are a lot of people connected? And can Optus deliver that service long-term or will prices have to go up?".
5G technology could deliver faster download speeds, shorter delays, and larger allowances than 4G offerings but Mr Fadaghi said Australian carriers would also use the upgrade to encourage consumers to buy high-end smartphones, connected appliances, and more expensive plans to cover their huge investments in the new networks.
Telstra is expected to reveal more about its 5G technology at Mobile World Congress later this month after chief executive Andy Penn revealed it had spent $8 billion on the technology over the past five years, and would launch 5G smartphones in June.
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association chief executive Chris Althaus said 5G connections had the potential to change the way consumers used their phones and connected household appliances to the internet, and Australians would be among the first in the world to use it.
"We're a small country but we love our mobile devices and what they do," he said.
"We're very much at the forefront of mobile technology and 5G is no exception. The competitive juices are running hard to be first to market."
5G SUBURBS - DID YOUR HOOD MAKE THE LIST?
NEW SOUTH WALES
St Huberts Island
St Johns Park
Woy Woy Bay
White Gum Valley
No Optus 5G areas planned for Victoria, Tasmania, or the Northern Territory yet.