Earlier this year, the 5G rollout passed an important milestone as it reached a billion connections. The speed with which it is being rolled out is impressive – the first deployments got underway in 2019, and progress was delayed by the global chaos that happened in 2020 and 2021.
There is still much to do, and most countries are looking into the early 2030s when it comes to full roll out and everyone having 5G connectivity. One nation, however, seems a step ahead of the rest. Australia’s roll out is rapid, and the nation’s plans are ambitious, especially given that there is currently little or no mobile connectivity throughout almost all of the 2.5 million square miles of outback.
What is 5G anyway?
Let’s start by answering one of those questions that everyone is afraid to ask. 5G stands for “fifth generation” and refers to the fifth generation of mobile network technology, succeeding the 4G (fourth generation) networks that was launched in 2010 and powers the majority of today’s mobile devices.
5G networks represent a quantum leap forward in a number of ways, including the following:
- Increased Speed – this is the main and best-known attraction of 5G networks. They are significantly faster than their 4G counterparts – potentially as much as 100 times faster. This means downloads and uploads on 5G will be as good or better than today’s superfast fiber broadband, and internet browsing or streaming will be much smoother.
- Reduced Latency – again a genuine step forward, latency refers to the time it takes for devices to communicate with each other or with the network. Typical latency on 4G is in the range of 50 to 300 milliseconds and varies between networks. 5G will be no more than one millisecond. It will make a lot of difference for gamers, especially when playing sports games with one another in real time. It will also be of critical importance for applications like autonomous driving.
- More capacity – we’ve all seen how 4G networks can get creaky under pressure in crowded areas or at busy times, such as when everyone is trying to send New Year greeting at the same time. 5G’s data capacity is about 1000 times greater than 4G so these sorts of problems will be consigned to history.
- Versatile connectivity – 5G is about more than cell phones. It benefits manifold IoT devices, a parallel area of tech that is still in its relative infancy. 5G provides the infrastructure that will make concepts like smart cities, virtual reality and autonomous vehicles a reality.
- Network slicing and different frequency bands – 5G operators have vastly more flexibility to cut, slice and modify 5G networks in different ways. Network slicing allows them to create multiple “miniature” networks to ensure specific types of traffic, such as emergency communications, have sufficient bandwidth. Also, by utilizing more frequency bands, signals can be adjusted as needed. For example, sub-6 GHz frequencies allow the signal to penetrate solid objects but have reduced range.
Australian tech is leading the way again
Australia has a well-earned reputation for early adoption where new tech is involved. Smartphone penetration topped 85 percent in Australia almost two years before it did so in Europe. The nation has also been ahead of the pack in areas like mobile gaming, blockchain and is leading the world in emerging technology like quantum computing.
Telstra is Australia’s biggest provider and says its 5G network coverage now covers moe than 85 percent of the Australian population. The operator says that will be up to 95 percent in 2025. Its coverage encompasses all the major cities and their suburbs, including Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart.
Optus is not far behind, with a 5G network that covers almost 1.5 million Australian homes. Vodafone is thee third of Australia’s Big Three and while its 5G network coverage is smaller than Telstra and Optus, it is still available quit widely in more than 1,000 suburbs across Australia.
Everyday benefits for casino gamers and sport fans
There’s already been a lot said about 5G helping to drive trucks remotely or enable brain surgeons to operate on a patient in Perth from a room in Melbourne. To most of us that still sounds idealistic and distant. But 5G is set to change things for the average Australian, too.
Take iGaming, for example. The average Australian spends an incredible $1,000 per year on gambling and since 2020, a growing proportion has been doing so online by visiting the best online casino sites for real money. That’s no longer just to play pokies. Live games with a real dealer are now offered at almost every casino, and the reduced latency will make the experience far more immersive and enjoyable.
5G also provides a huge improvement in mobile video streaming. For sport-mad Australians the benefits are obvious, and we can expect to see more Australians watching live coverage of cricket and Aussie rules football from the beach.
Will 5G spell the end of the NBN?
Australia is justifiably proud of its National Broadband Network, through which those same providers like Telstra, Optus and various others brought broadband internet to Australians across the length and breadth of the country.
Could 5G render the NBN obsolete? In the long term, it is possible, but the NBN will still play an important role for the foreseeable future, particularly for that last five percent in the most remote parts of Australia.
Right now, 5G and NBN are comparable, both in terms of performance and cost. In time, however, the pendulum will swing ever more in favor of 5G, as larger spectrum availability in the higher frequency boosts performance. Already, Optus 5G home internet is achieving speeds in excess of 200Mbps.
Those in the know are confident that performance will be significantly better when 5G is operating at its best. At that point, we might certainly start to question whether the NBN is something to be consigned to the history books. But that is a discussion we can shelve for now.
Marziano is a seasoned tech expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and multiple certifications, including CompTIA A+, Network+, and Cisco’s CCNA, he has a well-rounded and robust understanding of various aspects of technology.