Australia is currently in the early stages of the rollout of the 5G network which promises to revolutionise the country’s wireless infrastructure, but not everyone is convinced.
Nine.com.au has put together this explainer to address every question you might have about Australia’s next generation phone network before it rolls out across the country.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology that promises to ultimately replace the current 4G network used by most smartphones.
It’s also offering an alternative to NBN.
The network follows an explosion in mobile data traffic and hopes to offer Australia three major improvements to their service.
Faster network speeds: 5G will make it theoretically possible to download a high-definition movie in mere seconds, with the network capable of download speeds as fast as 20Gbps. The service promises a minimum download speed of 100Mbps – to put this into perspective that’s the maximum speed offered by NBN connection. It’s worth noting the speeds will depend on how the network has been configured, the number of devices on the network and the device used.
Lower latency: In addition of offering faster speeds, 5G promises lower latency — a shorter time interval between sending and receiving data. 4G currently offers latency of around 60 milliseconds, with 5G reducing this down to as low as 1 millisecond.
More simultaneous connections: 5G will allow more devices to connect to the network at the same time. This will be particularly important with the internet-of-things creeping into more devices around the home and office.
Where is 5G available?
Telstra has 5G sites in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Launceston, Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast.
By the end of the month, the Aussie telco will have 5G coverage in selected areas of ten cities including a 2km coverage radius in the CBD’s of the major capitals.
Over the next 12 months, Telstra expects its 5G coverage to reach at least 35 locations across Australia.
Optus currently has 5G in more than 70 sites across Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide.
Vodafone currently has no 5G network, however it will join Telstra and Optus to have the technology readily available for most Australians by 2020.
What do you need to use 5G?
To access the next-generation technology, customers will need a 5G compatible device, a valid plan and will need to be in an area of 5G coverage.
The current smartphones that are 5G compatible are: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the Oppo Reno 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G.
The HTC 5G Hub is also a 5G enabled device that acts a wireless hotspot to bring the next-gen network into the home.
Will 5G replace the NBN?
Both Telstra and Optus offer 5G mobile broadband, but the companies will continue to offer NBN plans.
The 5G broadband is the initial focus for Optus with mobile technology being the second phase of our 5G rollout.
The Optus 5G Home Broadband plan is available for $70 per month over 24 months or month-to-month with unlimited data, no speed cap and a 50Mbps guarantee.
Where will 5G play a vital role?
The capabilities of 5G expand past being able to download a HD movie in seconds, with driverless cars set to benefit from the next-gen technology in a big way.
It’s believed the lower latency of 5G will reduce accidents and save lives as the technology will be able to communicate with its surroundings in almost real-time.
To put this into perspective, a self-driving car travelling at roughly 60km/h will move just over one inch from the time it identifies an obstacle to the time when the braking command is executed using 5G technology.
Comparatively, the driverless car would move 4.6 feet under the same conditions based on latency of the 4G network.
With the “internet of things” continuing to evolve, we are seeing a whole world of connected devices which have been designed communicate with each other.
LG, for example, has announced its ThinQ AI system, which will roll out across the company’s portfolio of appliances including TVs, speakers and air-conditioners.
Not only will it allow the products to communicate with each other, but they will evolve over time, learning your patterns and needs.
For example, your fridge will keep a list of all the ingredients currently inside and offer you recipe suggestions. Once you pick what you would like to cook, your oven will automatically preheat to prepare for the suggested meal.
Meanwhile, after reading your calendar, your washing machine knows you have the gym in the morning and will start the load you forget to put on the night before.
Once it’s finished, a notification will pop up on your television to tell you it’s time to put the wet clothes in the dryer so you can make your workout.
This scenario is not too far off and while each of these connected devices might not use much data individually, combined they become sapping on bandwidth.
5G’s ability to connect multiple devices will ensure this is no longer an issue.
What about the health concerns of the 5G network?
Anti-5G activists are flooding social media and forums with warnings 5G will cause cancer, infertility, autism and Alzheimer’s, with these claims supported by a small sample of scientists.
Politicians in Brussels are so concerned over these risks, they stopped its 5G rollout tests in April because they didn’t want to be “guinea pigs”.
An analysis of 97 studies by a EU-funded review body also found a potential risk to insect and bird orientation and plant health.
However, expert advice of both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) advise there is no substantiated scientific evidence that radio frequency technologies operating within national and international safety standards cause health effects.
“This network currently runs on radio waves similar to those used in the current 4G network, and in the future will use radio waves with higher frequencies. It is important to note that higher frequencies does not mean higher or more intense exposure,” ARPANSA said in a statement.
“Higher frequency radio waves are already used in security screening units at airports, police radar guns to check speed, remote sensors and in medicine and these uses have been thoroughly tested and found to have no negative impacts on human health.”