5G in Australia: Last nail in the NBN coffin?

 The 4G network is dead, long the new 5G King! Although I think we all wish this to be true however the rollout of the 5G network is still in its infancy.  Telstra and other telecommunication companies have taken the important step in implementing this new technology and rolling out equipment, for example, Telstra has rolled out a trial 5G installation on the Gold Coast allowing locals to get a taste of this new high-speed network. 

So is the NBN a second-rate network and should Australia have built a wireless network instead? Well the NBN recently trailed 5G with Ericsson in a bid to explore widening its overall offering. Clearly, the NBN is starting to worry that their FTTN (Fibre to the Node) strategy might not be effective.

Initially, the Liberal Party estimated that the NBN would cost $29.5B AUD in the 2013 federal election. However, with a few months left of 2018,  it’s now ballooned to $51B AUD. So has Australia backed the wrong horse? We believe it has.

The benefit of a having a wireless based network is that the rollout speeds are far quicker and cheaper than traditional cable-based networks. Such efficiencies would have brought relief to the tax-payers back pocket at the expense of creating much-needed job opportunities. So 2019 sees the release of the first 5G commercial services going live.

The potential of adopting 5G and beyond has endless benefits. New technologies in driver-less cars, drone-based deliveries, and smart city services are just a few of the technologies that would benefit from having high-speed communication capabilities. But what about the man on the street. How will he benefit from having a 5G connection on tap?

Some examples of what 5G will provide;

  • In the home and at work we’ll start to see more reliable video streaming with at least 4K quality.

  • 5G spectrum will create technologies that in turn will create jobs for people.

  •  We all remember Pokemon Go?  Mobile workforces will be supported by Augmented Reality applications that require huge amounts of fast data. 

  • Doctors will be able to perform a diagnosis anywhere in the world in relative real time. 

  • Faster fixed wireless Internet for home and business environments.

Weren’t these the promises made by the NBN? The reality is that the larger the NBN network becomes the slower it will become and fixed infrastructure will become difficult and costly to upgrade.

So what is 5G then?

It’s the 5th major technological leap in Fixed Wireless technology in the generation of standards to encode and transmit data over radio waves yielding fast data throughput and with shorter delays in transmission. With an overall improvement of +/- 2000% over existing 4G networks here are some of the benefits of going 5G;

  1. Faster network: 5G will have download speeds of 20Gbps. Although these speeds will depend on how the local equipment is configured the specification allows an individual to see minimum download speeds of at least 100Mbps. The NBN currently offers 100Mbps fixed location packages. Tests have indicated that 5G currently is almost 30 times faster than the highest NBN package has to offer.

  2. Shorter delays in transmission: The quicker a request is made on the network the quicker the response will come back. Typically a 4G network will transmit data within 60 milliseconds whereas 5G could shunt data around in less than 1 millisecond. Quick data turnaround times are needed for driver-less cars etc.

  3. Multiple connections at any point in time: 5G allows for more simultaneous connections at any point in time. So this would allow more mobile phones to connect to a network or facilitate the support for IOT (Internet of Things) devices.

Current 5G coverage in Australia

4G technology has been around for a few years now. At the time of this article, there are currently 15797 base-station sites in Australia which support this technology.

Based on population growth we’ll see a contention ratio of 1576 local Australians for each base station. So we’re not likely to see a great improvement over 4G technology unless the current supporting infrastructure improves drastically.

This is in stark contrast with say a country like China that has more than 1 Million 4G base stations  and will start rolling out 5G in the next few months.

Currently there are only 457 sites across Australia that support the 5G technology.

Our conclusion

Most smartphone manufacturers will start adopting this new technology into their devices. Should you rush out to buy one? Maybe not yet. With a lack of current infrastructure to roll out the 5G network across Australia will take some time and there will be some teething problems.

However, if you feel like pioneering the new network then you can expect smartphone manufacturers to have a product made available in late 2019 with a majority converted by 2020. 

We don’t see the NBN being replaced by 5G technology just yet. There will always be a need for fixed networks and the technologies that need wireless are still in their infancy. 5G will enable more than AUD$16.8T in economic output across the global supporting more than 22 million jobs.

From an efficiency technology perspective, we firmly believe that the NBN should have concentrated on rolling out a wireless-based network over a fixed-based one. 

So SURFS UP! Roll on the mmWave(s) 

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