The rollout of the National Broadband Network is steaming ahead, well over half-way complete. However, there is another technology that keeps grabbing news headlines: the arrival of 5G.
Is this new wireless standard really a threat to the nbn™?
On the face of it, it seems there’s a strong case to be made for mobile over anything else. The evidence is clear that 5G can theoretically achieve speeds of more than 1Gpbs, with a realistic expectation of 100Mpbs. That’s higher than many other nbn™ customers now.
Raw theoretical speeds do not tell the full story however. While 5G represents a great technology choice for some users, it isn’t going to destroy the nbn™.
Stephen Rue, the NBN Co.’s CEO, said in the company’s FY19 Q1 results call that the impact of 5G was already built into their Corporate Plan forecast and that they already successfully competed with existing high speed 4G networks.
Several of the nation’s largest telcos have committed to building 5G networks.
Optus will start testing services in 2019, and Telstra has said it wants to build out one of the world’s first major 5G networks. TPG is also working on its own network, although it hasn’t mentioned whether this network will be 5G (and with the recent merger talks with Vodafone who knows what direction they’ll take).
At the same time, telcos have started playing with the idea of unlimited mobile data. Vodafone, Optus and Telstra have all recently announced these plans – plans that were unthinkable even a few years ago. Though it should be noted users will have their speeds throttled after a limited number of gigabytes of downloads.
Given the increasing amount of data users consume on mobiles, it seems both the rise of 5G networks and unlimited plans make it attractive for users to just live on 5G without a wired connection.
But that’s unlikely. Instead, 5G will most likely be a complementary service. Great for some users as a dedicated service, but for most people it will sit side-by-side with whatever internet connection they already have.
There are several reasons why that’s the case.
“More work needs to be done to fully understand the propagation characteristics of millimetre wave frequencies and how to manage potential radio interference issues.”
Also consider that 5G signals are meant to operate at low latency, powering connections for things like automated cars and connected devices. The idea behind 5G is that it can power a number of different types of devices – but the diversity in that service also comes with a cost.