It’s the new wave of the internet that’s supposed to be faster, more reliable and better than its predecessors, but what exactly is 5G?
If you find yourself absent-mindedly nodding along whenever someone talks about 5G, allow us to explain, no complicated jargon or prior understanding of Australia’s telecommunications history required.
WHAT IS 5G INTERNET?
The next step from 4G technology, the 5G network is (as the name might suggest) the latest generation of the global internet network.
Currently Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are the key local players, with the telcos still growing their 5G broadband networks. As a result, the technology is still only available in select areas.
Like previous 4G and 3G mobile networks, 5G will use radio waves to transmit data from internet servers to our devices, however this new network will be able to do so in a way that’s faster and more efficient.
HOW DOES 5G INTERNET WORK?
The general consensus is that 5G will bring benefits and what makes it superior comes down to its improved network speed, latency and bandwidth capabilities. Here’s what each aspect actually means.
Simply put: it’s faster. A lot faster. At its peak performance, 5G can offer speeds to up to 20GBs per second, however this will probably sit at just under 1GB per second for the average consumer. To give you an example of the internet speed in action this means it would take under a minute to buffer a 30-minute HD TV episode on Netflix, which is roughly 1.1GB.
5G is also comparatively faster than 4G and 3G networks, which offer peak speeds of 400Mb per second and 384kb per second respectively.
This word applies to how quickly it takes for your device (like your phone or laptop) to connect to the internet server, and on 5G this response is almost instantaneous. Currently 4G networks offer an average latency of 50 milliseconds.
This essentially refers to how many users one connection can support. This will not only benefit larger households but also support homes with a multitude of smart devices. Attendees at large-scale sporting matches, crowded music festivals or social events will also no longer have to suffer the dreaded internet blackout that can happen when large amounts of people attempt to use the internet at the same time.
HOW DO I GET 5G INTERNET?
To access 5G internet, you need two things:
1. Be in an area with 5G coverage
This is dependent on a few separate factors. Currently only three Australian telcos – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – are offering 5G connectivity and all three networks are still in the process of rolling out their coverage. This means only select suburbs have access to 5G, with the coverage concentrated around major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Central Coast, Gold Cast, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra.
2. Have a device with 5G accessibility
In order to access 5G internet, you must also have a mobile broadband modem or phone that is capable of 5G connectivity. Currently these mobiles sit at the more expensive end of the spectrum and include the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S20, S21, A42, A71 and Galaxy Z Fold2 models.
When it comes to your choice in 5G modems, Aussie consumers currently have a choice between Telstra and Optus. Optus customers get a free Nokia FastMile 5G gateway modem with a 5G internet plan that range from $75 or $90 a month. Both plans come with a minimum 50Mbps Satisfaction Guarantee.
Instead of a standard home modem, Telstra’s offering is a little different. Customers can buy a portable Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro which functions like a personal hot spot. The gadget supports up to 30 WiFi enabled devices and has nine hours of battery life. It’ll cost you $599 to buy the machine outright or you can choose a 12 or 24 month repayment plan.
IS 5G SAFE?
As confirmed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, there are no established health risk with 5G technology.
“There are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses,” said a spokesperson for the ARPANSA.
“We urge you to be cautious of claims from anti-5G campaigns. These campaigns are generating unfounded fear and concern within the community. We have seen increasing misinformation about health effects, our role, and 5G or radio waves generally.”
The misinformed fear originates from the false concern over the electromagnetic energy (EME) carried by the radio waves used by 5G. There’s also the belief that the new network will result in more radio waves but both points are untrue.
5G networks are actually designed to be more efficient and will transmit less power than networks for existing services, such as 4G. The low level electro magnetic energy is also well below the levels at which radiation begins posing any harm.
This article is created in partnership with iSelect.