A new generation of 5G will be tested in Australia this year, and experts say it will offer downloads up to three times as fast as the NBN’s top speed.
A new generation of 5G will be tested in Australia this year, and experts say it will offer downloads up to three times as fast as the NBN’s top speed.

Telstra plans to ‘supercharge’ 5G network

Australian telcos are ramping up their pitch for 5G, with Telstra today revealing plans to test a "supercharged" version of the mobile technology that promises to deliver never-before-seen download speeds.

Telstra network experts claim "real world" downloads over the new 5G networks could be delivered three times as fast as the speediest connection possible on the NBN.

And a select group of customers will be chosen to trial the new technology after the location of test equipment is revealed.

But Telstra's announcement comes amid increasing competition for 5G in Australia, as Vodafone yesterday revealed it would launch 5G connections "within weeks" and Optus offered discounts, rather than higher prices, to lure customers to its new technology.

Telstra's Wi-Fi Pro device will be used to test mmWave 5G networks.
Telstra's Wi-Fi Pro device will be used to test mmWave 5G networks.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn revealed Telstra's latest 5G plans at a press conference in Melbourne, rescheduled after the cancellation of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona due to novel coronavirus.

Mr Penn said the telco had secured "scientific licences" from the Australian Communications and Media Authority to test the new, faster version of 5G known in the industry as "millimetre wave" for the higher frequency it used.

"mmWave will supercharge 5G," Mr Penn said.

"Its higher capacity and the potential to deliver even faster speeds as well as lower latency will help power the next generation of devices and innovations.

"Putting its power and opportunities into the hands of our customers early will put them at the forefront of this revolutionary technology."

A select group of customers will test the high-speed technology with a hotspot device later this year, Telstra 5G network principal Paul Milford said, and they could expect to see a serious boost over current download speeds.

Mr Milford said he expected the new generation of 5G technology to deliver groundbreaking connections.

"When we talk about the speed, it's gigabit world," he said.

"The expectation is that this device in the network (will deliver) anything from two to three gigabits (per second). It's all about providing higher speeds, improving the expectations of our customers and then, in the future, unlocking new use cases that demand that capacity."

Samsung president TM Roh revealed new 5G smartphones in San Francisco this month. Picture: AP
Samsung president TM Roh revealed new 5G smartphones in San Francisco this month. Picture: AP

If accurate, downloads from the new 5G network would be three times as fast as the highest possible speeds delivered over the National Broadband Network, and significantly faster than its popular 50 megabit per second connections.

The new 5G connections would not be widely available until 2021, however, when ACMA auctioned the network spectrum needed to deliver the technology.

Mr Penn also revealed Telstra now had more than 100,000 customers using its 5G network, which covered 32 towns and cities, and could be accessed in 430 suburbs.

He also confirmed the company would start charging some users extra to access the technology later this year, with a $15 fee tipped.

But Australia's biggest telco will face plenty of competition from its rivals over 5G, with its announcement coming just one day after Vodafone revealed it would deliver 5G services "within weeks".

"These will be the first of over 650 5G sites in progress," Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief executive Iñaki Berroeta said.

"Several thousand sites are to be built over the coming years."

Optus 5G head Harvey Wright said the company was also ramping up its 5G coverage in Australia, with 500 base stations now operational and "the number of sites increasing week on week".

And he said the company did not have current plans to charge users extra fees for using the next-gen network, and were actually offering double the data allowance for customers signing up to its 5G plans.

"At the moment, anyone who has a 5G phone can access 5G with Optus. We don't restrict access," he said.