5G Coverage in Australia
5G home internet works exactly the same way mobile data works on your phone. The signal passes through the cellular network, and travels through a series of special 5G nodes. One thing that differentiates 4G from 5G is that 5G nodes need to be closer together, meaning we need more of them in order to service the same geographical area. In Australia, 4G is available in pretty much every residential and commercial area; by comparison 5G-supported zones are so far restricted to capital cities and their surrounding suburbs.
To find out if your address is within a 5G-serviceable zone, head to your internet provider’s website and take a look at their network coverage:
Is 5G really that much faster than NBN?
According to Telstra its 5G home internet product is able to deliver average download speeds of 378 Mbps (Megabits per second) and 46 Mbps on upload. By contrast, Telstra’s most expensive NBN home internet plan averages 250 Mbps download and 22 Mbps upload. Optus is a little more modest, claiming its uncapped home 5G internet is able to deliver average evening-period speeds of 240 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
For comparison: NBN plans sold by different providers are essentially offering the same connection, giving you an option between NBN 25, NBN 50, NBN 100 and so on. Ostensibly, the NBN 25 package should deliver an average download speed of 25 Mbps, the NBN 50 package should deliver 50 Mbps etc. According to the ACCC there does appear to be a negligible discrepancy in speeds delivered by different retailers, however in 2022 the actual average speeds delivered to users pretty much matched up with their targets. For example, in 2022 the NBN 100 delivered average download speeds of 96.6 Mbps across retailers.
Unfortunately when it comes to 5G, we don’t have a central authority like the ACCC to point to in terms of reliability, as they are yet to develop regular reports like they have for NBN. We do, however, have reports from independent analytics firms. According to Opensignal, in 2022 5G users were able to enjoy download speeds in the range of 240-270 Mbps. Optus allegedly delivered the highest average 5G speeds at 268.8 Mbps, 10.7% faster than Telstra’s 242.9 Mbps (however Telstra still delivered the highest overall average speeds across cellular generations).
Keep in mind that these figures are averages, taking into account the very best and worst performance of the network throughout the year, so your experience may vary.
Why would I use 5G Home Internet over NBN
There are many reasons why some people might use 5G over NBN for their home internet service. There might be some rare cases where a property has access to a 5G network, but not the NBN. Maybe you require very fast download speeds, and you’ve found a home 5G plan which is more cost-effective than the NBN-alternative. At the moment, for example, Telstra’s 5G Home Internet package is going from $85 a month for 378 Mbps download speeds, while an NBN package delivering 250 Mbps download speeds would cost you $140 per month. Bear in mind that this particular 5G home internet plan is capped at 1TB per month, while the NBN package includes unlimited data usage. Remember to look out for caveats such as capped usage, throttled internet speeds, auto-data top ups and so on while researching home internet options.
It could also be the case that you need your home internet to be set up right now (NBN connections can take up to a week to activate, and sometimes require a site visit from an engineer), and you’re not willing to sacrifice on speed. For very serious power users, you could even want a 5G broadband service to support your existing NBN service, or blend the two together to get an uber-fast multihoming network.
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