Optus has flicked the switch on parts of its 5G enabled network, giving customers a chance to get their first taste of the new mobile technology.
As of today, a lucky selection of Optus customers in Canberra (who live in two specific suburbs) will have the opportunity to sign up to get a 5G home Wi-Fi service. For $70 a month, the unlimited 5G home broadband offer comes with a 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee and holds the promise of delivering up to 1Gbps peak speed in the future.
Optus says it has launched an additional live site in Sydney and 47 more sites are planned to be online by March this year.
The service will allow Aussie customers to access 5G speeds through wireless home internet, such as on mobiles and laptops on Wi-Fi.
“This is a historic day for Optus as we begin our exciting 5G journey with the announcement of Optus’ 5G Home Broadband service,” Optus chief executive Allen Lew said.
Late last year, the telco announced it had completed live 5G trials in Sydney and promised to turn on parts of its 5G network in Canberra in January.
“After successfully concluding live 5G trials in Sydney, we are on track to commercially launch fixed-wireless access services in January 2019,” Mr Lew said at the time.
The company cut it close, choosing the final day of the month to make good on the promise, switching on 5G sites in two Canberra suburbs: Dickson and Manuka.
As Telstra and Optus jostle to lead the 5G race in Australia, both companies are keen to tout any developments, no matter how ceremonial.
Nonetheless, it’s a notable milestone in the move towards 5G services for Optus but very few consumers will actually be able to enjoy it just yet, and those lucky few with access will still need 5G compatible equipment.
Optus has teamed up with Nokia to provide the gear — supplying a 5G RAN and Fastmile 5G CPE — to eligible customers who sign up to an expressions of interest campaign launched today. Optus said an off-the-shelf product will be available in the coming months.
“We will have more 5G sites going live across Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Sydney over the coming months giving a select group of customers the chance to get their hands on our 5G Home Broadband devices in areas of selected suburbs,” Mr Lew said.
“We will open the service up to more customers and more locations as more devices are released and our 5G cells continue to rollout.”
Optus has opened expressions of interest today allowing customers to register their interest for 5G home broadband in certain areas of selected suburbs including 23 in NSW, 13 in Queensland and nine in the ACT. You can click here to see the full list.
Optus plans to deliver 5G sites across the ACT, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia by March 2020.
That timeline puts it behind Telstra which earlier this month announced it had signed deals with certain smartphone manufacturers to bring new 5G phones “exclusively” to its 5G mobile network in the first half of the year.
Optus had teamed up with Chinese telecom giant Huawei for parts of its rollout but was forced to make some changes after the government banned Huawei equipment from being used in Australia’s 5G networks.
This morning Optus confirmed it had tapped Finish vendor Nokia for greater participation in its network upgrade.
“We currently have three live in-network 5G cells, but we will be turbocharging our rollout over the next 12 months to deliver 5G cells on the Optus Mobile Network across Australia with the goal of putting this exciting technology into the hands of our customers as soon as possible,” Mr Lew said.
“We will continue to adopt a multi-vendor approach to our network technology infrastructure that will drive innovation and competition.”
As the telco works towards having 1200 5G sites up and running by 2020, the Optus boss said they will include residential locations and other key customer hotspots surrounding airports, train stations, sports stadiums and CBD locations.
WHAT DOES 5G PROMISE?
At a consumer level, 5G promises more bandwidth and speedier connections giving you the ability, for example, to download HD movies to your phone in seconds.
You be able to enjoy super-fast downloads, high-quality streaming and gaming, and future advancements in emerging trends such as augmented reality and real time virtual gaming.
An important factor will be reduced latency — the slight lag in the transfer of data. That will make a critical difference in robotics, gaming and augmented reality, where shaving milliseconds is crucial. It will reduce from around 60 milliseconds on 4G to 1 millisecond on 5G.
The new communications technology is also considered vital to provide the super quick response time needed for autonomous vehicles on a large scale.
The technology will also underpin a plethora of sensor-enabled devices that will do everything from tracking cargo, to measuring weather patterns and providing other smart metering applications.
This world of connected devices is known as the as the Internet of Things and the expected boon to manufacturing, mining, transport logistics, agriculture and other industries is sometimes referred to as the fourth industrial revolution by the true believers.
In describing its potential earlier this month, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said it will digitise the physical world.
“As the physical world becomes infused with the digital world, you’ve got the connectivity to harness that data, you’ve got the computing capacity and power to process that data in the cloud and you’ve got the AI engines to actually turn them into close looped systems,” Mr Penn said. “That will lead to an incredible world of automation.”