The Australian 5G network rollout has began, with the technology promising to revolutionise the country’s wireless infrastructure.

If you’re lucky enough to live or work in a 5G-enabled area, you’re probably eager to find out how to give the technology a try.

Or maybe you live in regional Australia and wonder what 5G has in store for you.

No matter the question, ANZPJ has you covered with this 5G explainer.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology that promises to ultimately replace the current 4G network used by most smartphones – it’s also offering an alternative to NBN.

The network follows an explosion in mobile data traffic and hopes to offer Australia three major major advantages:

Faster network speeds: 5G will make it theoretically possible to download a high-definition movie in mere seconds, with the network capable of download speeds as fast as 20Gbps. The service promises a minimum download speed of 100Mbps –  the maximum speed offered by NBN connection. It’s worth noting the speeds will depend on how the network has been configured, the number of devices on the network and the device used.

Lower latency: In addition of offering faster speeds, 5G promises lower latency — a shorter time interval between sending and receiving data. 4G currently offers latency of around 60 milliseconds, with 5G reducing this down to as low as 1 millisecond.

More simultaneous connections: 5G will allow more devices to connect to the network at the same time. This will be particularly important with the internet-of-things creeping into more devices around the home and office.

The Google Pixel is a smartphone compatible with Australia's 5G rollout

The Google Pixel is a smartphone compatible with Australia’s 5G rollout.

Where is 5G available?

Currently Australia has three 5G carriers – Optus, Telstra and Vodafone – with each offering different levels of coverage.

Telstra has the largest 5G coverage, accessible to 50 per cent of the Australian population.

Optus’ network is accessible to more than 700,000 households from more than 1000 5G sites across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.

Vodafone have shared plans for their 5G network to cover 85 per cent of the population in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra by the end of 2021.

Take a look at these interactive maps from OptusTelstra and Vodafone to see which providers are currently accessible in your area.

What do you need to use 5G?

To access the next-generation technology, customers will need a 5G compatible device, a valid plan and will need to be in an area of 5G coverage.

Luckily, there are many 5G smartphones and Wi-Fi devices available to buy or available on 5G phone plans from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone after the Australian 5G network rollout.

Devices include the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, iPhone 12 5G, Google Pixel 5 5G and Oppo Find X2 Neo 5G. You can also get 5G wi-fi hubs from Optus and Telstra.

Will 5G replace the NBN?

Both Telstra and Optus offer 5G mobile broadband and have confirmed they will continue to offer NBN plans despite the Australian 5G network rollout.

The 5G broadband is the initial focus for Optus with mobile technology being the second phase of our 5G rollout.

The Optus 5G Home Broadband plan is available for $70 per month over 24 months or month-to-month with unlimited data, no speed cap and a 50Mbps guarantee.

Picture of a self-driving car - Austrlaian 5G rollout will help technology

Self-driving cars will benefit from 5G technology

Where will 5G play a vital role?

It’s believed the lower latency of 5G will reduce accidents of self-driving cars as the technology will be able to communicate with its surroundings in almost real-time.

A self-driving car travelling at roughly 60km/h will move just over one inch from the time it identifies an obstacle to the time when the braking command is executed using 5G technology – the driverless car would move 4.6 feet under the same conditions based on latency of the 4G network.

With the “internet of things” continuing to evolve, we are seeing a whole world of connected devices which have been designed communicate with each other.

For example, your fridge will keep a list of all the ingredients currently inside and offer you recipe suggestions. Once you pick what you would like to cook, your oven will automatically preheat to prepare for the suggested meal.

Meanwhile, after reading your calendar, your washing machine knows you have the gym in the morning and will start the load you forget to put on the night before.

Once it’s finished, a notification will pop up on your television to tell you it’s time to put the wet clothes in the dryer so you can make your workout.

What about the health concerns of the 5G network?

Anti-5G activists are flooding social media and forums with warnings 5G will cause cancer, infertility, autism and Alzheimer’s, with these claims supported by a small sample of scientists.

An analysis of 97 studies by a EU-funded review body also found a potential risk to insect and bird orientation and plant health.

However, expert advice of both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) advise there is no substantiated scientific evidence that radio frequency technologies operating within national and international safety standards cause health effects.

“This network currently runs on radio waves similar to those used in the current 4G network, and in the future will use radio waves with higher frequencies. It is important to note that higher frequencies does not mean higher or more intense exposure,” ARPANSA said in a statement.

“Higher frequency radio waves are already used in security screening units at airports, police radar guns to check speed, remote sensors and in medicine and these uses have been thoroughly tested and found to have no negative impacts on human health.