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5G in Australia

High-speed, low latency, more connections - but what does it all mean? 5G is here, and it’s available more widely than ever.

Telstra, Optus, Vodafone are all finally offering 5G plans to mobile customers, with smaller providers like Spintel hopping on board too. Here's what 5G is, where it's located, and how you can get it.

Woman on phone

5G in Australia

  • 5G is the next generation in mobile network technology.
  • It's much faster than 4G, with the lowest speeds rivalling the fastest of the NBN.
  • All three Australian mobile networks, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, have started to activate 5G networks in limited areas around the country, and will continue widespread expansion.
  • In October 2020, Optus opened its 5G network to third party providers like Spintel, and we expect to see more smaller providers offering plans with 5G in the future.

How is it better?

5G is the next step in mobile network speeds, improving on what 4G already delivers. It should perform better in three key areas:

Speed icon

Network speed

With 5G, you should be able to receive data at a maximum rate of 20Gbps. As with all networks, the speed you actually get depends on your hardware and a bunch of other factors, but you can expect a minimum speed of 50-100Mbps. This is faster than the majority of fixed-line NBN connections and about 10 times faster than 4G's minimum speed.
Latency icon

Latency

Latency is how long it takes for your signal to reach its destination and come back. 5G should lower average latency from 4G's 60 milliseconds to just 1 millisecond. This could, for example, let you watch a live video with almost no delay or improve the quality and ease of video conferencing.
Internet of Things icon

Number of devices connected

You might not be aware, but there's an upper limit to how many devices that can be usefully connected to the network at once. 5G will raise this limit, making it possible for more interconnected devices to communicate at once.

Together, these improvements make the so-called "Internet of Things" more and more of a reality. The Internet of Things is the concept of billions of physical devices — phones, self-driving cars, refrigerators, almost anything — connected to a network and able to exchange information with each other all at once.

Theoretically, with a strong enough network (such as widespread 5G), almost anything could be part of this Internet of Things, from the smart showerhead in your bathroom to an aeroplane.

Is 5G dangerous?

No. 5G is the exact same technology as 3G and 4G, except using slightly different frequencies. These frequencies have a shorter range than 4G signals, which is why you'll see extra radio towers being built to support the 5G network.

In recent times, we've seen a number of conspiracy theories about 5G with no basis of evidence, from cancer risk to virus transmission. Unlike 5G, these conspiracy theories have led to real-life harm, such as people burning down 5G towers in the UK.

For a more in-depth look at 5G and why its rollout doesn't pose any increased health risks to you or anyone else, see our article debunking the myths of 5G health risks.

What are 5G speeds like?

5G can potentially achieve download speeds faster than 20Gbps, with bare minimum speeds of 50-100Mbps. To put this in perspective, a top-of-the-line NBN connection may offer you download speeds of around 200Mbps at the best of times.

With these kinds of speeds, 5G could make a decent alternative to a fixed-line connection, which we'll explore further down.

In comparison, 4G maxes out at 100Mbps on most mobile devices, making the best 4G connection slower or similar to the worst 5G one. You can expect your 5G connection to regularly be 2, 5 or 10 times faster than 4G, for example.

We've broken down the differences in between 4G and 5G speeds in the table below. Because 5G is so new in Australia and the data just isn't there yet, the numbers in the table are based on the limited testing and data that is available, particularly that from OpenSignal.

4G5G
Maximum speed100Mbps20Gbps
Average speed in Australia38.5Mbps200Mbps
Time to download a 30 minute video (500MB)1 min 44 seconds20 seconds
Time to download a season of a podcast (300MB)1 min 2 seconds12 seconds

5G may also drop 4G's 60-millisecond latency to around 1 millisecond, significantly decreasing the delay in things like live video or video conferencing.

Don't expect to see this drop happen overnight though. We'll only really see this once we have networks operating purely on 5G using a technology called "network slicing", which is a way of directing information more efficiently like cars in lanes of traffic. Realistically, we'll probably only see a drop to 10-12 milliseconds of latency in the real world, and even that will likely take a while.

Finder survey: Are Australians from different states currently using 5G?

Response
No47.75%
Yes41.44%
I don't know10.63%
I don't have a mobile phone/mobile phone plan0.18%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

5G rollout in Australia

  • Telstra and Optus have been rolling out 5G in Australia since 2019, and now Vodafone has followed suit in 2020.
  • 5G is only available in a small number of areas, and won't be widespread for quite some time, potentially years.
  • Rollout is ongoing, with networks continuing to build up the infrastructure necessary for 5G transmission.

What's the availability of the 5G network in Australia?

As of January 2021, Telstra's 5G network now covers 50% of the Australian population. It aims to increase this to 75% by June 2021. Optus's 5G rollout follows Telstra's in terms of size, with Vodafone having the smallest network out of the three.

Living in an area where 5G exists isn't enough by itself. You'll also need to own a 5G-capable handset, which we'll explore further in the guide.

How much does 5G cost?

At present, 5G won't cost you anything more than the price of a 5G-capable handset and a mobile plan from any of the big 3 carriers - Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone.

Currently, the cheapest mobile plan in our database with 5G access is from Optus with its 10GB for $39 SIM only plan. Vodafone's cheapest SIM only plan comes close to Optus, coming in at $40/month. But Telstra's cheapest offering is its Medium plan, which provides 80GB for $65 per month, which means you're paying almost double to access Telstra's 5G network (though you do get a lot more data on this plan). Telstra's least expensive plan does not include 5G, meaning that it's still considered a luxury extra despite not explicitly increasing your monthly bill.

In the home broadband field, Optus will actually charge you less for its 5G home Internet compared to 4G. You'll pay $70 per month on a 24 month contract and get unlimited data, plus a 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee. Compare this to the 4G option which offers only 200GB for $65 or 500GB for $75. Keep in mind that Optus does need to pre-approve your home address before it confirms that its 5G home Internet is available in your area.

Telstra has also recently introduced its first home wireless plan on its 5G network, but it's only available to selected customers.

When it comes to device prices, there isn't a huge gap between 4G and 5G. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G 128GB model retails at $1,499, while the equivalent 4G model comes in at $1,349.

5G networks in Australia: What's on offer?

To see what 5G mobile plans are currently available in Australia, click through the tabs of different providers below.

While it's true that 5G will exist purely as a mobile network, there are more devices that can access these networks than just our mobile phones. Home wireless modems and mobile broadband SIMs can hook into the 5G mobile network, too.

Like Optus, Telstra started its 5G rollout in 2019 and was already covering 46 towns across Australia (including all the capital cities) as of April 2020. You can access 5G through a few of Telstra's plans, including these SIM only plans:
Name Product Data Price Apply Price
Telstra Upfront Premium
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Telstra Upfront Premium
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Telstra 5G/4G network
300GB
No excess data charges
$95
per month
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
300GB
Data
$95
per month
Telstra Upfront Essential
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Telstra Upfront Essential
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Telstra 5G/4G network
180GB
No excess data charges
$72
per month
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
180GB
Data
$72
per month
Telstra Upfront Basic
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Telstra Upfront Basic
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Telstra 5G/4G network
50GB
No excess data charges
$62
per month
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
50GB
Data
$62
per month
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You can also get 5G access on some of Telstra's mobile broadband plans:

Name Product Data allowance Typical download speed Price Hid Compare Box!
Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband 25GB
Mobile broadband
Full Telstra network
28 Days contract
OFFER: 35GB/recharge for the first 3 recharges, then 25GB/recharge. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply
  • 28 Days expiry
  • BYO device
25GB
Data
25GB
5G / 4G
Speed
5G / 4G
$17
per 28 days
Min total cost is $17 over 28 days
Price
$17 per 28 days
Min total cost is $17 over 28 days
Telstra Upfront Data Plan Small
Mobile broadband
Full Telstra network
Month-to-month
  • Month-to-month
  • BYO device
30GB
Data
30GB
5G / 4G
Speed
5G / 4G
$25
per month
Min total cost is $25 for first month
Price
$25 per month
Min total cost is $25 for first month
Telstra Upfront Data Plan Medium
Mobile broadband
Full Telstra network
Month-to-month
  • Month-to-month
  • BYO device
75GB
Data
75GB
5G / 4G
Speed
5G / 4G
$58
per month
Min total cost is $58 for first month
Price
$58 per month
Min total cost is $58 for first month
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Keep in mind that you'll have to buy a suitable 5G modem from Telstra if you want 5G on its mobile broadband plans.

The company has announced that 5G access may be expanded to prepaid plans and other plans in the near future, but the details are currently uncertain.

Telstra has recently introduced a 5G home wireless plan which will supposedly provide speeds from 50Mbps-300Mbps for $85 a month and comes with 500GB of data. These speeds are equal to some of the top speed tiers available on the NBN. Unfortunately, it's a limited rollout at the moment, which means only select customers will be able to sign up. Telstra plans to expand its home wireless offerings over the next 12 months.

Optus launched its 5G network in 2019, with 300 sites already built by February 2020 and a goal of 1,200 in a short period after that.

Right now, you can access Optus 5G with your mobile phone on any SIM only option, or get it on a home wireless broadband plan. Spintel, another mobile provider which uses the Optus network, has also released plans with access to the Optus 5G network.

Remember, if you're interested in signing up to one of Optus' SIM only plans to access its 5G network, you'll also need a 5G-capable device to do so.

Name Product Data Price Apply Price
Optus Small Choice Plus Plan $49
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Optus Small Choice Plus Plan $49
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
30GB
No excess data charges
$49
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
30GB
Data
$49
per month
Optus Medium Choice Plus Plan $59
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Optus Medium Choice Plus Plan $59
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
100GB
No excess data charges
$59
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
100GB
Data
$59
per month
Optus Large Choice Plus Plan $69
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Optus Large Choice Plus Plan $69
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
220GB
No excess data charges
$69
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
220GB
Data
$69
per month
Optus Extra Large Choice Plus Plan $89
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Optus Extra Large Choice Plus Plan $89
Postpaid
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
360GB
No excess data charges
$89
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
360GB
Data
$89
per month
Optus Plus Promo Plan $69
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
Get up to $60 off your subscriptions over 6 months with Optus SubHub, plus get 500GB for $69/mth for the first 12 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 4.8.24
Optus Plus Promo Plan $69
Postpaid
Get up to $60 off your subscriptions over 6 months with Optus SubHub, plus get 500GB for $69/mth for the first 12 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 4.8.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Optus 5G/4G network
500GB
No excess data charges
$69
per month
Go to site
View details
  • Get up to $60 off your subscriptions over 6 months with Optus SubHub, plus get 500GB for $69/mth for the first 12 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 4.8.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
500 GB
Data
$69
per month
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There's also a couple of features to point out about Optus's 5G home broadband:

  • You're required to get Optus's Nokia 5G modem on a 24-month plan or for a $200 start-up fee.
  • Optus's satisfaction guarantee allows you to cancel with no penalty if you don't receive speeds of at least 50Mbps.
  • You can only sign up to this plan if Optus is 95% sure you'll be adequately serviced by its 5G network.

50Mbps is equivalent in speed to a decent NBN plan, making this an okay deal for people who want a fast alternative to a fixed-line connection. We can expect Optus to add 5G options to its mobile plans moving forward.

Vodafone only activated its first 5G tower in March 2020, in Parramatta, New South Wales. Its rollout is ongoing, and it plans to reach 650 sites eventually as 2020 progresses. Vodafone offers 5G access on all its SIM only plans, and they all come with 'unlimited' data too. Just keep in mind that because Vodafone's 5G network is currently only available in Parramatta, unless you live in that suburb or visit it often, it's probably not a very enticing 5G network for you.
Name Product Data Price Apply Price
Vodafone Large SIM-only Plan
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
720GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 360GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
Vodafone Large SIM-only Plan
Postpaid
720GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 360GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
720GB
No excess data charges
$69
per month
Go to site
View details
  • 720GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 360GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
720 GB
Data
$69
per month
Vodafone Small SIM-only Plan
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
100GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 50GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
Vodafone Small SIM-only Plan
Postpaid
100GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 50GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
100GB
No excess data charges
$49
per month
Go to site
View details
  • 100GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 50GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
100 GB
Data
$49
per month
Vodafone $55 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
85GB for $30/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 85GB for $55/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
Vodafone $55 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
Prepaid
85GB for $30/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 85GB for $55/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
85GB
No excess data charges
$30
per 28 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • 85GB for $30/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 85GB for $55/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
85 GB
Data
$30
per 28 days expiry
Vodafone Medium SIM-only Plan
PostpaidNo lock-in contract
360GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 180GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
Vodafone Medium SIM-only Plan
Postpaid
360GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 180GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
360GB
No excess data charges
$59
per month
Go to site
View details
  • 360GB/mth when you stay connected with the plan, instead of 180GB/mth. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 3.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
360 GB
Data
$59
per month
Vodafone $45 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
65GB/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 35GB/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
Vodafone $45 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
Prepaid
65GB/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 35GB/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
65GB
No excess data charges
$45
per 28 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • 65GB/recharge for the first 6 recharges, then 35GB/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
65 GB
Data
$45
per 28 days expiry
Vodafone $160 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
150GB for $119 for the first recharge, then 90GB for $160/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
Vodafone $160 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
Prepaid
150GB for $119 for the first recharge, then 90GB for $160/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
150GB
$119
per 185 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • 150GB for $119 for the first recharge, then 90GB for $160/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 4.6.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
150 GB
Data
$119
per 185 days expiry
Vodafone $320 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
320GB for the first recharge, then 220GB/recharge. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
Vodafone $320 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
Prepaid
320GB for the first recharge, then 220GB/recharge. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
320GB
$320
per 365 day recharge
Go to site
View details
  • 320GB for the first recharge, then 220GB/recharge. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
  • Unlimited standard national calls & texts
320 GB
Data
$320
per 365 days expiry
Vodafone $250 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
PrepaidNo lock-in contract
240GB for the first recharge, then 150GB/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
Vodafone $250 Prepaid Plus Starter Pack
Prepaid
240GB for the first recharge, then 150GB/recharge after. Eligibility criteria, T&Cs apply. Ends 10.11.24
  • Unlimited national calls & texts
  • Vodafone 5G/4G network
240GB
$250
per 365 day recharge
Go to site
View details