Amid a leadership shake-up last month, the Australian government blocked Huawei Technologies, a Chinese company whose technology underpins mobile broadband for about half of all Australians, from building the country’s 5G network.
A spokesman for Paul Fletcher, who succeeded Mitch Fifield as Communications Minister, said the Federal Government stands by its decision to block Huawei from the 5G rollout.
"Australia's position on 5G security is based on our domestic and national interests. The Australian Government stands by its August 2018 announcement on 5G security," the spokesman said.
Though they have cited security reasons, it is the Australian citizens who will be paying for that decision for decades to come. 5G is the basis of future broadband networks and the demand for 5G is starting to grow. By keeping a leading 5G service provider out of the market, Australia has reduced the country’s supply of telecommunications infrastructure.
“The Australian government’s decision to block Huawei from Australia’s 5G market is politically motivated, not the result of a fact-based, transparent, or equitable decision-making process,” Huawei said in a statement on Friday.
The decision is not aligned with the long-term interests of the Australian people, and denies Australian businesses and consumers the right to choose from the best communications technology available, Huawei said, adding that a non-competitive market will raise the cost of network construction and have lasting effects on Australia’s transition to a digital economy.
How fast is 5G?
In Telstra's Gold Coast 5G trials, it achieved network speeds of around 3Gbps using mmWave bands. That's roughly 3,000Mbps, or 30 times as a fast as the maximum speed of an NBN 100 connection.
Initial Australia 5G networks are being built using mid-band sub 6 frequencies. Australian telcos will be able to bid for access to mmWave spectrum in the middle of next year and will then gain access to any spectrum they won by the end of 2020. This means it is unlikely we'll see any mmWave 5G connectivity in Australia until sometime in 2021.
In terms of a real-world example of what this speed means, 5G could provide a huge improvement in mobile video streaming. Qualcomm expects 5G's median streaming quality to be 8K at 120 FPS with 10-bit HDR colour, up from 2K at 30 FPS with 8-bit colour over 4G. While this might sound like complete overkill for regular video streaming, this kind of quality could make immersive virtual reality 360-degree video streaming a reality.
Here's a previous article on 5G in Australia.
Who will make 5G phones in Australia?
Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G was Australia's first 5G device. OPPO and LG will both also have 5G smartphones in Australia. Alcatel intends to launch a 5G smartphone by early 2020. Apple won't launch a 5G iPhone until 2020.
Will 5G replace the NBN?
Though 5G is set to be a viable alternative to the National Broadband Network for some, it won’t replace the need for an NBN. While 5G networks will bring many of the perks of a fixed line connection, data costs are likely to remain higher on mobile networks for some time.
Though mobile manufacturers are ready with 5G enabled phones, it’s too soon now to predict who will bring 5G to Australia. It’s a wait and watch situation.