True cost of 5G mobile access
After years of hype that 5G will change our lives by connecting everything to a super-fast and super-responsive network, the reality of 5G is nearly upon us.
Telstra has revealed more about its upcoming 5G plans and the compatible devices that will land in the hands of Aussie consumers by the end of June this year.
The country's largest telco has been quietly testing its 5G network in recent months, slowly turning on sites in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, Gold Coast and Toowoomba. It has more than 200 5G sites up and running with plans to have more ready to go by the end of the year.
"Regional sites as well as metro," Telstra CEO Andy Penn told journalist this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
For the past few years, the forthcoming mobile network technology has been a major point of anticipation at the event. For the vendors, network operators, and device makers, this year it feels like Christmas Eve and Santa is about to arrive.
While Optus has announced the rollout of a fixed wireless 5G home broadband, Telstra will be the first in the country - and among the first telcos in the world - to have a 5G-ready network, allowing mobile customers access speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G.
If you're keen to be an early adopter, here are the 5G phones you will be able to get your hands on in the coming months.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 5G
Last week, Samsung announced the Galaxy S10 5G, with its 6.7 inch screen, a faster-charging battery and an all-new camera experience. It will likely be the first 5G phone to hit Australia.
Telstra customers who purchase a Samsung S10+ through the telco will also be able to upgrade to the 5G-capable Galaxy S10 5G at no extra cost when it is released in a few months' time.
LG V50 ThinQ
At MWC, Telstra announced the 5G LG V50 ThinQ mobile handset will also be available to eager customers by mid year.
LG showed off the device on the eve of MWC as it competes with its Korean and Chinese counterparts in the 5G race.
It features a vibrant 6.4 inch OLED display and long lasting 4000 mAh battery and most interestingly, there is an optional Dual Screen accessory, which tacks on a second 6.2-inch OLED screen to the side of the phone.
LG says the screen can be used to multitask and features a user interface that makes it easy to move apps from one display to another and can also be used as a dedicated controller for gaming, kind of like a Nintendo DS.
Because Telstra is first to be 5G ready Down Under, it will be available exclusively on the telco's network when it drops but no pricing has been made available yet.
Rising smartphone maker Oppo didn't bring a new phone to this year's event, but it was keen to tout its progress on 5G, and has been working with Australian carriers Telstra and Optus to have a 5G ready phone in the second quarter of the year.
"OPPO has been anticipating and preparing for the arrival of 5G since 2015 and has invested in design and technology to ensure the production of a desirable smartphone, that doesn't compromise on functionality to accommodate 5G features and benefits," said Michael Tran, Managing Director at OPPO Australia.
Despite the fact that Huawei has launched the most notable 5G device at MWC this year (and by far the most expensive at around AUD$3600) , Telstra couldn't say if it has been in talks with the company to bring the device to its network.
WILL YOU PAY MORE FOR 5G?
In the move from 4G to 5G, Telstra has invested 1.6 billion "over and above what they would normally invest," Mr Penn said.
While the telco is still exploring use cases for 5G that can increase its revenue and recoup some of that cost, it also expects consumers to be willing to pay a little more to access 5G.
Telstra still hasn't publicly confirmed its pricing strategy for 5G but Mr Penn points to the fact that the telco didn't differentiate prices during the move from 3G to 4G.
"I think it's unlikely that the actual core connectivity plans will be differentially priced (for 5G)", he said.
The highly competitive telco market doesn't give providers much room to hike prices. But Mr Penn said there was more opportunity to offer add-on packages such as gaming packages for those who really want the benefits of low latency 5G, at an added cost.
"There'll be a number of dimensions to it. Ultimately we will announce prices closer to the launch date," he. said.
Samsung's 5G handset has a price tag north of $2300 so regardless of the connectivity cost, you will need to fork out a fair bit to be a first class mobile citizen in 2019.
There is still plenty of crucial 5G spectrum to be auctioned off late next year so it will be a while until the mobile technology is in full swing and all the applications predicted to accompany it begin to materialise. But if you want to get an early seat on the 5G train, start saving your next few pay checks.
The author travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Microsoft