Optus switches on 5G mobile services

Optus today launched its 5G push in earnest, with the telco announcing support for mobile services based on the ultra-fast wireless standard as well as the expansion of its 5G home broadband service.

The telco said that it had 290 5G mobile sites, covering Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, as well as “other key locations” in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Optus’ first 5G site was switched on in Canberra earlier this year.

Optus said it plans to have 1200 5G sites by March 2020.

5G already offers “exponentially faster download speeds,” Optus CEO Allen Lew this morning told a press briefing, but will “continue to evolve” in 2021.

The first Australian 5G services are based on the 3.6GHz band, and for now telcos’ networks are still relying on LTE (4G) cores. In 2021 local telcos are expected to get their hands on their first so-called ‘mmWave’ spectrum, with the government preparing to auction of 2.4GHz of spectrum in the 26GHz band.

Both the rollout of 5G cores and access to mmWave are expected to radically expand the use cases for the wireless standard.

Lew said Optus is working “aggressively” with its two vendor partners – Nokia and Ericsson -- to prepare for 2021.

Earlier this year the telco launched a 5G home broadband service with a price point matching its NBN services based on NBN Co’s 50Mbps wholesale speed tier. The home broadband service includes a 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee.

So far only some 200 customers have been using the service, but from today it will be available to some 138,000 households within the Optus 5G footprint.

Optus said that the service had so far offered an average peak time speed of 164Mbps, with the service delivering up to 400Mbps.

Lew said that the company would focus on optimising streaming over 5G, including working with over the top (OTT) video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Stan, and 7plus to optimise 4K streaming over its mobile network.

Optus is also planning to being offering 4K video streaming from its Optus Sport service, beginning in June 2020.

Rival Telstra began offering 5G mobile services earlier this year. Telstra is offering free 5G access for the first 12 months of the service, but after that plans to plans to add a $15 a month surcharge for customers who use it.

Optus is going “all in” with 5G, Lew said. “It’s not a value-added service; it’s a basic part of what we’re going to deliver to Australian consumers.”

At this stage 5G downloads will be part of a customer’s standard data allowance, Lew said, but he didn’t rule out introducing an additional charge in the future.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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