Telstra 5G now covers around a third of the Australian population and that will grow to 75% by June next year. With such a rapid rollout of a critical new technology underway I wanted to share an update on our 5G progress.

No technology will do more to shape the 2020s than 5G – the fifth generation of mobile communications technology. 5G will revolutionise connectivity in Australia at a time when connected technologies have never been more important. Linking up with friends and family, work, school and accessing services has all had to be done digitally during COVID-19 and our recovery will depend on accelerating the digital economy.

But why is 5G so important to this? Peel away the tech-talk, what difference will it really make? The easiest way to understand 5G is that it is a massive leap forward in speed, data capacity and device density (the number of things you can connect). We are already seeing 5G device speeds around double that of 4G devices and, as 5G evolves and matures, it will get even faster with peak data speeds potentially up to 10 times greater than 4G – higher than anything seen before – and latency (or signal lag) around ten times better than 4G.

5G will take the activities we have all had to suddenly grow used to doing digitally during COVID – telehealth, working and studying from home, eCommerce – to a whole new level. Imagine being able to join meetings or classrooms from home using virtual or augmented reality. Imagine wearable tech that generates health data in live-time so your doctor can spot any medical issues before you even know you have them. Imagine a connected, seamless lag-free experience across multiple devices and settings, from your home to your car to your study or home office. Imagine fleets of autonomous drones able to deliver your groceries, books, supplies, whatever. Imagine being able to watch the sport, a concert, the theatre or a family gathering using virtual or augmented reality that creates a truly immersive experience. 5G use cases are still emerging but the common thread linking them all is that they will completely transform how we live, work and interact.

Network leadership

With 5G critical to Australia’s future prosperity, the good news is Telstra is a global leader in this new technology. Our 5G network already covers around one-third of the population. Today I am pleased to announce that we intend to extend that to 75% of the population by June next year. We made the decision in March to bring forward $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 into calendar year 2020. This investment means we have been able to accelerate our roll out of 5G, while injecting much-needed investment into the Australian economy at this time.

Telstra’s 5G is already rolling out in 53 cities and regional towns across Australia and more than 10 million Australians now live, work or pass through our 5G network footprint every day.

We are already a long way ahead of our competitors due to our increased investment, technology leadership and because our competitors have historically made the wrong choices on their suppliers of network technology from a security perspective. We intend to extend that lead because Australia needs 5G.

Devices and data leadership

But what about devices? What does all this mean for Australians wondering if they should or could upgrade their smartphone to 5G? Is it worth it?

On devices, while 5G-capable handsets have not long been on the market, more than 210,000 5G services are already connected to the Telstra network. That’s before the launch of a 5G iPhone. According to consumer-initiated tests taken using Speedtest in Australia from April-June 2020, 3G/4G iPhones run faster on average on Telstra’s mobile network than any of our competitors. Just imagine what a 5G iPhone will do. Telstra’s leadership position in 5G means that we are well placed to make these available for our customers as soon as they come into the market.

The other thing customers need to think about is data. How much do you need and how much does it cost? We recently refreshed our mobile plans providing up to 30GB of extra data and including 5G network access on selected plans for customers with a compatible device in 5G areas. After running a free 5G trial over the last 12 months we have also decided to do away with a planned separate fee for 5G.

We will be inviting eligible existing customers to move to the new plans before the end of September, and for those who choose to sign up we will credit them with the difference for the next 12 months. This is in addition to the fact that all of our plans feature no lock-in contracts and no excess data charges, unlike some of our competitors, where there can be up to $1500 of excess data charges tucked quietly behind the upfront charges.

Put simply, we are providing more data for the same price and committing to hold our price for twice as long as our major competitor because right now that’s what customers need.

Also while many of us are stuck at home we know media is important to our customers so in addition to the extra data and, for many, 5G access, our new plans also include access to Foxtel’s streaming service BINGE free for the first three months and up to 12 months for our Telstra Plus Silver and Gold members, as well as an extension of our offer of Kayo sports streaming for $15 per month. We are also boosting the points earning rate for Telstra Plus, our customer rewards program.

What’s next for 5G?

Telstra’s standing as a world leader in 5G has means has meant that many of the key technology companies including Ericsson and Qualcomm have looked to partner with us to test their thinking, their chipsets and their strategies. They are learning, we are learning and Australia is the ultimate beneficiary. I recently completed a virtual technology trip where I spoke to some of our key partners and other leading operators in the world. We are already at second generation chipsets for 5G and third generation chipsets are just around the corner and will be in devices from early next year. That means 5G devices that perform better, batteries that last longer, a faster experience and device prices that will come down.

The other big thing looming for 5G will be in spectrum and involve mmWaves, a short-range, high-frequency network technology that means more speed and more capacity in the network. More capacity means, for example, that the mobile network could be used effectively for home broadband (something also known as fixed wireless). Telstra is already testing mmWave at a number of sites and we already have our first mmWave-compatible device on the market.

Finally, in an era where remote working, studying, even socialising is now a part of everyday life for millions of Australians staying safe and secure online has never been more important. As well as working closely with the Federal Government on its broader cyber security strategy, Telstra has also developed a Cleaner Pipes initiative to protect customers from malware, ransomware and phishing.

Shaping the future

No technology will do more to shape the 2020s than 5G. It will revolutionise connectivity between families and friends, between organisations and corporations, between information and innovation. With so much depending on it we need to get it right. And we are.