You may have read that Telstra is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new spectrum for 5G. But what does this all mean?

The Australian Communication and Media Authority (or ACMA) today announced the results of its 26 GHz mobile spectrum auction, including that Telstra has secured 1000MHz of this spectrum to help us make our 5G network stronger and faster.

We’re spending around $277 million for our slice of this new mmWave spectrum to be used on the next phase of our 5G network which will deliver even faster speeds and much greater capacity. Much like there was with 4G, reaching the full potential with 5G involves rolling out the network in multiple phases. Initially, we’ve focused on coverage, launching 5G to as many people as possible as fast as possible, with our 5G network already reaching almost two thirds of Australians and will reach 75% by the end of June. But this is just the start of the journey and with the addition of mmWave spectrum to our 5G you’ll really start to see its full potential.

What is mmWave and why do we need it?

Each year we see data usage across our mobile network increase by an average of 40%. With more devices and more things that use more data, like 4K video streaming and virtual reality, we need more bandwidth so that you can still video chat to mum at a packed New Year’s event without a hitch.

mmWave – pronounced as “millimetre wave” – is a short-range, high-frequency and very high capacity spectrum band that really makes the most of what 5G can do.

It got its catchy name from the type of frequency it uses – which is what your phone uses to talk to mobile base stations to make calls, send texts and keep your data running fast and smooth. mmWave’s higher frequency means it can offer a lot of capacity and bandwidth, however it can only broadcast a few hundred metres. This makes it best suited to areas where there are lots of people in close proximity consuming data at a rate that can sometimes strain a network. This means places like shopping centres, crowded inner-city train stations and even stadiums could all benefit from the capabilities of mmWave.

There’s a whole lot more to mmWave and if you find all this techy stuff interesting, then you’ll also like this deeper dive piece we wrote to explain it further.

What will the new spectrum mean?

We mention capacity, because this is where our new 1000 MHz of spectrum comes in. This is more than 10x our existing dedicated 5G spectrum bandwidth. Having access to more spectrum creates more space on our network for mobile traffic, which means more data can flow through smoothly to more customers. The more spectrum you have, the more capacity for data your network has too.

Think of having more spectrum like being stuck in traffic in peak hour on the way to work and then having an extra 10 lanes added, allowing more cars to join the highway and travel faster. Having more spectrum for mmWave will let more 5G phones or 5G home broadband connections on the network to simultaneously download at higher speeds than ever on our network.

Having additional 5G spectrum also means that in the future our 5G home broadband service will be available to more customers in more places so you can binge the latest episode of The Mandalorian in 4K; or have multiple people at home on HD calls, without degrading quality.

For certain areas where the nbn might not be delivering a great experience, we’re really excited about the possibilities this opens to give our customers a fast and reliable home internet connection.

If you want to look even further into the future, mmWave will become central to things such as driverless cars or even some crazy ideas like watching the footy at the MCG with augmented reality glasses that can overlay all the stats and information you might be interested in. It opens up a whole new world for groundbreaking technology that is only going to boom and improve our lives going forward.

When will mmWave launch on Telstra?

While the licenses won’t come into effect until around the middle of the year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has agreed to early access licensing, which will allow us to use the spectrum on our network even sooner.

However, mmWave is something we’ve been preparing for and been testing for a while now. This real-world testing has helped us understand how the technology works and interacts with the environment and has also assisted in the development of the standards that device manufacturers use to build and deploy their future mmWave capable products.

We’re working to bring more mmWave-capable devices to our customers this calendar year, adding to our first mmWave-capable device – the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro – which launched in May 2020.

Telstra has been leading the way in 5G for a long time, and our work to date means we’ll already be on the front foot when we’re able to access this spectrum and as devices become available. Our commitment to bring the latest mobile technology and its benefits to more Australians is stronger than ever and we can’t wait for you to experience this next evolution of our 5G technology.