5G | Network |

Our young engineers put mmWave through its paces with 50 tests of 5G

By Mike Wood September 15, 2021

We’ve now conducted more than 50 tests on 5G mmWave and small cells to measure the electromagnetic energy (or EME) levels in many different real-world settings. In some of the most extensive testing undertaken on 5G technology in Australia, we’ve found levels of mmWave electromagnetic energy to be similar to existing technologies like 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.

I’ve been testing EME levels for decades, and this is some of the most extensive testing I’ve taken part in – we’ve really put mmWave and small cells through their paces. This round of testing was different, though, in that we also sought help from the graduates and young engineers in our business who really embrace the latest tech.

No matter how much we upped the ante – and we really threw everything we had at our testing to max out the small cells – we found that our 5G technology produces electromagnetic energy levels not just slightly below, but actually around 1000 times below the safety limits in most cases.

How did we test the network?

Importantly, we did our testing on Telstra’s live network. This wasn’t just a bunch of boffins testing EME in the lab – our 50 tests of 5G were real-world tests, in places like apartments, pubs, cafes, transport hubs, homes and businesses – and even a dentist’s office. We also used devices that are commercially available. This is where our grads and young engineers really put their mark on this project, seeking out the best real-world situations to put 5G to the test and gather valuable real-world data.

In a local café, one of my favourite places to work, our Telstra graduates arranged a coffee and 5G mmWave test where their challenge was to max out the hardware we had available – to all connect to the mmWave hotspots and run video streaming, jump on social media and their everyday online work from the café, really putting the 5G to the test with real-word scenarios while we measured the EME.

As we expected, the EME measured was very low whilst the grads enjoyed a seamless connection, learned how the testing was conducted, and helped us evaluate more real-world settings.

Encouraging our young engineers and providing these learning opportunities really helps us to ensure the Telstra networks are world class, all while we’re helping to develop Australia’s best technical talent. These are Australia’s future technology leaders!

What did we find?

Our testing also found that 5G EME levels from small cells and 5G mmWave were similar to 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi. These are technologies that have been around for more than a decade.

Even at the highest level measured in our testing – which was on an apartment balcony directly opposite a small cell – was very low at 0.28% of the safety limit, barely one quarter of one percent. This answers an important question often asked about small cells – a great connection to the apartment in this instance still meant low EME.

One of the locations we ran our 5G EME tests – an apartment building in South Brisbane.

Our EME team conducted the tests at a variety of locations in Queensland and Victoria during non-Covid lockdown periods, and used specialised testing equipment that works in the mmWave frequency range.

We tested at these locations:

Southport, QLD

Telstra’s 5G Innovation Centre
Southport Mall and commercial precinct
Inside a pub
Australia Fair entrance and café
Outside a bank
Inside an overpass
Labrador Playing Fields

South Brisbane, QLD

Inside and outside homes and apartments
Outside a church, school and childcare centre
Cafes, a dentist and a real estate agent
Car parks

Melbourne VIC

CBD
Transport hubs
Docklands apartments and Docklands Harbour
Surrey Hills

The nerdy tech details

The team used specialised testing equipment that works in the mmWave frequency range.

Tests were carried out using a Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro connected to a 5G mmWave small cell, which connects to the modem through a low-powered narrow beam through a technology called beamforming. The download speed we measured at the modem was around 1.8 to 2.4Gbps for these tests – so it was certainly moving data at a rate of knots!

To get definitive results from our testing, we used a spectrum analyser at 26GHz and a directional mmWave horn antenna, which allows accurate measurement of the beam and associated EME level from the mmWave small cell.

The narrow beam means that measuring EME must be done in line with the modem, so we had to measure the beam directly in between the small cell and the modem itself. If you step two metres to one side, the EME level drops away because you’ve moved off the edge of the beam. The same happens when the modem is not active – the EME drops away.

Sami Uddin – a young Telstra engineer testing 5G mmWave.

We conducted all the tests following procedures in Australian and international standards for testing EME. In all our tests, we loaded the small cell to maximum capacity in a single beam to one user – which in practice would never really occur – and we found the maximum EME to be less than 1% of the safety limit in all cases.

In fact, we found the maximum EME levels to be around 1000 times below the safety limits. What this shows us is the newer 5G technology is very efficient, and even the maximum EME levels are well below the conservative safety limits.

In reality, the actual or typical EME levels will be well below maximum levels, which is what we are finding on the existing 5G network that we have already rolled out in many locations across Australia.

Download our 5G mmWave testing presentation here, and view the Telstra small cells and EME information page here.

5G | Network |

Your questions about small cells, answered

By Mike Wood June 10, 2021

We’ve been using ‘small cells’ as part of our mobile networks for many years, but we know you might have seen or heard some new information about them as we’ve continued to roll out and upgrade the technology that we use. We’ve gathered your most common questions about small cells here, along with straightforward answers.

‎‏‏‎ ‎

What is a small cell?

A small cell is a low powered radio transmitter for mobile phone services. Their small size makes them far more discreet. Telstra uses small cells to improve coverage, connectivity and customer mobile experience without the need to build as many big mobile towers.

Why does Telstra need to install small cells?

We are using mobile phones more than ever before and now devices such as smart watches, tablets and computers are also connecting to the mobile network. There is 60 times more traffic on the Telstra network today than there was 10 years ago.

Small cells are a way that we can cater for that demand, reduce congestion and improve connectivity without having to build more towers.

Why am I suddenly hearing about small cells?

Small cells are not new. We’ve used them in our cities and suburbs since the 2G era nearly 30 years ago. Now the new generation of small cell technology is available, Telstra is investing in it to improve our network and provide better mobile coverage and connectivity for our customers in high traffic areas.

What does a small cell look like?

Small cells are small enough that you might have already seen one without realising it.

They range in size from a large shoebox to a cricket bat – much smaller than a regular base station. Their small size allows them to be mounted on street lights or power poles, so they can blend more discreetly into their surroundings.

Here’s what a typical small cell looks like, mounted on the light pole to the right of this photo:

You can also see a typical 5G small cell at the top of this telephone pole:

Are small cells 4G or 5G?

Small cells can be either 4G or 5G, or even both. In fact, we have used 3G and even 2G small cells in the past.

How does Telstra decide where to put them?

We use small cells in locations where there are lots of people using our mobile network and where the use of a standard mobile base station might not be appropriate. This could be train stations, shopping centres or even suburban areas where there is high network traffic.

The small cells themselves are most often mounted on street lights, power or even tram poles to remove the need for building new structures.

What benefits do small cells offer me and my neighbourhood?

You should notice a big difference after the installation of a Telstra small cell and should experience better connectivity and more reliable mobile coverage.

Are small cells dangerous?

No. Telstra small cells use the same frequencies as our existing network, they are just smaller and use less energy. Telstra’s small cells are tested to the Government safety standards and are independently audited.

Where can I find more information?

You can find more information about Telstra’s small cells, 5G rollout and EME on our Small Cells information page. You can also visit the ACMA and ARPANSA websites to learn more.

5G | Network | Tech and Innovation |

5G vs. 50 devices: Testing our 5G network and EME in a ‘smart apartment’

By Mike Wood December 23, 2020

There’s been a lot of buzz around 5G this year. You might have also read a few other not so accurate facts around 5G. We thought we’d put it all to the test again to show you the facts about 5G and electromagnetic energy (EME) in a very high-tech connected home.

If you don’t know what EME is, it stands for ‘electromagnetic energy’. It occurs naturally in our everyday lives – the Sun and the Earth itself, for example, both emit EME. The electromagnetic spectrum enables technologies like radio communications, Wi-Fi and television. The vast majority of EME is low level and all consumer devices are tested for compliance, with safety limits set in Australia by an independent body called ARPANSA.

We wanted to answer two main questions doing with this testing: how hard can you push the data speeds on our 5G network, and what sort of EME levels are created by doing this?

Our 5G ‘smart apartment’ on the Gold Coast

To answer these questions, we set up a 5G and Wi-Fi-connected smart apartment on the Gold Coast with over 50 connected devices, then invited a family with teenagers and their friends to stay over a long weekend to access high-speed unlimited internet and data over 5G.

The teenagers thought Christmas had come early and eagerly took up the challenge to use as many devices as possible over the weekend – when their friends arrived for a Saturday dinner party the next big challenge was to ‘max out the network’ playing games, streaming in 4K and downloading big files, all at the same time. (Something the eldest boy was very excited to put to the test!)

Overall, the EME levels from 5G, 4G and Wi-Fi in a smart apartment with over 50 connected devices were all very low, even under high utilisation when being ‘maxed out’ – the EME results measured were more than 10,000 times below the public safety limits. As a point of comparison, we measured higher EME levels from the local FM and TV broadcasts, and also from a baby monitor in the bedroom.

(TV & FM = 9000 times below the public safety limit, baby monitor = 123 times below the public safety limit)

How we set up the apartment

The apartment had 2 bedrooms, a large living and kitchen area, home office workstation, dedicated media & theatre room, and balconies at the front and rear – not a bad place to spend a long weekend!

When we say we decked the place out with connected devices, we really meant it. This included smart TVs, smart speakers, 5G mobile phones, three HTC 5G Wi-Fi routers to connect all the Wi-Fi devices, gaming consoles, Google Home Mini smart speakers, Google Nest smart cameras, a smart doorbell, baby monitor, smart scales in the kitchen, smart lights, smart plugs, and a workstation with laptops, printer, wireless headsets, and a video camera… There was a lot.

In total we safely configured 58 devices to operate in the apartment over 5G, 4G, and Wi-Fi.

Telstra 5G Smart home Layour

How did the network handle all of this?

The 5G network delivered great performance for all the connected devices, with a typical speed ranging from 300-500 Mbps. This meant gaming, streaming movies, sharing updates and connecting with friends on social media all at the same time happened without breaking a sweat – really pushing the teenagers to try and find enough to do to max it out!

The home office also performed very well for the kids to catch up on school assignments and for the parents to work on the Monday. (That was the trade-off for a long weekend on the Gold Coast!)

HTC Telstra 5G modem

What about that EME?

To measure the EME levels in the apartment we set up 2 fixed EME monitoring stations, one in the living and kitchen area, and the other in the media room. Most of the activity occurred in the living and kitchen area. The monitoring devices we used continuously recorded the EME levels and we even used a third portable EME monitoring device to measure the EME on the balconies and other locations in the apartment.

Outside of the apartment we measured the EME from the individual devices in a laboratory to determine what the level from each device was at a close distance.

What about the EME results from these devices?

Overall, the background EME levels from the mobile and Wi-Fi connections were very low.

The highest EME levels measured inside the apartment were in the living and kitchen area during the dinner party when everyone was trying their best to max the network out, where we recorded a total of just 0.008% of the EME safety limit.

This is more than 10,000 times below the public EME safety limit and included all the 5G, 4G, and 5G powered Wi-Fi signals combined.

For perspective, the background EME levels measured from the local TV and FM radio stations on the balcony was 0.011% – which is slightly higher than the EME from all the 5G, 4G and Wi-Fi inside the apartment during the period when it was maxed out.

When testing all devices in the apartment individually, the average EME level from the baby monitor in the bedroom was 0.813% – this result comes from the standard test for a device of its kind, measured 20cm from the device.

Did they manage to max it out?

They sure did! They really needed to put their thinking caps on to find enough to stream and download, but they got there.

During the Saturday afternoon, our lucky teenagers gaming, using mobiles and laptops and watching movies managed to record similar 5G EME levels to a synthetic network test that we had previously performed, where we loaded the 5G network to near maximum capacity.

The results measured inside the living room showed the 5G EME levels were very similar. Nice work!

  • Teenagers maxing out the network: 5G EME = 0.00149%
  • 5G network loaded to near-maximum capacity: 5G EME = 0.00143%

What do our test results mean for families and homes with many connected devices?

Our EME testing demonstrates that even under very high utilization – with over 50 connected devices using 5G, 4G and Wi-Fi – the EME levels are very low and well below the EME safety limits. This should provide reassurance to families, particularly when everyone is at home working, schooling, entertaining and connecting online.

Now for the nerdy stuff

The chart below shows the variation in EME levels on the Saturday during the dinner party and on the Sunday during more normal family usage.

The green plot below is Wi-Fi and the blue plot is 5G, and you can see that EME levels are more than 10,000 times below the public safety limits.

5G EME Levels Telstra Smart Home

How the EME test devices work

The EME testing was conducted using Narda SRM3006 frequency selective spectrum analyzers.

Each spectrum analyser was set up to continuously ‘sweep’ and record the EME levels over the 700MHz – 3600MHz bands, then record the 1-minute average EME level. Each 1-minute average reading consisted of approximately 40 sweeps.

The 1-minute average EME readings can then be post-processed to give a six-minute average EME level – this is the procedure as required by the current Australian EME safety standard set by ARPANSA.

EME Testing Telstra 5G Smart Home

The connected devices were separately tested in our laboratory to measure the EME levels close to the device. The recommended distance for testing these types of devices that are not intended to be used against the head or body (like a mobile phone) is 20cm, as specified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

We connected each device and measured the peak and average EME levels at 20cm from the device. The highest average EME level recorded was from the baby monitor (0.813%) and the lowest EME level recorded was the smart power board (0.00008%).

You can check out our full testing report to find out more about this exercise.

And if you’re interested in more of the behind the scenes on how we did it, we have it all here for you to check out.

Unveiling our first 5G device, after a year of network evolution
5G |

The answers to your biggest 5G questions

By Luke Hopewell October 22, 2020

You’ve heard a lot about 5G, but not all 5G is created equally – and not everything you’ve heard is accurate. Here are your biggest questions about 5G, definitively answered.

We’ve always been about giving customers the best network in more places. All our competitors have a long way to go before they can compete for the title of Australia’s best 5G.

What is 5G?

5G represents the next-generation of mobile connectivity, bringing higher data speeds, greater bandwidth, and lower latency. 5G stands for fifth generation, and it’s about getting you the speed you need, while powering the future of connected technology. From self-driving cars to rescue drones and everything in between, 5G is made for what’s next.

Why do I want 5G?

2G brought us SMS and picture messaging. 3G was all about mobile internet. 4G made streaming and sharing part of everyday life.

With 5G, downloads are faster thanks to better network speeds. It’s a future where devices are interconnected, and immersive experiences are the norm.

Right now, 5G on Telstra powers wireless broadband devices and smartphones.

The difference between 4G and 5G is that it’s twice as fast – and getting faster. 5G is designed for more devices at once and built to get data traffic from one place to another (known as latency) quickly. While 4G supported an explosion of video and data, 5G is purpose-built for our mobile-driven world.

How fast is Telstra 5G?

You may have seen other 5G networks, but what you don’t know is that not all 5G is built equally. It’s a complex system of towers, technology, geography and spectrum.

When you stack up all the 5G in Australia, ours comes out as the fastest and most available. We even decided to go and check it out for ourselves in side-by-side comparison tests*. And we filmed it.

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Same device. Same location. Can you spot the difference? 🤔

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Armed with two Samsung Galaxy S20 5G devices, we put a Telstra 5G SIM card in one and the other telco’s 5G SIM card in the other and took both devices to six different locations around Sydney NSW to test them side-by-side:

To make it fair, we made sure each and every test was within both telcos’ 5G footprint so we chose locations with five bars of 5G coverage on both networks.

In each and every test we carried out on the day Telstra 5G came out faster and, on average, Telstra 5G was around 50% faster than the other telco’s 5G network in the tests we did.

Where can I get 5G?

Telstra has more than 2000 5G sites in more than 60 cities and towns and 1400 suburbs with access to 5G – that’s more streets, more houses and more places covered by Telstra 5G. We’re fastest everywhere tested by independent studies – and that’s real speed, right now, not some point in the future.

Even the experts agree: Telstra has Australia’s best 5G. According to the results from experts, Telstra 5G has the highest average download speeds, and our 5G coverage was more widely available in all of the eight cities tested.

The average download speeds on our network show we’re well ahead of our competition.

On average across the eight cities tested, our 5G achieved average download speeds above 220 Mbps, which is an excellent result. These results mean that we have the highest average download speeds in each of the tested cities when measured against our closest competitor.

These results tell a much deeper story than a simple speed test does, demonstrating that our 5G is not only faster (on average), but is available in more places in the cities tested.

Is 5G dangerous?

We’re used to hearing these sorts of questions.

If you see a 5G antenna pop up near you, there’s no need to be afraid. Despite what some might say, you don’t have to worry about 5G. And we should know: we’ve been testing it for some time.

The safety of 5G is an important question, and in January 2020 Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy issued the following statement to reassure Australians:

I’d like to reassure the community that 5G technology is safe. There is no evidence telecommunication technologies, such as 5G, cause adverse health impacts. This position is supported by health authorities in Australia – such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) – and around the world, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

‏‎At Telstra we have done extensive testing on our 5G network with specialised equipment and the EME levels measured were found to be well below the safety limits, and in many cases over a thousand times lower.

Read more about the facts on 5G EME and our testing to ensure we comply with the safety limits.

Do I need a 5G phone?

To access Telstra 5G, you do need a device capable of accessing the 5G network. But 5G support needn’t be a hassle.

We have a wide range of 5G devices, including the latest flagships from Google, Apple, Samsung and more.

We’re always adding devices to our 5G-capable line-up, so make sure you check out Telstra.com for the latest.

How much is 5G?

5G is included at no extra cost on most of our new personal and small business plans. These plans also include no excess data charges in Australia, no lock-in contracts and give you unlimited standard national calls and SMS.

In fact, it’s cheaper than ever to get 5G with Telstra. New and current customers who sign-up to our XL plan until 16th November 2020 will receive a $50 discount per month for 12 months. This plan includes access to our 5G. That means customers will receive 180GB of data on Australia’s best 5G for $65 per month for 12 months.

Head to Telstra.com to find out more about our plans and offers to try 5G for yourself.

What you need to know

  • Testing was carried out on Thursday 24 September 2020.
  • Mobile speeds can vary and may be slower than those shown and you need a 5G handset and coverage to get similar speeds.
  • You can check coverage on Telstra.com/5G.
  • Difference is % faster that Telstra is over its competitor.
  • Telstra’s #1 ranking is based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data over the period from July to September 2020 for average 5G download speeds in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

5G |

Get the facts on 5G from our 5G Chief Investigator

By Luke Hopewell October 12, 2020

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about 5G. Like… a LOT. We decided it was time to get to the bottom of the conspiracy theories to find the facts about 5G – so Mark Humphries, our 5G Chief Investigator, is on the case. Here are his findings.

Our 5G Chief Investigator is on the case to debunk 5G mysteries. To get the facts and share them with your friends, family and other crazy acquaintances on Facebook, check out our Fact Sheet on EME, and our Fact Sheet on Telstra 5G.

Meet our 5G Chief Investigator

Has 5G been tested?

Our 5G Chief Investigator talks to an electro-magnetic energy (EME) expert about whether 5G “radiation” is harmful to humans. Spoiler: it’s not.

Does 5G spread COVID-19?

Your crazy uncle on Facebook might think so, but no: 5G radio waves do not spread infections droplets.

Does 5G harm the environment?

Conspiracies about that 5G is killing plant life and even birds. The number one killer of plants and birds, however, so is leaving them alone with your housemate when you go on holiday.

Does 5G affect your DNA?

Don’t worry, your DNA is safe from 5G.

Can a USB device “protect” you from 5G?

First things first, you don’t need “protecting” from 5G, second, obviously no. It’s clearly a scam!