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2020 is the year for 5G data in Australia with both Optus and Telstra announcing that they’re actively deploying 5G sites across the country.

Optus has announced that they have over 300 sites now live across Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and other key locations in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. You can view the Optus coverage maps here.

Other exciting news released by Optus includes a first by telecommunications operators worldwide, the first successful end-to-end 5G data call over its 2300MHz spectrum.

Optus completed the test call in Sydney, working together with technology partner Ericsson. Optus’ unique ownership of both 2300MHz and 3500MHz spectrum means that it will be able to build a true dual-band 5G network which will ultimately provide customers with even more capacity and more coverage on 5G than a single band 3500MHz today.

“There is strong industry interest in the use of the 2300MHz band for 5G and as the only telecommunications operator in Australia to currently have access to this band in metro capital cities, it’s great to be leading the way with testing and trialling this for future deployment,” said Dennis Wong, Optus Managing Director Networks.

“With its lower frequency, the 2300MHz spectrum band will, in the future, ultimately offer our customers even greater speeds as well as providing greater coverage depth enabling even more customers to benefit from 5G services.”

“We are actively pushing forward with our robust deployment plan utilising the 3500MHz spectrum band and have more than 300 sites now live. At this stage we are working towards deploying our 2300MHz spectrum sometime during 2020 which together with our existing 3500MHz spectrum will offer our customers a world-leading 5G experience both in the home and on the go,” added Mr Wong.

What is currently called 5G in Australia, can be described as being more like“4.5G”. Initially, it will operate on lower bands and is actually referring to Sub-6 GHz and advanced LTE rather than via mmWave which is currently receiving international publicity. mmWave is where we will see the real benefits of what 5G can offer. Read more about the things you should know about 5G here.

What does this mean for CEL-FI users?

Nextivity, who make 3G and 4G CEL-FI products, advise that they are in the development stage of a 5G version of CEL-FI but that it may be several years before it is available in Australia as it will be that long until we see the widespread rollout of 5G.

Are 3G and 4G still relevant?

The carriers have not provided us with any specifics about 3G shutdown but previously they gave several years notice at the shutdown of 2G, so we should receive significant notification about a 3G shutdown. Instead of finishing with the 3G network completely, operators appear to be scaling back the capacity of 3G and may split up the band to provide 3G and 4G on a band traditionally used for 3G. The fact you can still buy a 3G phone on the Telstra website suggests 3G is not going away in the immediate future.

4G still has plenty of capability and development to come with boundaries currently being pushed and technology still being rolled out and developed.  Some of the areas where we will see great changes in the next few years include Voice over WiFi, Video over LTE, LTE Broadcast, 2 GB connectivity (just released), CAT-M1, and massive MIMO development.

Original article published by Optus Australia, 10 December 2019.

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