5G vs NBN: Which is the Better Choice?

  • Is 5G Comparble To The NBN?
  • How Fast Is 5G?
  • Is 5G Cheaper Than The NBN?

NBN has not even completed its rollout yet but a worthy competitor has already arrived — the 5G network. Fast becoming accessible to customers, thanks to the country’s leading service providers Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, 5G is shaping up to be another viable option in Australia’s growing internet landscape.

But what exactly is the 5G mobile network and how does it compare to the NBN?

What is 5G?

5G is the latest development in the mobile network industry similar to how 4G started in the past. It’s mainly focused on providing mobile data services to customers and banks on three huge promises: faster internet speeds, lower latency, and more simultaneous connections.

Here’s a brief definition of the three major improvements that 5G is being advertised to be about:

  • Faster speeds

According to service providers, the 5G mobile network is capable of providing download speeds of up to 20Gbps. While the exact speed numbers still depend on the service provider and the number of devices connected to the network, individual 5G users are declared to enjoy a download speed of 100Mbps at a minimum. You read that right, the fastest NBN speed is only the minimum for 5G.

  • Lower latency

Latency is defined as the time it takes information to be transmitted from a mobile phone towards the wider internet and back. For a 4G network, the standard latency is estimated at 60 milliseconds, while the 5G network puts this at only 1 millisecond.

If this materialises, it’s going to be more efficient for autonomous vehicles and other similar technology because the information is disseminated significantly faster.

  • More simultaneous connections

The current infrastructure in Australia already allows multiple simultaneous connections to a single network using modems. While this is not a problem for customers, 5G networks have the capacity to support more devices to connect at the same time without affecting the internet speed for everyone.

It’s an ideal setup for smart homes, self-driving cars, security systems, and other devices that fall within the Internet of Things category.

Comparing the 5G network and the NBN

So far we’ve only talked about good things about the 5G mobile network. But this doesn’t mean you should immediately jump ship and abandon your plans to upgrade to an NBN network.

We’d like you to weigh all of your options first, so we made a side-by-side comparison of 5G and NBN across five different aspects: speed, cost, reliability, accessibility, and setup process. After all, there is still a limited number of 5G service providers. It’s still best to explore all available options before committing to one.

Speed

When plans to launch the 5G network in Australia were unveiled for the first time, it was already being positioned as the network that provides faster speeds versus NBN.

Optus was the first to lend perspective in this regard when it announced in 2019 that its 5G mobile broadband will offer no less than 50Mbps. The telco then went on to say that its 5G Home Broadband service will provide customers with average download speeds of 100MBps and peak download speeds of 295Mbps.

Judging by this alone, NBN is facing tough competition given that the network’s maximum download speed is 100Mbps.

Cost

Of course, the cost is a huge factor when it comes to choosing an internet plan. If you are considering ditching your NBN broadband plan for a 5G home wireless plan, the good news is that you wouldn’t have to pay more.

Using Optus as an example, a monthly plan with unlimited data and a minimum speed of 50Mbps will set you back by $70. This is cheaper than the $85 you need to pay Optus if you opt for an NBN connection with the same inclusions.

However, this is considering you have no qualms in paying for the same price range. If you are already connected to Optus and Telstra, the cost of a 5G wireless plan may not be an issue. But if you are currently subscribed to a telco that offers more affordable rates than these networks, you might want to wait a bit longer in case they plan to venture into the 5G market as well.

Reliability

As much as we’d like to give you concrete answers on reliability, it still depends on the network you are connected to. 

If you have an NBN connection, your concerns would be mainly about congestion, your modem, and the type of connection you have. Whereas the reliability of a 5G connection depends on congestion as well as signal strength.

But considering that the internet service providers offering 5G networks deals now are the leading companies in Australia such as Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, it’s a good indicator of how reliable the connection would be, especially if these networks are widely used in your area. Otherwise, you might want to just stick with NBN or your current plan.

Accessibility

In this regard, NBN wins by a mile. Having begun its nationwide rollout 2010, NBN is now available to millions of subscribers all over Australia. It has laid out miles and miles of fibre optic cables and set up radio towers and satellite dishes in rural areas to make internet connection accessible to as many people as possible.

This isn’t to say, though, that 5G will not be able to do the same. It’s just that the technology is not yet widely accessible at present.

Setup Process

In terms of setup, the 5G technology once again has an advantage over NBN since it’s focused on providing a mobile broadband connection. You will likely need to purchase a wireless modem that you can plug into a power outlet so you can connect to the network.

This is different from NBN’s fixed-line connection that requires the installation of physical lines that connect your premises to a nearby fibre node or a wireless device that transmits data from a radio tower or satellite.

While you can get started with your 5G connection as soon as you plug in your modem, it could take days or weeks for an NBN connection to be fully completed.

Can 5G replace the NBN?

If you look at the comparison above, it appears that 5G is the better choice between the two networks. While it can’t be denied that 5G technology does offer a lot of improvements on the current plan inclusions offered by various service providers with the NBN, it’s still likely not going to eradicate the NBN altogether.

You have to keep in mind that although 5G promises internet speeds of up to 259Mbps or even gigabit speeds in the future, realising these numbers is still a tall order for companies. Internet speeds, whether during peak hours or not, will still depend on a variety of factors such as signal strengths and congestion.

And if you’re not going to get the connection speeds you expected, you might be better off sticking with your NBN plan or perhaps getting a more affordable fixed-line connection and adding a 5G wireless plan as a backup.

Whichever plan or technology you end up choosing in the end, it’s worth noting that 5G technology was not developed to replace NBN entirely but to give consumers the luxury of having more options to choose from.