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Australia’s Optus dials into 5G

Australia’s second largest telco Optus makes the country’s first 5G data call, paving the way for a fixed wireless service by the first half of 2019

Australia’s second biggest telco Optus has made the country’s first 5G call, taking it one step closer to the launch of its commercial 5G service later this year.

The data call was made from an Optus 5G site in Dickson, Canberra, using a commercial-grade 5G radio network and customer premises equipment (CPE) developed with Nokia.

“We are on the cusp of delivering this next generation technology into the hands of our customers and hitting this milestone is an important step towards our commercial 5G launch planned for the first half of this year,” said Dennis Wong, managing director of networks at Optus.

The call was made on the 60MHz band in the 3.5GHz spectrum using a standard commercial chipset, based on the September 2018 version of the 3GPP Release 15 specification. This will enable the use of multiple devices, as well ultra high-definition video streaming applications, Optus said.

Early 5G deployments, however, are likely to focus on delivering fixed wireless access services – rather than mobile connectivity via smartphones – to homes and businesses equipped with wireless routers that directly connect to 5G networks.

Optus said it will begin to switch on its 5G network across a number of Australian cities later this year, and that its CPE will facilitate a 5G fixed wireless access experience for consumers.

“For Optus, 5G is a fundamental part of building a smart network that keeps our customers connected. It’s important that customers experience the benefit of this next generation network from the outset,” it said.

“Our fixed wireless access product, combined with our ambitious roll out plan, means customers will be able to experience 5G soon.”

Optus’ multi-year 5G network build plan includes upgrading and adding new mobile sites while densifying the network with small cell deployments to increase capacity and speed in highly populated inner-city locations.

In Australia, 5G – which can theoretically deliver access speeds of up to 10Gbps with network latency as low as 10ms – is expected to fuel demand for internet of things (IoT) applications and context-aware services.

However, services delivered over 5G networks will not necessarily require every key characteristic associated with 5G networks, the Australian Communications and Media Authority noted.

“For example, there will be services that require ultra-low latency with limited mobility needs, such as remote surgery, while other services such as M2M [machine-to-machine] may require high mobility but are not latency sensitive.

“It may not be technologically possible to deliver all 5G characteristics for the same service at the same time (utilising practical bandwidth resources). This suggests that 5G networks may instead deliver a suite of characteristics of which a subset will be required for a specific situation or service, rather than a blanket set of service guarantees,” it said.

Besides Optus, other Australian telcos including Telstra have also started 5G trials. At its 5G innovation centre in the Gold Coast, for example, Telstra is testing download and upload speeds – up to 3Gbps and 300Mbps respectively – over millimetre wave spectrum.

Read more about 5G in APAC

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