5g vs NBN

There is a lot of talk at the moment about 5g mobile internet. What does this mean for the NBN?

When comparing the two, lots of people think about speed. 5g is being touted as providing speeds of up to 20Gbps (although in reality it will probably be a lot lower than this). Still, when compared NBNs current top speed of 100Mbps, its easy to get caught in the “5g is going to be so fast hype”. But today I would like to step away from that and discuss other considerations in the 5g vs NBN debate.

There is no denying, speed is king. But speed is affected by a few factors for example -“Contention”; that is, how many people are you sharing the service with at a particular time?

Fixed networks like NBN can have their contention fixed so you can find out how many houses in your area are sharing certain parts of infrastructure. This is built in to the price and speed expectations. Mobile networks are different. At its most basic, consider our 5g 20Gbps. What happens when you are at the MCG with 50 thousand, 60 thousand, 70 thousand other people? Sure 5g will be better than 4g in this instance but the real point is, the speed you get in real life will depend on many factors including environmental.  

Speed isn’t the only thing to consider when thinking about how good a connection is. Depending on what you are doing online, Latency is also important.  Latency (also referred to as ping) is the time it takes between a request being sent and a response being received back. It is measured in Milliseconds. And while Milliseconds may seem insignificant, they can make a big difference (and not just to gamers!).

For instance, a high ping can cause choppy or disrupted HD Movie playback. On a good day ADSL type internet and 4g latency is normally between 30-50ms. NBN ping can be between 1-10ms. 5g is being quoted at 1-2ms – but we will have to wait and see for real world results. Based on this, 5g would seem to have an advantage when it comes to response times.

Another consideration is cost of data. This is perhaps the most important aspect of the comparison. And while we do not have any concrete price listings on 5g internet, we can compare current 4g offerings, its not a bad assumption that the prices are not going to be cheaper. They will be at least the same if not more expensive.

Lets cut to the chase. NBN has a clear advantage here. You can get Unlimited data on NBN plans starting at $65 per month.  Compare this to 4g internet which ranges from $20 for 5gig to $40 for 30gig (30gig represents about 10 hours of HD Netflix content – or 2.5 hours of UHD content). We have to assume 5g prices and limits are going to be comparable.

Then there is timing. If things go to plan, the NBN rollout will be finished in 2021. We wont see any real 5g availability until 2020 – and then it will only be in Metropolitan areas. And, if you think the NBN has been expensive to roll out, the estimated cost to cover Australia with 5g is around $300billion!

Bottom line is, NBN and 5g can and will exist in harmony, just as NBN and 4g does. It is not reasonable to expect 5g to fix all your data needs – but at the same time, we will need it.

Additional: Don’t let the hype fool you in to thinking these connections are acceptable for your business! NBN and Wireless internet are great, don’t get us wrong. But it’s important to remember that speed and data limits are not the most important things in this case. Business grade internet exists to keep your business going at all times. Lower Contention and most importantly Service Level Agreements (i.e. guaranteed uptime / no disruption of service) are paramount. This is why your business pays a premium. If something goes wrong, your provider is contractually obligated to get you back up and running within specified time frames. The provider also spends more time and money on infrastructure to ensure they meet uptime obligations. NBN and Mobile internet have no SLA’s.. if something goes wrong, you can be offline for days at a time – if not longer.