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Why you’ll still need to offer free wifi in the era of 5G

5G is the next evolution in mobile network technology. 

As with 4G before it, 5G is focused on mobile data.  5G will offer faster speeds with the capability of download speeds as fast as 20Gbps.

The vast improvement will be in mobile video streaming which, given its massive growth, will keep many people happy.  Realistically, individual users should see a minimum of 100Mbps download depending on the network and number of devices on the network at any particular time.

With the faster 5G speeds you can burn through your data quicker with the ability to stream at up to 8K resolution. You will be doing more on your phone, therefore requiring a larger plan (possibly more expensive).

5G will succeed 4G, but it will not replace it. 4G and 5G networks will exist simultaneously, and Australian telcos intend to keep 3G networks around until at least 2020.

5G phone plans don’t appear to have any significant price increases (at this stage) and will be part of your current plan when 5G goes live. In fact, plans may become cheaper. 

Some telcos will offer unlimited monthly data on mobile plans and a promise of speeds of 50Mbps at a minimum. There is talk of these plans becoming more of an NBN alternative to users than a wifi alternative. 

To get the benefit of 5G services you will need to purchase new 5G phones.

It appears that major capital cities and some regional areas may have access throughout 2019 but that doesn’t mean you will immediately have access to 5G.

There is a lot of work involved in rolling out new technologies with new transmission equipment required and it will probably be limited to places such as city centres and large metro areas. It will take a few years to rollout 5G networks and that may not be to everywhere. 

So why do you still need to offer wifi to your guests at your complex if this super-fast new technology will be available to everyone?  

As the frequency used for 5G signal is higher, which means signal range shortens from kilometres to hundreds of metres, transmission towers will need to be closer together to get sufficient external coverage.  To get sufficient coverage, towers may need to be as close as 500 metres apart depending on the density of buildings in the area. The higher frequencies used in 5G applications have difficulty penetrating solid objects such as buildings, walls and windows.   5G will be more dependent on line of sight between the transmission towers and your device than 4G. 5G signal is more easily blocked by obstacles.

Without transmission towers close together the signal penetration into buildings will be poor, often requiring receivers on the outside of buildings cabled to access points inside the buildings and on every floor or every unit, particularly if your doors and walls are fire rated.

As an example, if I want to replace my NBN connection at home with a 5G connection, to ensure that I get the speed and signal to penetrate inside my house I may have to pay for extra receivers and access points on top of my monthly 5G plan; similarly to how you distribute your wifi around larger houses and complexes now.

There are many areas around Australia that are not going to allow these transmission towers on the tops of buildings every 500 metres. There may need to be small 5G transmitter cells on nearly every lamp post.

What about 4G? Telcos are still developing 4G and in 2017 Telstra revealed it planned to support 1 gigabit per second downloads over its 4G network.  It appears there will be a lot of new features coming for 4G. Its future is promising right into the mid 2020s and it will still be the backbone of most networks. 

In summary, 5G could be an NBN alternative but is unlikely to replace other broadband plans and options. It will offer faster speeds for mobile phones, tablets and other devices such as Internet of Things (IOT) devices.

Although it may offer faster speeds than NBN, the coverage will be limited in comparison due to network infrastructure required.

4G will still be available until at least the mid 2020s.

Wifi to guests is as important as ever. 5G could be an NBN alternative for your internet connection to your complex; however, you still need the wifi equipment inside the complex and a management system to offer secure, unlimited data with the best signal coverage and fastest speeds available to your guests. 

Wifi isn’t going anywhere.  These technologies can and will all work together.

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Judy Senn

Director Judy Senn launched Time Out Internet in September 2011. She has over twenty years of IT reseller, hardware and software distribution, sales and business development experience.

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