Thursday, 09 July 2020 15:43

Optus 5G home Internet is an NBN killer

The Nokia modem. The Nokia modem. Supplied

For a while now, there have been mutterings here and there that the NBN Co's vain attempts to raise its average revenue per user — which has the fancy acronym ARPU — will face a real challenge once 5G gets a foothold in the community and retail service providers decide to use it to challenge the government monopoly.

That day seems to have arrived. I've just been playing around with one of the very real challengers, one that would definitely give the good folk at NBN Co some sleepless nights. Singtel Optus has started selling a service it calls Optus 5G home Internet – and, believe me, it is a real NBN killer. I can judge because in a few months' time I would have been on the NBN for three painful years.

Optus' solution to the bandwidth problem — which the NBN has illustrated in black and white — is simplicity itself. A 5G Nokia modem, in pristine white and looking every bit Scandinavian, is the only thing that's needed, along with a connector, of course. (This is what is meant by plug-and-play – though with Microsoft, which invented the term, it was always plug and pray.)

optus killer

There are a number of LAN ports, one WAN port, a USB port, and a USB-C port at the bottom of the modem. The details one needs to connect are also there.

All one has to do is sign up, wait for the modem to arrive in the mail, and then plug it in. It comes all fitted out and ready to go. Oh, and by the way you need to be in an area that is covered by the Optus 5G network. (but then you knew that, right?)

That network now covers a wide band of Melbourne; the coverage in the suburb I live in, Doncaster, is not complete so I drove down to my son's house six kms away, and found a good, strong signal. It was where I learnt of the service as Optus had distributed flyers in that suburb, Bellfield.

optus 5g modem

When the modem is switched on, a number of spots of light appear on the top and gradually they settle down and the central one turns to green once it has connected to the 5G network.

After that, one can fiddle around a bit to try and improve whatever bandwidth one gets. The old rule of line of sight applies and you could find out where your nearest mobile tower is and align the modem with it; this website will tell you. Else, you could place the modem a bit higher than the floor – which is where I first placed it.

The speeds are very impressive. I got a top download speed of something over 400Mpbs. There were consistent 300Mbps+ speeds. Upload speeds were in the 20s, but on some days it went up to 40+. The speeds plus the cost — $70 per month — make it a very attractive proposition for anyone who wants a decent connection to the Internet.

modem bottom

And remember, this is an early implementation of 5G. When the networks meet the final specifications of the 3GPP, then gigabit speeds will be more common than toilet paper in the supermarkets (and that's a bad COVID-19 joke).

To contrast the cost of an NBN connection, I pay $99 a month for a 100Mbps connection – which can vary between 2Mbps and 94Mbps. My commitment is also two years. Apples for apples.

One must bear in mind that even a few drops of rain falling in the way of a 5G signal can interfere with the bandwidth. Conversely, if one were to stand just under the tower, then the speeds would easily hit the gigabit level.

Optus 5G home Internet costs $70 per month, offers unlimited data and has to be subscribed to for a minimum of two years. A month-to-month option is also available, but the user will have to pay an additional $200.

Added based on a reader's suggestion: Optus guarantees a minimum download speed of 50Mbps.

Product dimensions
236 mm x 140 mm

Cellular Connectivity
3GPP 5G NR NSA Dual Connectivity [EN-DC]
5G band n78 [TD 3500 MHz]
LTE bands: B1, B3, B7, B28, B40

Home Connectivity
Wi-Fi [802.11b/g/n, 802.11ac]
3x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
1x Ethernet WAN port

optus killer2

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.





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