Complaints about internet services are at a record high, but now one telco has a plan to solve one of the most common annoyances.
Complaints about internet services are at a record high, but now one telco has a plan to solve one of the most common annoyances.

The home broadband plan faster than NBN

Australia's second largest telco thinks it's come up with a fix for one of the most frustrating things about connecting to the internet, but the company insists it isn't trying to take customers away from the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Optus officially launched its "market leading" 5G service last month, with a network offering on-the-go mobile connections as well as a home broadband solution.

It will be the second telco to switch on its 5G future after Telstra began offering coverage in select areas earlier this year.

But while Telstra may have beaten them in the race to launch some form of 5G network coverage, Optus appears to have taken things a step further by offering 5G coverage for home broadband as well as mobiles.

The new plan, currently only available to a small number of households but which Optus said would expand rapidly as it planned to have four times the amount of 5G sites online by March of next year, is available with unlimited data for $70 a month, the same price Optus' unlimited NBN plan charges.

But if it lives up to expectation, Optus' new 5G offering will likely be faster than the NBN and considerably easier to connect to.

Optus CEO Allen Lew said the company was ‘all in’ on 5G
Optus CEO Allen Lew said the company was ‘all in’ on 5G

Optus is launching its 5G home offering with a minimum 50mbps speed guarantee, matching the maximum theoretical speed of the most popular NBN bundle, which connections often fail to meet in the real world.

The company will also include a specifically designed modem that offers a "plug-and-play" network connection, eliminating the long and vague wait times for technicians to make (occasionally multiple) visits to your home in order to set up a new connection.

This modem is included free of charge on a 24-month contract, and there are also month-to-month plans available with a $200 start-up fee in the first month.

In contrast, Telstra offers a mobile broadband 5G bundle rather than a home broadband one. It costs up to $75 a month for only 100GB of data, and customers have to pay almost $1000 extra for the 5G hub it uses to connect.

While similar plans are available using the 4G network, the new plan is faster and doesn't come with restrictive data caps.

Optus currently has around 300 5G sites but plans to have 1200 by March of next year.

Currently, only 138,000 households are within range of areas covered by Optus 5G, but it plans to expand the network across select suburbs in the capital cities (excluding Hobart and Darwin) as well as six regional areas.

Geelong and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast region in NSW, and the Moreton Bay regional council area near Brisbane are first on the list for the regions.

While Optus hasn't supplied a full list of serviceable areas, customers can check their address on the Optus website.

A specially designed modem gives access to Optus 5G in your home without lengthy waits for connection.
A specially designed modem gives access to Optus 5G in your home without lengthy waits for connection.

Assuming it delivers on its promise, Optus' new offering will be able to solve some of the major problems people have with the NBN, which Optus CEO Allen Lew said had left many disappointed.

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"I think the reality today in Australia is that there are a large number of homes that want faster broadband despite the National Broadband Network," Mr Lew said.

"Our trial over the last 10 months with 200 customers, not just in the capital cities, but on the Central Coast, have indicated that the average peak time speed they're getting is close to 150mbps," he added.

Although the Optus chief said many customers were looking for a faster alternative to the NBN, the company insists it's not looking to compete with the taxpayer-funded network as it finally nears completion.

"The 5G home service will be a complement to the NBN, so if you're on some of those technologies which are capped out in terms of capability, you may look at 5G as delivering greater capability, particularly those areas where there's more limited technology," Optus vice-president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan told news.com.au.

Optus managing director of networks Dennis Wong said much the same.

"We do not see 5G as a competitor to NBN, I think it is complementary. I think it serves a different segment of customer. Different customers need different products. For us, if you look at the spectrum we have, it's mostly in the capital cities as well as some of the suburbs and smaller regional towns, it's not nationwide," he said.

Optus plans to have 1200 5G sites like this one around Australia by March.
Optus plans to have 1200 5G sites like this one around Australia by March.

The NBN was originally conceived to bridge the digital divide between regional and metropolitan areas, but given it will likely take several more years after widespread availability in the capital cities to bring 5G coverage to more regional areas, that divide is threatening to return in some form.

Mr Sheridan said Optus had approached the company in charge of delivering the NBN to offer assistance.

"We've been open to NBN. Earlier this year we said come and talk to us and we can maybe look at partnership arrangements around helping you with some of those technologies … working with them to look at how we can cost-effectively upgrade their technology maybe using a 5G home wireless solution," Mr Sheridan said, but it appears no such partnership has been finalised at this stage.

"It's very new technology, so there's obviously a lot of discussions that would need to be had around that, but I think the NBN are probably very open-minded about the future. We've both got a shared interest in ensuring we have the best broadband available in Australia, whether through a wired or wireless connection."

Earlier this year, Mr Lew told the telco industry-focused CommsDay Summit Optus was willing to partner with the Government and NBN Co to upgrade the NBN with fixed wireless 5G options in the future, potentially by leasing capacity on its network, similar to how Telstra currently leases its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network.

He said doing so would be a "win win" for NBN Co and customers.

A NBN Co spokesperson said the company "welcomes innovation" from telcos but wasn't worried about a 5G incursion making the network second tier.

"We have long stated we believe the NBN access network and 5G will be complementary technologies in the future. It's important to remember around 97 per cent of data in Australia is carried over fixed line networks … we expect fixed broadband data growth to more than double in the next four years," they said.

The NBN is scheduled to be completed by the end of June next year.

Would you consider a 5G wireless connection over fixed line NBN? Let us know in the comments below.