Will 5G Push Fibre Aside?

A touch of reality should be inserted into the most hardened skeptic who thinks anything but fibre is a solution to national networking requirements. Fibre is now capable of 26.2 terabits per second (Tb/s) backbones as demonstrated under sea, continent to continent.

(apologies for the promo link)


For those still thinking wireless is a suitable solution at ‘any G’ keep focus that those towers require fibre for their own backbones. Although apparently rolled out in 2001 our Minister for Communications and NBN Management are still possibly looking at IPoAC for our next generation.


Is that because 5G has short range for high speeds the NBN might as well put in another FTTN node instead of a telco or the NBN build a tower there?

it’s not April 01 again?

If we mention OPGW will this crazy notion self combust?

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A couple of points not mentioned in this article:

  • 5G imposes processing loads that are well beyond any that can be incorporated into base stations. Data that 4G processes in the base station must be transmitted back to the exchange (or some other location) for processing. That demands far more backhaul capacity. Much of Australia is covered by transmitters that use wireless backhaul. Even those that have optical fibre will probably need upgrades.
  • 5G requires far more power. Some multiple of that typical for 4G. I’ve forgotten the multiple, but it was around ten IIRC.

The cherry on the cake:
Telstra advertisement screened during the AFL Grand Final depicts rescuers on foot in a remote area using 5G to find an injured hiker. :roll_eyes:


Whether it’s 3G, 4G, 5G or noG how does any average consumer separate the hype from the reality? Most probably cannot from what I observe with the older ones in our family. That a new phone and service was sold with the latest xG labeling means little if you don’t live close by a tower that must also support the higher speeds. It’s only feel good marketing.

Having had (thanks to my work) access to the two big mobile networks across a variety of regional and inner city environments I don’t expect anything to improve with 5G. I expect 5G will replicate my experience with 4G. That is if you are using a mobile data device or quality mobile in a high density urban area, 4G was less congested and could be fast. Yes you needed to be sitting near the window and hopefully see the tower.

The greatest benefit was likely not to the end user but the telco. Tell-Optus through 4G were able to use the added bandwidth to serve more customers, and reserve 3G for those customers on the same tower that were further away than 4G. It is all about tower capacity. 5G will simply add more capacity to those towers, serving those in range and taking load off some of the 4G.

Home WiFi networks operating in the 5Gig band already achieve connections at the speeds touted for 5G services. The ability of our devices to cope with these speeds is not at risk. The backhaul issue, at least for rural or regional areas where most of the non fibre connected towers are located may not come to be. We will still have 3G on the lower frequency bands to achieve the coverage. The cost of adding 5G cells to serve the two houses near a tower will never be justified.

It’s just marketing hype to me too.


Rural communities, of which I am one, are only allowed wireless NBN, no other choice, and it is useless. All attempts to bypass wireless meet with “only wireless NBN”. Telstra is the provider and they do not want to maintain the copper network, which actually provides ADSL2+ internet without the over subscription, because everyone else is on wireless. Nobody seems to care if you have internet in rural areas.


Some people are trying to push 5G as an option for Australia to recover from the appalling slow investment in the National Broadband Network. This is like the joke about the optimist who fails to open his parachute then cheers up at 100ft saying ‘I can jump from here’. Australia needs to sort out its fibre network as well as investing in 5G.


By the time most of us have realised that 5G’s a bit of a squib for most of Australia, we’ll probably be up to 9G. :laughing:

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One of the frustrations is that your local exchange may have received a fibre upgrade (node). This potentially removes the physical congestion restrictions if staying on ADSL2. Unfortunately ADSL based solutions are being turned off to prioritise the higher speed VDSL technology used by the NBN over copper. This is despite FTTN areas having both operating concurrently for up to 18months during the NBN changeover window.

In our location we too will be loosing our ADSL2+ for FW despite connecting at 14Mbs. Those within approx 1,000m of the town exchange now have FTTN. Others have FTTC. At nearly 2km away by copper we miss out.

We’ve found that for us 3G mobile data works fine at speeds faster than ADSL2 can deliver. We can also connect using 4G but will need an external aerial to get reliable connection at any better speeds from the mobile network. It is a viable option providing we do not stream lots. Noted that when we went from using data over CDMA to 3G/Next G and 4G the data on the faster devices still costs as much as the slower devices. That’s Telstra and Optus, and despite 4G needing much less air connect time for the same data to be transmitted compared with 3G!

Interestingly Telstra originally charged our CDMA data by connect time and not by data consumed. Ten times faster than dial up on a good day it rocked.

5G is just faster 4G and will be no different unless you have enough customers locally for a stand alone competitor to the NBN. They will still need to connect (backhaul) using the NBN. 5G is also range restricted.


5G may be an upgrade over 4G, which was an improvement over 3G etc. Unfortunately for anyone who thinks that 5G will rescue the NBN, the problem is that there are only so many wavelengths to be used. Some areas already encounter congestion on mobile and/or WiFi frequencies, and if every household were to rely upon radio waves for their Internet nothing would work!

“I cannae change the laws of physics, Jim.”

Of course, if we decided that TV and radio were to be relegated to the scrap-heap, then there would be more bandwidth to play with… but still not enough to be as fast as dedicated bundles of light-carrying fibres.

(Note: 4G is faster than my current ADSL2+ Internet speed - but also much more expensive.)


How accurate this is, I don’t know, but it does give some indication of the order of magnitude:

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The nightmare for all those on FW who still rely on FTA TV and those on Satellite who know the truth. Streaming TV and media over the NBN is not a solution.

Of course freeing up that spectrum and using it for expanded wireless data capacity would deliver a solution. Yes, scrap FTA services and replace them with a paid connection over the NBN, or 4G or 5G or Yeterday-G to watch what used to be on FTA. It’s a solution, but to some other problem that is less in the consumers sole interest?

Is there a genuine consumer driven need to do this? Is this promise of new technology hooking us deeper into a data centric addiction for which we will sacrifice all else? And pay to do so?

P.s. If any of the marketing centric Choice members know of the industry terms that describe the effect or method it would satisfy my curiosity?


Here they are:


The Digital Dividend has already achieved some of that. VHF channels 0 through 5A, and UHF channels 52 through 69 are no longer used for TV broadcasting. The UHF spectrum is of more use for wireless data.

I think it is worth noting the issues that Optus had recently with attempts to live stream the soccer. It would have been much more efficient to broadcast to mobile phones with digital TV reception capability - these already exist in some other markets.

A recent test of DVB-T2 broadcasting ( Australia uses the prior DVB-T standard ) in Sydney was mostly successful, and research is ongoing. Australia would need to move to a later TV broadcast standard to allow reception by mobile devices such as smartphones. A later standard would also allow for UHD broadcasts.


A bit off-topic, but I have a sinking feeling that moving from DVT-T to DVB-T2 will have effects like those of the move from analogue to digital. Regional viewers who had had a usable analogue service found that DVB-T didn’t work for them. What are the odds that, in some cases, DVB-T2 won’t work where DVB-T does?

Given adequate cost-free data, the NBN might be a workable substitute for broadcast TV. As planned, that won’t be so.


Thank you. It does look from that chart as if there are vast unexploited areas, but that is not really the case. Not all bandwidth is created equal, and some is totally useless for going through walls while other bandwidth is useless for carrying lots of data.

And given away as much as it gained.

Not off topic at all. You are probably right; current equipment will be ‘obsolescent’ - as we find with so much of the expensive industrial goods we all use. A new ‘standard’ makes old, and otherwise perfectly serviceable equipment/devices/software useless. Of course, if we didn’t have this then GDP might go down :exploding_head:, and governments might have to find a new way to pretend that the country is seeing progress while the average person is going backwards!


I was wondering about that and whether any one has separated the hype from reality in respect of real performance.

Simply put 5G has the potential to put more capacity (more data to a user, or more users accessing data from the same tower) into the existing lower frequency (sub 6GHz) longer range bands such as those typically used for 3G/4G/NBN. This extra speed may be more a marketing point than a game changer. Telstra apears to be more focused on mobile users?

Telstra and Optus have plans to roll out from next year with Telstra having enabled services to the GC and Toowoomba recently (Aug 2018).

There are some very fast and inspiring results for 5G when compared with current mobile wireless speeds. The sub-millimetre frequency bands used for the oft promoted super 5G amazing future are not what Telstra or Optus are using in the current rollout. And it will still have the same risks of contention, signal loss of 4G without the range.

Note in the Telstra news item that Telstra is talking also about adding 1,000 small cells to increase 4G capacity in metro areas. This is one expected response to the limitations @postulative and others have pointed out in achieving coverage.

And for those that know more about how this really all works, hopefully without going down the rabbit hole of Shannon-Hartley without first being anesthetised.


Two quick takes from the SMH reporter.

  1. Telstra CEO Andy Penn suggests that mobile data and wireless broadband over 5G will never match the capacity of fixed broadband due to the massive Capital investment component needed to deliver wireless broadband.

  2. The CEO suggested also that 5G coverage was not ever likely to match the existing 4G footprint. Although there is a contradiction to this when he talks about Telstra having 35km range for current mobile services and a possible long range 200km service that could use 5G.

Something other than wheels might be spinning with the last point?
Noting the NBN is working with Fixed Wireless up to 14km or as little as 5km effective range using 4G technology on similar frequency bands. And a big fat aerial that will not fit in your pocket!


@mark_m Yes the current push to 5G is full of talk about what it can do but the obviously bad aspects are glossed over.

5G is stopped at skin level so it is conceivable that if you have the phone on an ear on the other side to the transmitting tower you could have no or very poor reception.

The range issue is another one and what is being discussed must involve huge power outputs to achieve the distances they want…you wouldn’t want to be too near one that is trying to achieve this as the energy would possibly cause burns if not death at such levels. Or the beam is so tight it would only be used as a transport like Microwave Towers for PtP (point to point) transmission and then line of sight would require towers so high so that 200 km would be possible…the mind boggles.

If the reality is they want to get these outcomes then maybe LiFi will be the next big step:


LiFi is merely optic fibre cables without the cables - and hence without the same ability to control where the light goes or to allow it around corners (the Wikipedia link points out that it can be reflected off walls, but with a massive drop in connection speed. I also see the Wikipedia article states that:

The first smartphones using this technology should arrive in 2015.

I must have missed that.

5G is, I expect, largely gaining speed over 4G based on improved mathematics for how to compress and decompress large amounts of data. That kind of improvement can work to a point, but will likely hit bottlenecks in a few generations (7G? 8G?).

And, as @grahroll points out, to get a strong beam you need lots of power. The obvious follow-up question is how that power and those radio-waves interact with the human body at distance. The same problem exists with light-waves. A choice of visible, ultra-violet, or infra-red radiation throughout the home? Thanks, but getting an even tan is not the most likely result.


I’ve forgotten the details, but 5G does require many times the power that 4G uses. Given that much of Australia’s mobile network in regional areas relies on solar panels and batteries, that’s probably going to be a problem.