Will 5G replace NBN?

It’s a question I get asked often and the simple answer is….. yes and no.


I say this because it is dependent on your own situation and environment at home. I.e.

  • Is your suburb serviceable with Fixed Line NBN?
  • If you cant get Fixed Line NBN and want / need to get a 5G Modem, what is the coverage like within your home footprint?
  • How far away are you from the 5G Mobile Tower?

Australians might soon find out who was right about the internet: Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull.

A decade ago, when Mr Rudd was prime minister and building the new National Broadband Network, Mr Turnbull, as opposition spokesman for communications, predicted that the NBN would become an endangered species because of the eventual arrival of wireless 5G internet.

The big-three telcos have now rolled out their 5G networks to as many as three-quarters of their customers.

Fast-forward to 2021 and 5G internet access is now a reality.

The big-three telcos have rolled out their 5G networks to as many as three-quarters of their customers and are also now selling competitive 5G internet plans, too.

Vodafone even came out recently with a 5G plan with a heavy discount to prise people away from the NBN, which it says is less profitable for them.

These new 5G plans compare favourably on price and speed to the NBN. However, they remain unpredictable on what speeds they can achieve in individual homes, so providers are offering free one-month trials.

So, what are the pros and cons of 5G wireless versus NBN for accessing the internet?

The technology promises speeds multiple times faster than most Aussie homes can achieve with a fixed-line NBN service, based on the way that the NBN has been built.

However, and more importantly, is that the performance of 5G home internet depends greatly on the coverage you get inside your house and how far you are from the Mobile tower.

This is why it is critical to “try before you buy” and bring a modem home to trial for a month. 

To get around that problem, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all offering the first month free and no lock-in contract, so households can cancel within a month at no cost.

Comparing 5G to NBN can be a bit like weighing up apples and oranges because the speeds are measured differently.

NBN plans must advertise “typical evening speeds” but wireless is different.

Telstra advertises 5G speeds of 50-600Mbps with an average of 378Mbps, Optus advertises an “average of 210Mbps during peak periods”, and Vodafone just advertises “max 5G speeds” and says it is “capable of delivering download speeds over 400Mbps”.

In reality, if we all switched to 5G tomorrow the Mobile network would not cope as it has has not been designed or optimised to carry that capacity

So, there will be a mix of technologies for now but my strong advice for those of you fortunate enough to have decent Fixed Line Technologies is to utilise these before jumping on the 5G Wireless bandwaggon

However, households – especially the ones who can’t get reliable NBN where they live – now have more choice.

Basic internet plans

Basic NBN … … 12-25Mbps … … $50-$80/month
4G Wireless … … Up to 20Mbps … … $55-$70/month
Standard NBN … … 50Mbps … … $55-$95/month
Fast NBN … … 100Mbps … … $70-$110/month
SuperFast NBN … … 250Mbps … … $90-$140/month
5G Wireless … … 50-600Mbps … … $80-$100/month

Patrick Larobina