After launching 5G in 2019, Australia now has some of the fastest mobile speeds in the world with a median 5G download speed of 283.56 Mbps during Q1 2021, nearly double the global average of 142.05 Mbps. This success is due in large part to the years Australia and its mobile operators have spent investing in 5G infrastructure across the country. Australia is primed to continue to be at the forefront of global 5G performance in the future, as well, with increases in 5G deployments and recent spectrum auctions in the works that will only expand access for Australian 5G consumers.
This article examines the state of Australia’s 5G mobile performance, including which provider has the best 5G speeds and availability, and data at the province and city-level to determine which areas are best served by 5G.
Australia has third fastest 5G among major trading partners
Countries that have spent time and resources investing in mobile and 5G networks are already reaping the benefits of fast internet speeds. Among Australia’s top trading partners, we saw that South Korea had the fastest median download speed over 5G during Q1 2021, China was second and Australia third.
Australia continues to see fast median 5G download and upload speeds as it continues to build out its 5G network, though its year-over-year median 5G download speed remained remarkably flat. In comparison, China and South Korea were the only countries on this list that sustained consistent growth in median 5G download speeds over the past year. Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States saw their median 5G download speeds decline or fluctuate over the same period.
Australia has consistently ranked as a one of the speediest countries in the world for mobile download speeds. Australia ranked seventh during March 2021, according to the Speedtest Global Index™, with a median download speed over mobile of 109.33 Mbps.
Optus had the fastest median 5G download speed
The race for the fastest 5G provider is fierce throughout Australia, but Optus edged out Telstra during Q1 2021 as the fastest operator with a median download speed over 5G of 309.86 Mbps. Telstra was second with a median 5G download speed of 295.00 Mbps, while Vodafone came in third at 184.98 Mbps.
Telstra beat out Optus for fastest median upload speed over 5G during Q1 2021 with a speed of 28.27 Mbps. Optus had 21.56 Mbps and Vodafone was third at 16.70 Mbps.
Over the past several years, Australians have been enjoying some of the fastest LTE speeds available. At the tail end of 2016, Telstra became the first mobile operator in the world to launch a Gigabit-Class LTE service, aggregating three LTE component carriers coupled with 4-Layer MIMO technique and advanced modulation scheme (256 QAM). At the time, the operator was uniquely positioned to utilize multiple mid-band paired frequency division duplex (FDD) 20 MHz component carriers in the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz ranges. This was in addition to low-band 700 MHz as well as 850 MHz spectrum assets.
Similarly, Optus has been able to efficiently leverage its combination of FDD spectrum assets for LTE service, but also holds unpaired time division duplex (TDD) licenses in the 2300 MHz band, which provides excellent capacity and is well-suited for the use of massive-MIMO and 5G.
Vodafone also holds a good mix of low- and mid-band FDD spectrum licenses ranging from 700 to 2600 MHz, which is vastly used for LTE.
Australian operators spearheading efforts to deliver outstanding 5G user experiences
Optus, in partnership with Nokia, has recently achieved a peak aggregate throughput of 10 Gbps. The company achieved this using 800 MHz of mmWave spectrum in Brisbane and aggregating it with 3.5 GHz spectrum (sub-6 GHz) and the existing LTE spectrum layers. These aggregate speeds are measured at the site level, while the current single user sub-6 GHz 5G speeds are closer to 2 Gbps, and will peak closer to 4 Gbps once the 5G mmWave layer is fully commercialized.
The Optus 5G network currently consists of two TDD dedicated swaths of spectrum in the sub-6 range (2300 MHz and 3500 MHz). For over a year now, this allowed the operator to deliver 5G using TDD+TDD aggregation to users with capable devices. This “5G Dual Band” network has been delivering impressive speeds over the past few quarters. In addition, the operator is testing FDD+TDD 5G aggregation by the way of dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) leveraging 5G FDD 2100 MHz band with 5G TDD 3.5 GHz band, which aims to extend coverage with the added benefits of 5G capacity.
Not to be outdone, Telstra has been conducting mmWave tests with Ericsson and Qualcomm, reaching single user speeds of 5 Gbps leveraging 800 MHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz band. A commercial rollout is expected sometimes this year following the auction of the mmWave spectrum. It’s worth noting that Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is making efforts to allocate the legacy low-band spectrum bands (850 MHz, 900 MHz) for LTE and 5G use, which should allow operators to provide a depth of broadband coverage across much wider geographies.
Telstra had the best 5G Availability
5G Availability — the proportion of users spending the majority of their time on 5G connections — is a key indicator of the development of a provider’s network. In Australia during Q1 2021, the best 5G Availability wasn’t even close: Telstra showed a 5G Availability of 32.8%, which was more than double that of Optus (13.6%) and nearly 10 times that of Vodafone (3.4%).
This aligns with Telstra’s planned investments in growing its 5G network across the country. In fact, Telstra set a goal to provide 5G coverage for 75% of Australia’s population by June 2021. While it remains to be seen if they achieve that benchmark, Australians will continue to benefit from Telstra’s ambition to bring 5G to cities across the country and from the competitive pressure it surely provides.
Queensland and Victoria led 5G Availability in Australia
While Speedtest Intelligence® revealed no clear statistical winner the best state in Australia for 5G Availability, Queensland had a 5G Availability of 23.5%, Victoria had 23.3%, South Australia had 21.6%, Western Australia had 19.3% and New South Wales had 19.2%. We omitted Tasmania from this analysis as it didn’t show sufficient samples.
Melbourne had the fastest median 5G download speed in Australia
Speedtest Intelligence reveals Melbourne had the fastest median 5G download speed among Australia’s largest cities in Q1 2021 at 316.66 Mbps. Sydney was second (304.67 Mbps), Adelaide third (301.52 Mbps), Perth fourth (251.96 Mbps), Brisbane fifth (247.64 Mbps) and Canberra sixth (244.54 Mbps). Darwin and Hobart did not have sufficient 5G samples to rank during this period.
Telstra has the fastest median 5G download and upload speeds for Q1 2021 in Adelaide (348.57 Mbps download/35.51 Mbps upload), Brisbane (310.06 Mbps download/25.67 Mbps), and Canberra (281.98 Mbps download/22.73 Mbps upload). Optus had the fastest median 5G download speeds in Melbourne (398.87 Mbps) and Sydney (356.60 Mbps). There was not a statistical winner in Perth, though Optus attained a median 5G download speed of 262.17 Mbps while Telstra achieved 261.75 Mbps. Vodafone did not have the fastest median 5G download in any of the cities analyzed.
Brisbane and Canberra led in 5G Availability
While Speedtest data did not show a clear winner for the city with the best 5G Availability, Brisbane had a 5G Availability of 32.0% and Canberra had 31.9%. Adelaide was next at 26.8%, followed by Perth (26.1%) and Melbourne (25.9%). Sydney had the lowest 5G Availability of any major Australian city at 22.8%. Darwin and Hobart were again not ranked due to insufficient samples.
As Telstra aims to provide 5G to 75% of Australia’s population, many Australians are already benefiting: Telstra had the best 5G Availability in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Optus came in second in those cities, followed by Vodafone in third. There was not a statistically significant difference in 5G Availability in Canberra and neither Darwin nor Hobart showed sufficient samples to fully analyze.
We’ll continue using data from Speedtest Intelligence to see how 5G in Australia improves with additional operator investment and how consumers benefit. If you have access to 5G in Australia, take a Speedtest® on Android or iOS to report how your operator is performing.