Australia’s Telstra has launched what it says are the first “5G-enabled” Wi-Fi hotspots in the world. The new hotspots on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia will provide locals and visitors with access to free broadband services during the evaluation period. While there are no 5G-enabled consumer devices available at this time, the Australian telco will connect 5G backhaul and infrastructure from an exchange to a Wi-Fi access point, so it can be used on existing 4G devices.
The open hotspots will provide up to 10GB of downloads per device per day. They will be managed by Telstra’s recently-launched 5G innovation center on the Gold Coast. Telstra has connected 5G backhaul and related infrastructure in the Southport Exchange in the city to allow connections to the 5G network over Wi-Fi on existing devices.
“Wi-Fi has limited throughput so a single hotspot alone cannot come close to reaching the limits of 5G at our Innovation Center,” Telstra group managing director for networks Mike Wright said. “By using multiple hotspots with potentially hundreds of smartphone users served through a single 5G device we are able to get closer to demonstrating 5G in a real world environment. Our 5G backhaul is capable of delivering download speeds of more than 3 Gbps,” he added.
Telstra is also using mmWave spectrum and its 5G innovation centre to put a connected car on the road using Intel’s 5G automotive trial platform.
“Working with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel, we have put Australia’s first 5G connected car on the road. We are in the very early stages of development and are achieving download speeds approaching 1 Gbps inside the car and the vehicle is also equipped with a Wi-Fi access point,” Wright said.
The executive also highlighted the evolution of the telco’s 5G prototype during the first months of the year. “At the start of the year our 5G prototype device was the size of a bar fridge and weighed more than 200 kilograms. Now, in collaboration with Intel and Ericsson, we have one that has been shrunk down to the size of a personal computer and can be installed in a car.”
The 5G center is central to a $58 million investment Telstra has made to upgrade infrastructure on the Gold Coast to support growing demand and major events in the area. Telstra will run extensive 5G trials on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games in April this year.
Telstra previously said that said that it would work with Ericsson on key 5G technologies including massive multiple-input, multiple-output (Massive MIMO), adaptive beamforming and beam tracking, and OFDM-based waveforms in its Gold Coast center.
Telstra will have competition. Australian telecom operator Optus said it plans to roll out a fixed-wireless 5G service in key metro areas by early 2019. The announcement comes after the launch of an outdoor trial of 5G New Radio (NR), which showed 2Gbps download speeds for a fixed wireless service in homes and businesses, the Singtel subsidiary said.
The trial, conducted at its headquarters in Macquarie Park in Sydney in January, used dual-band 5G NR equipment and commercial grade CPEs for both C-band and millimeter wave band frequencies. C-band is within the same spectrum range of Optus’ 3.5GHz, which has been earmarked for 5G deployment, the operator said. The mmWave band 5G network has the capability to reach peak data speeds of 15Gbps to a single user, which is 15x what 4.5G is capable of today.
“Everyone has heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart homes, AI and virtual reality however their full potential will require a fast and reliable network to deliver,” said Optus managing director of networks Dennis Wong.
“Seeing 5G data speeds through our trial that are up to 15x faster than current technologies allows us to show the potential of this transformative technology to support a new ecosystem of connected devices in the home, the office, the paddock and in the wider community.”
Optus will also be hosting a 5G technology showcase during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which will be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland from April 4 to 15 (this week and next).