Samsung's 5G is not the death knell of the NBN

Samsung's 5G is not the death knell of the NBN

Summary: The death of the NBN at the hands of wireless is, once again, greatly exaggerated.

TOPICS: NBN, Samsung, Telcos

It seems like we've been here a few times before: An advancement in wireless technology, and those opposed to the National Broadband Network (NBN) claim that it spells doom for the fixed-line fibre network before it is even finished being built.

In a very limited trial this week, Samsung said it was able to get 1Gbps speeds on a 5G wireless network with 28GHz (yes, GHz) over a distance of 2 kilometres. The technology giant has said that it wants to be able to get 10Gbps speeds on its network for the public by 2020.

The argument between the Coalition and Labor has largely shifted away from the old fixed versus wireless debate, with the Coalition agreeing that fixed networks will play a role in Australia's broadband future — but just what kind of network it should be is the sticking point. It was, however, not entirely unsurprising that a few people, including conservative commentator Andrew Bolt, would question whether Samsung's 5G trial is the end of the line for the NBN.

The difficulty in claiming the newest lab trial is that the technology itself is still in very early days, and would be very expensive on its own. Samsung's trial needed 64 antennas in order to achieve 1Gbps.

It also used the 28GHz spectrum band, which is a much higher frequency than what telcos are used to using for getting in buildings.

The price for the technology will come down over time, but it is difficult to see that the price for the spectrum would. Certainly, the technology might evolve over time and use less spectrum, but for now, that is more than the telcos in Australia can afford by a long way.

Even if they were able to afford all of that spectrum, the costs would be recouped through high data prices for mobile users. The telcos even warned about this when the government set the reserve price for 4G spectrum late last year.

And that's without even taking into account other factors that show fixed line will still ultimately be able to achieve higher speeds than wireless. While 1Gbps is all well and good in a lab test, what result will be achievable in a network full of users?

Given wireless' capacity constraints, a new network with larger spectrum demand is not going to fix the daily commuter hell that many of us face each day. Short of some miraculous leap in technology that we haven't seen yet, 5G would suffer the same congestion issues that every previous network iteration has suffered from.

Updated: This article originally stated that the spectrum used 28GHz of spectrum rather than using the 28GHz spectrum band.


Topics: NBN, Samsung, Telcos


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • The market for mobile broadband is not the same as fixed line broadband

    Neither will replace the other.

    Although their exists an overlap of a few customers (happy to use either) many of us require both.
    Richard Flude
    • Agree...

      Wholeheartedly Richard...

      They are complementary services and products, designed for similar yet different purposes.
    • a point

      For many people, there will be a need for both. For many others, wireless will be essential but the raw speed of the NBN won't be. These people will no doubt go for only one technology that being wireless. The risk is whether there will be enough of them to undermine the NBN's business case. Increasing wireless speeds will increase the number of people who are satisfied with those speeds and reduce the number of people willing to fork out for an additional fibre connection.
      • Yep, some only need one

        I know many people who ditched their desktop computers and ADSL (or similar) connections for a tablet and a 3G/4G connection. These people only do "basic", non-business computing and that is all that they require.

        This won't suit everyone and mostly won't suit business, but it suits the particular needs of those people.

        In saying that, I do agree that mobile and fixed line services are complementary.
  • I think the wrinkle is who runs the network

    Here in the USA the broadband providers essentially allow unlimited if you are on a top tier plan. The wireless companies feel no such obligation to their high paying customers. If this is the same in Australia, I honestly hope your national gigabit program uses an established landline telco. I have seen too many services here ruined because the govt always chooses a third party that they expect will run a socialized service as a business. 2 I could name are private transportation companies in my area that are subcontracted out to provide services to the disabled. You can see the problem right away, I hope.

    Cheers to you guys, must be lunch time there by now.
  • Rain

    Lets also not forget that high frequency transmissions are affected by that drasted thing called rain. Samsung haven't figured their way around that yet. You just have to ask certain satellite users in the northern half of australia what it's like every time it rains up there and their TV drops out. Imagine if your broadband stopped working every time a rainstorm came through.

    There's also the high cost of mobile data e.g ->

    (those prices also show Telstra is still completely up for gouging their prices whenever they have a product monopoly)
  • Not to mention

    The shit coverage on Wireless in a lot of country areas!
  • Fix the article, Josh!

    You've amended the most egregious error (confusing 28GHz frequency band with 28GHz of spectrum), but failed to mention how much bandwidth Samsung's wireless demonstration does require! Nor have you fixed the para which carries on about how unaffordable that much spectum would be. Also, one has to ask how much capacity is enough. If technology A could deliver a reliable 100 Mbit/s, that would satisfy 90% of the population for the next 5-8 years. The fact that technology B could deliver even more would be of no interest to most people because they had a service that met their needs.

    Having said all that I agree with the basic premise that demonstrating something under laboratory conditions is very different from delivering a usable product, and that there is very definitely still a place for fixed line services.

    Incidentally, the last sentence of para three has so many negatives that I think you ended up saying the reverse of what you intended!
  • New WiFi record speed achieved: 40 GIGABYTES/s @ 240ghz over ~1km

    Follow the mashable link for more information - Wireless technology is simply outpacing wired tech at a much faster rate