MWC 2019: Optus will gain ‘months more’ 5G experience with fixed-wireless launch

By launching 5G fixed-wireless now instead of waiting for a pure mobile solution, Optus will have around five months more experience in running a 5G service than its competitors, according to CEO Allen Lew.

Launching a fixed-wireless service now will provide Optus with months more experience with 5G than its competitors that are waiting for a pure mobile service, Optus CEO Allen Lew has said.

Speaking on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona on Sunday, Lew said the first commercial ability of 5G is fixed-wireless, given there is already customer equipment ready to go.

"[This] gives us the opportunity to start to monetise on our investment straight away, as well as real-life experience with 5G," Lew said.

Carriers are all doing a lot of planning and testing in labs, he said, but launching now will give Optus a five-month lead to learn more, according to Lew.

"We need to get there early and learn the lessons," he said, so that Optus can be "much further down the experience curve by the time mobile 5G launches".

Despite this, Lew said Optus is still working with Oppo and Samsung, for instance, on mobile 5G -- including announcing a 5G call with Singtel and Oppo last week.

Fixed-wireless will also provide monetisation for telcos far sooner than enterprise use cases will, he argued.

"The new use case for mobile is FW," Lew said.

Optus had announced at MWC that it would be using Nokia's FastMile 5G indoor gateway for what they claim is the world's first commercial 3GPP-based 5G fixed-wireless service.

However, Lew revealed to ZDNet that the Nokia device cannot be cross-used on its Ericsson 5G areas until the June/July timeframe due to the evolution of standards.

Optus is therefore using an Inseego 5G CPE for the Ericsson areas, Lew said, with the customers living in those regions having to wait "slightly longer" than those in Nokia-served 5G areas because "we've been working more on the Nokia service first".

For Optus' first 100 5G towers, Nokia is building 50 while Ericsson will build the remaining 50. The remaining 1,100 towers in the initial build are yet to be decided.

Earlier this month, Optus switched on its fifth 5G mobile tower, with plans to have 1,200 5G mobile sites live across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia by March 2020.

5G Home Broadband on Optus will cost AU$70 per month for unlimited data at a 50Mbps minimum speed guarantee, and is slated to provide connectivity by the second quarter of 2019.

On Sunday, Lew said Optus has already received expressions of interest from a few hundred people, with the Nokia FastMile device being tested and used by them.

Another advantage Optus has over its competitors is that it can leverage the expertise and experience across the Singtel Group, Lew said, including TrustWave.

MWC 2019 Coverage