Telstra has announced achieving the first live 5G connection in Australia using a commercial 5G chipset and a smartphone.
Telstra utilised its 3.5GHz spectrum along with Ericsson's 5G network software and Qualcomm's 5G chipset and device, with Telstra network engineering executive Channa Seneviratne saying it takes 5G "from the lab into the street".
"Telstra's strategic relationship with these global industry partners allows Telstra to test, understand, and demonstrate real-world 5G capability so we can advance the deployment of 5G and immediately bring it to our customers as soon as devices are commercially available," Seneviratne said.
"Today's announcement is a significant milestone as it signals that commercial 5G devices are getting closer and closer ... the team will continue testing over the coming months to improve data rates and overall performance in readiness for device availability. "
Speaking with ZDNet last month, CEO Andy Penn had said that Telstra is choosing a range of different launch sites for its early 5G network in order to ensure the new mobile network can handle all geographical and population density requirements ahead of 5G smartphone availability next year.
Telstra had in October announced hitting 50 of its planned 200 5G sites for 2018, launching the network across Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth.
Adelaide's first 5G mobile base station is in Flinders Street; Canberra's is in Pialligo, with more going live on Thursday in Phillip, Lyons, and Fyshwick; while Perth's first 5G site will be in Narrows Bridge in the CBD.
Telstra already had its 5G network live across 15 towers: 13 in the Gold Coast, one in Toowoomba, and one in Brisbane.
"There's a few things that go into our site selection," Penn told ZDNet.
"We obviously want to make sure that we're covering different parts of the country nationally, and [we are] targeting different topographical, demographical locations, so we launched one in Toowoomba, which is a good barometer of what we need to do regionally and Toowoomba's quite a digital hub."
While Penn wouldn't be drawn on where Telstra will be launching next, he did confirm that the telco's 5G network will be live "nationally" by the end of 2018, with the telco using mid-band spectrum in the 3.5GHz band.
With no commercial devices yet compatible with the network -- as 5G smartphones are not expected to arrive until 2019 -- Penn said having an early network will enable Telstra's partners to trial devices during development.
"The reason we're rolling out 5G mobile stations now when the handsets are not yet available is because we want to be in a position to test and trial within a real live environment," Penn told ZDNet.
"We also want to be able to hit the ground running when the handsets do become available."
While Telstra had announced a 5G vendor partnership with Ericsson in October, Penn added that Telstra is always looking at other solutions and is "keeping it open", especially with networking and technology giants worldwide wanting to use Australia -- and Telstra -- as a testbed.
"We need the handset and the device manufacturers to start building equipment at scale now," Penn told ZDNet in September.
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