Early 5G Adoption: The Cases For And Against

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With Optus and Telstra in the throes of rolling out their 5G networks, and a bunch of new handsets about to hit the market supporting the new comms standard, is it a good time to jump in and be an early adopter? Or is the new tech overhyped and not worth the premium price it currently attracts? Let's look at the pros and cons of being a 5G early adopter.

Notwithstanding a certain US president's call for 6G, 5G will rule the airwaves for the next decade at least. Telstra is progressing with its deployment of 5G infrastructure with Optus also going down the 5G road. Vodafone seems to be a little less definite with its plans.

And we've seen a stack of 5G ready handsets announced at Mobile World Congress over the last week with Telstra locking in deals with a number of phone makers for exclusive access to the earliest handsets.

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So, what are the pros and cons of being a 5G early adopter?

Pros Cons
Bragging rights: you'll have the fanciest and newest handset of all your friends. You'll pay a premium: Don't expect any change from $2000 for the first 5G-enabled handsets.
Speed: In the early days, when there are relatively few users, you should get maximum performance. That advantage will be short-lived once the number of users grows.
Congestion: Australia has only allocated a limited amount of wireless spectrum for 5G at this stage. While few devices are on, connections should be easy There's an argument that we'll need more 5G towers in order to deal with the increased data transmission and lower range of the radio frequencies involved. And one of the main applications of 5G is for IoT. Get ready for millions of devices to share that network and make connectivity more challenging with 4G fall-backs common.
Coverage: No big advantage here, its going to take some time before 5G is as broadly available as 4G. Early adopters will only get those super-fast 5G speeds in limited locations.
Cost: interestingly, Telstra has said 5G won't be charged at a premium over 4G access. Which likely means the same for Optus and Vodafone. No big issue here as carriers aren't expected to charge a premium for 5G.
Carrier options: If you're already a Telstra or Optus customer, then you're well-placed to simply flip to a new 5G-ready handset and take advantage as the faster network becomes available. If you're in a hurry to get 5G, Telstra seems to be the best bet at the money as they are ahead of the others with coverage. If you're with Vodafone - be patient.

Being an early adopter carries lots of bragging rights and you'll see the benefits of the faster performance of 5G before many others. But it comes with a cost. Handsets will be charged at a premium and the faster coverage will be quite limited until next year.

If you're in a 5G coverage area and have the budget it might be fun but I'll be keeping my powder dry until handset prices are little more reasonable and the network coverage expands.


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