5G vs NBN: Which is the better broadband option?

Home office setup

With the NBN rollout completed around Australia and upgrades underway across the country, most households have an internet plan connected to the NBN network. With 5G cellular becoming more widely available and internet service providers beginning to offer 5G mobile broadband plans for the home, should you consider a switch? 

A major consideration for most homes will be the availability of both networks. (You can check your address on NBN Co’s website to ensure your household has been connected and which technology type was used). 

5G is a little trickier as there isn’t a central business in charge of the rollout, nor is the coverage as widespread as that of the NBN. The 5G rollout has been mostly centered around major cities and population hubs around the country, and there’s been a fair bit of criticism for the number of holes in the coverage of even those areas. 

Your best bet for finding out if your area is covered by 5G is checking with your internet service provider, or one that you would be happy to sign up with for a broadband plan. You should be able to find information about their 5G coverage on their website, with some offering the ability to check your address like the NBN website. 

5G offers faster max speeds, but with compromise

Speed on a 5G network isn’t as easy to quantify as it is with an NBN plan. Theoretically, 5G speeds could get up to around a massive 20GBps, 20 times the maximum speed of an NBN personal plan. 

Realistically, customers are never going to be seeing speeds that quick across the network. As the network improves, so will the speed customers see on 5G. 

Optus reported customers in late 2020 reaching download speeds averaging 164mbps during the day, with speeds as high as 400mbps during less busy periods. Telstra’s 5G network has seen customers in Sydney access speeds between 100mbps and 1Gbps. 

If you’re someone who requires a specific speed for your internet usage, you may be safer on an NBN plan in which speed fluctuates less and speed tiers are clear. If you’re keen on high speeds and a network that will continue to improve over time, 5G might be worth investigating. 

While speed may be better, on average, than most NBN speed tiers, connectivity remains a big issue. There are limited areas in which you can access the 5G network, and if your home isn’t one of them then you’re out of luck. The network will continue to expand its range via different telco’s but there’s no certainty which areas will be covered. 

Even in major cities, significant gaps in the network remain and connectivity can be an issue. Before you make the switch for 5G to power your entire home, you should ensure your household receives a constant and stable 5G connection. 

The NBN network is Australia-wide with plenty of speed options

More than 8.2 million homes and businesses are connected to the NBN network across the country, with connections made with a range of different technologies. 

Those in major cities or population hubs will likely be connected by a fibre connection, while those in rural and remote Australia could be connected via satellite or a fixed wireless connection.

If your home isn’t yet connected to the NBN network, it appears you’ve missed out on the country-wide rollout that NBN Co now says has been completed. If for some reason your home isn’t connected, get in touch with NBN Co via their website to find out why you’re one of the unlucky few who missed out. 

Through an internet service provider you’ll be able to connect to the NBN network with a range of options. Speeds start at the NBN12 tier, which would see download speeds of 12mbps, and continue right up to NBN1000 for eligible homes offering speeds of 1000mbps or 1Gbps. 

There seems to be a much wider range of data limits across the NBN network than on a 5G plan as well, so you can pay for as much data as you think you will use, or spend a little extra for an unlimited plan. 

The NBN is pretty reliable for speed and connectivity, and with upgrades underway across the network things are only likely to improve in the future. 

If you’re after steady internet and a reliable connection, and you aren’t eligible for or quite sure of a 5G connection in your area, the NBN might be a safer option for you.

Using NBN and 5G to compliment each other

The rollout of 5G home broadband plans has been quite slow, with the major telcos only offering one or two options each. That being said, pricing has been fairly competitive with the NBN counterpart considering the potential for faster speeds. 

Vodafone’s CEO was quick to encourage the co-existence of 5G and the NBN, despite investing in 5G infrastructure, meaning even the telcos don’t see 5G replacing NBN as a whole. 

For those that aren’t too sure about making the switch from NBN to 5G, it could be worth investing in a 5G mobile broadband device to power some of your home internet usage, while relying on the NBN for the rest.

This way, you could have a trial run of how 5G performs in your home and with your devices, and decide if it’s worth replacing your NBN plan completely. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in doing, check how your phone operates on the 5G network (as long as it is 5G-enabled). 

If your connection is patchy and unstable, any other 5G device will be too, until upgrades arrive. If your phone connects fine to the 5G network, you may want to consider a 5G home broadband plan with the same telco. 

At the end of the day, the battle between NBN and 5G is one that doesn’t need a winner. Both technologies can co-exist, with users choosing which better suits their situation and needs. Unfortunately, that may take a bit of experimentation for some households. 

Looking for a new internet plan? Head to our broadband hub to find and compare providers in your area, or view some popular plans in the table below.