Optus takes exception to Telstra 5G claims

War of words begins far in advance of 5G services becoming available

Optus has hit back at Telstra over claims by the larger telco that it was the first Australian mobile carrier whose network was “5G ready”.

Telstra earlier this week issued a statement saying it had “switched on 5G technology across selected areas of the Gold Coast, making Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network the first in the country to be 5G ready”.

“Today’s switch on demonstrates Telstra’s commitment to mobile leadership in Australia and will support the ongoing testing of next generation mobile technologies in Australian conditions to support the early commercial deployment of 5G mobile services,” a statement attributed to the telco’s CEO, Andrew Penn, said.

Telstra said it would have more than 200 5G-read mobile sites by the end of the year.

“Optus refutes Telstra’s claim that it is the first Australian network provider to be 5G ready,” managing director of Optus Networks Dennis Wong said in a statement.

Wong noted that Optus had conducted a range of 5G demonstrations on the Gold Coast during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, including showing 8K mobile video streaming and download speeds of up to 16 gigabits per second.

“Furthermore, the lack of commercially available 5G devices means that no network provider can claim leadership at this time,” Wong said.

“With our substantial spectrum holdings compared to our competitor and our advanced planning, Optus is confident in its ability to deliver commercial 5G services in January 2019. We will update the market on our plans in early September.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is preparing to auction off spectrum in the 3.6GHz band. That spectrum band will be used for some of the earliest 5G services. Optus already holds a significant amount of 3.5GHz spectrum, which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has noted is a “close substitute” band.

Wong said that “the lack of commercially available 5G devices means that no network provider can claim leadership at this time”.

“Commercial devices for 5G are not yet available from the handset manufacturers but having our network 5G ready enables us to trial and test them as they become available,” Penn noted yesterday in remarks prepared for Telstra’s full year results briefing.

Optus in February announced it would launch a 5G-based fixed wireless service in early 2019. That announcement seemed timed to pre-empt Telstra’s launch the next week of its 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast.

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