5G is here! What you need to know

5G launch in New Zealand - our guide
Friday, 13 December 2019

Vodafone and Spark have both recently been in the news announcing the launch of 5G services in New Zealand. This makes New Zealand the 22nd country in the world to have 5G. But, that’s actually on offer, and do you even need 5G?

The race to launch 5G has been hotly contested between Vodafone and Spark. And access to the new 5G networks is still restricted to very limited areas. The main difference between the services is that Vodafone 5G capabilities are currently geared toward mobile phone networks, while Spark’s 5G service can only be used for fixed wireless connections.

Vodafone 5G launch

Vodafone have launched their 5G wireless network in select parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. Access is still pretty exclusive, offered at just 100 cell sites and you’ll need a 5G handset to access one of them.

If you have a 5G-enabled phone and SIM card you’ll be able to connect to one of those 5G cell sites and access 5G service. For the next six months, Vodafone is offering the service on existing Vodafone calling and data plans at no extra cost. From 1 July 2020 it will introduce a $10 surcharge for 5G accounts.

How much faster is Vodafone 5G? 5G cell sites to receive mobile data connection speeds “potentially 5-10 times the current 4G speeds”, according to Vodafone chief executive Jason Paris.

Until the network is built out further and radio spectrum is freed up to enable all three mobile operators to blanket the country with 5G coverage, services will consist of a series of high-speed hotspots, with users reverting to 4G most of the time.

Vodafone Fixed Wireless 5G, which would use 5G to provide Wi-Fi is currently being developed, say Vodafone. "Vodafone 5G fixed broadband solutions will open up connectivity choices for many more Vodafone New Zealand customers, especially those looking for a plug and play wireless solution with quick and easy downloads," said Tony Baird, Vodafone's Technology Director.

Spark 5G launch

Spark recently beat out rival Vodafone (kind of) by announcing the launch of what they’re calling New Zealand’s first commercial 5G service, priced from $75 per month.  This is in extension to its launch to a limited number of business and consumer clients in Alexandra in September.

The service is restricted to a handful of towns in the South Island, and is fixed wireless rather than supporting mobile phones on the move. This includes selected areas of Westport, Clyde, Twizel. Tekapo, and Hokitika.

Spark is offering a fixed-wireless 5G service - that is, using 5G to deliver broadband into a home as a substitute for a landline. The service can't be used on the move with a cellphone.

How much faster is Spark’s 5G wireless connection? In real terms, Mark Beder, Spark’s Technology Director, said that “Initial testing in Alexandra has shown speeds for 5G wireless broadband of five to 10 times faster than for 4G wireless broadband in the same location.”

With speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second, 5G has the potential to be 100 times faster than 4G. In short, 5G is smarter, faster and more efficient than 4G. It promises mobile data speeds that far outstrip the fastest home broadband network currently available to consumers.

5G also has much lower latency than 4G. Latency refers to the amount of time it takes between when information is sent to a device until it can be used by the receiver. This makes 5G a better replacement for traditions Fibre broadband – you’ll be able to download and upload files quickly and easily, and stream 4K videos without buffering.

How to get 5G wireless internet

If you are lucky enough to live in Alexandra, Westport, Clyde, Twizel, Tekapo, or Hokitika access to Spark’s 5G service will initially be by invitation only. So you may still be in for a wait until you can connect up to 5G wireless internet in your area.

And if you live in select parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, AND you have a 5G enabled handset and SIM you can try out 5G on your mobile phone.

But it looks like most of us will be in for a wait before we can try out 5G.

If you’re looking for faster wireless broadband, it is still worth comparing wireless broadband plans to make sure you are on the best broadband plan for you.

Compare Wireless Plans

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