The first 5G smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, hit Australian shores in May 2019, and in the two years since, there has been a steady flow of 5G mobiles into the marketplace. But despite this, adoption of 5G technology is slower than expected, with research showing only one in five Australian smartphone users has adopted 5G.
These findings form part of new research carried out by market comparison website Finder. The company polled 824 Australians about whether they used a 5G mobile service. It found that only 19 percent of Aussies had access to a 5G service, a far cry from the estimated 75 percent of Australians that have access to Telstra 5G coverage.
The survey also sheds light on why Australians are hesitant to adopt 5G technology. When it came to asking how willing respondents were to use 5G, the survey found the overwhelming majority were apprehensive about the safety of 5G, with 45 percent claiming they don’t want a 5G service.
While the majority were against, 30 percent of respondents held a contrary view saying they didn’t currently have 5G but wanted to get it. Although a surprisingly low percentage, this result provides some confidence that a proportion of the Australian population may still use a 5G smartphone at some time in the future.
A further 6 percent of those polled (representative of approximately 944, 000 people) were unaware of 5G, or didn’t know what it was, suggesting there is still a long way to go in getting the general public up to speed about the technology.
What could explain the lacklustre adoption of 5G?
5G, which is the next generation in mobile network technology, offers substantial speed benefits over 4G, demonstrating download speeds that can rival the fastest NBN plans. In comparison to 4G, tests have shown 5G is approximately four times faster in Australia. 5G compatible devices are capable of average download speeds of 200Mbs compared to 4G’s average 38Mbs.
However, 5G’s 2019 Australian rollout was a public relations disaster. A number of unfounded conspiracy theories - one of which proposed that 5G’s shorter wavelength radio waves transmitted by Small Cell towers could cause cancer – gained high popularity within the general public at the time of its launch.
To show just how much of an impact these theories have had, a report based on an inquiry into the rollout tabled in parliament last year said, “Community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation preying on fears of the public spread via the Internet, and presented as facts, particularly through social media.”
“The communication of the reality of 5G has been neglected, allowing fears over health and safety, the technology involved and the application of 5G to take hold. Misinformation has filled the vacuum and public confidence in 5G has been shaken.”
Purely speculating, the results of the Finder survey could indicate that many Australians are still weary of the technology as a result of these theories.
5G making its mark in Australia
While numbers of Australians with 5G smartphones may be lower than expected, there is no shortage on the market. In fact, we’ve come to expect all new smartphone releases in 2021 to be able to be used with 5G compatible SIM cards, especially flagship phones from brands like Samsung, Huawei and Vivo.
Oppo has gone one better than that, announcing an SA-compatible 5G eSIM for its flagship model the Oppo X3 Pro 5G. The eSIM which was co-developed by eSIM connectivity management company Thales, is an entirely different 5G proposition. The eSIM is embedded in the device, allowing it to connect to 5G networks without the need to insert a 5G compatible SIM card.
Unlike the latest PC video cards and CPUs, it’s not hard to find a decent 5G smartphone in retailers, even in the middle of a pandemic. Smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21, the Oppo Find X3 Pro, Vivo X60 Pro are 5G options that have made quite a splash in 2021, sporting ergonomic designs as well as high-end functionality.
In these phones, in addition to 5G connectivity we’re also seeing year-on-year improvements in features like touch sampling, screen refresh rates, battery capacities and display resolutions. While these premium handsets were among the first generation 5G compatible devices to hit the market, a smattering of new 5G-capable mid-range and entry-level smartphones have also been released – one we recently reviewed is the Oppo A74 5G. You can read our reviews of these 5G phones here:
In regards to providers, Australian telcos have invested heavily in 5G technology too. Major players like Optus and Telstra continue to install and upgrade 5G infrastructure to offer customers competitive 5G mobile plans.
Optus has been gradually improving its 5G services to Australian regional and metropolitan areas. The company has recently switched on six new 5G mmWave commercial sites in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, allowing one million of its customers to access faster 5G download speeds.