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Monday, 10 July 2023 | 3 min read

5G vs 4G – which network is the best?

Photo of a person at a dining table, smiling while holding a smartphone and looking at a laptop in front of them

While no longer the newest kid on the block, 5G has been a crowd-favourite, providing on-the-go speeds that were previously unseen in the mobile space. But the reality is that we are not even close to realising the full potential of 5G. One of the drawbacks of 5G – and a big reason people stick with 4G – is coverage. 5G is still being rolled out across Australia, with the majority of support in urban areas.  

This begs the question - is it worth investing in 5G mobile plans, or should you stick with 4G for now? Let’s get into it.  

What is 5G? 

5G refers to the fifth generation of mobile networks. It’s designed to deliver higher data speeds more reliably than past networks like 3G or 4G. 

The main differences between the 4G and 5G networks are faster speeds, lower latency, and improved reliability. Users can also expect lower congestion on the 5G network, as it can support more users simultaneously than the 4G network. 

We don’t cap the speeds you can get on 5G – only the amount of data you get per month. This means you can harness some of 5G’s huge bandwidth potential and enjoy it for what it promises.  

Take a look at our 5G plans, all with uncapped speeds!*

Enjoy super-fast 5G on the Optus network

See 5G plans here

*5G rolling out in selected areas. Excludes TAS & NT.

So what’s the difference between 4G and 5G? 

Speed 

In theory, 5G networks should be able to reach up to 10-30Gbps. However, users are unlikely to experience that calibre of speed on Australian 5G networks any time soon. 

According to Open Signal’s latest analysis of 5G speeds in Australia, Optus’ 5G network (which we provide in all our plans) boasted an average download speed of 239.6Mbps. As with all speeds, it’s important to note that they are dictated by factors like distance to the nearest tower, network congestion or handset/device limitations. 

On the other hand, 4G users can expect to achieve download speeds between 25-50Mbps, depending on location and other factors.  

Reliability 

5G users are likely to experience more reliable connectivity than 4G users. This is partly down to overcrowding on the 4G network, with 5G technology able to handle more simultaneous users than 4G technology. If you’re at the footy or a concert, you’re more likely to get service if you’re on the 5G network. 

Coverage 

The 5G network coverage has been growing across Australia for the past four years now, though it isn't available absolutely everywhere just yet. A good way to see if you have 5G around your address is at the coverage map here.  

In contrast, 3G and 4G coverage is available to 98.5% of the Australian population, meaning it’s currently widely accessible.  

Handsets/device 

It’s worth noting that if you want to access the 5G network, you’ll need to invest in a 5G-capable handset. While these handsets generally sit at a higher price point compared to typical 4G-compatible handsets, 5G handsets are backwards compatible – meaning they can also connect to the 4G and 3G networks.  

Pretty much all newly released phones now are 5G capable, including the iPhone 14, Samsung S23, Google Pixel 7 and, more recently, the Huawei P60. It’s always wise to do the research and ensure the device your buying can support the technology prior to buying.  

A photo of a female and a male looking at a phone outside. There is blue sky behind them, and they are sitting with the male holding a dumbbell while the female is holding her phone with headphones on.

So, which one is best for me? 

If you regularly use your mobile for high-bandwidth activities – like streaming music or watching video content - and you live in an area that currently has or will be getting 5G coverage, investing in one of our 5G plans could significantly improve your mobile experience. However, if you live in a regional or rural area that is not scheduled to receive 5G coverage anytime soon, it’s likely best to stick with one of our 4G plans.

What about for my business?

If you're a business looking for cost-effective, flexible mobile plans for your staff, check out our business deals.

Looking for business mobile plans?

Choose from ultrafast 5G or reliable 4G that covers 98.5% of the Australian population, letting you data share with your team

View plans

If you’ve got any more questions about which mobile plan or handset is best for you, give our friendly team of Aussie-based experts a call on 1300 880 905 or see our mobile plans and pricing here 

Tags:5G4GMobile

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The Aussie Broadband Editorial team consists of copywriters, marketers, and subject matter experts across multiple fields. We aim to bring you the latest news, insights, and guides regarding everything internet, mobile, technology, and more...

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