Optus prepares to launch 5G-based fixed wireless

Optus reveals details of pre-launch 5G tests

Optus today said that it had successfully made a 5G data call on 60MHz of its 3.5GHz spectrum.

The telco said the call, made from a site in the Canberra suburb of Dickson, used commercial 5G radio network and customer premises equipment (CPE) from Nokia.

Optus said that the Nokia 5G CPE has a high gain antenna, and can be used to deliver a service in residential areas.

“This is the first time in Australia that a data call has been made using 60MHz channel bandwidth on an Optus live network and a 5G device,” said Optus managing director, networks, Dennis Wong.

This call was based on the 3GPP Release 15 September specification and employed a standard commercial chipset, Optus said.

Optus in February last year first revealed its intention to launch a 5G-based fixed wireless offering in early 2019, with the telco initially targeting key metro areas. In April 2018, Optus CEO Allen Lew told a press briefing the telco would “have 5G available to people in the capital cities starting from January 2019”.

“The first application will not be mobility because the standards for that will not be finalised until June 2018,” the Optus CEO said. “But the standards for fixed wireless access using 5G to provide, for example, 100Mbps to a home. Those standards have been set.”

“Our fixed wireless access product, combined with our ambitious roll out plan, means customers will be able to experience 5G soon,” Wong said in a statement released today.

Optus today said that intended to switch on 5G across a number of Australian capital cities in the first half of 2019.

“For Optus, 5G is a fundamental part of building a smart network that keeps our customers connected,” Wong said. “It’s important that customers experience the benefit of this next generation network from the outset.”

As with other telcos, Optus’ 5G deployment involves upgrades to existing cell sites and the rollout of additional towers and small cells in densely populated areas.

Optus last year plunged $185 million into spectrum in the 3.6GHz band to support the rollout of 5G services. Telstra and a TPG-Vodafone joint venture also picked up spectrum, as did UK-based Dense Air, which plans to offer a small cell-based coverage infill services.

Telstra used the recent CES trade show in the US to reveal that it had struck deals with some of the “world’s biggest brands” that will see its customers initially have exclusive access to some 5G-compatible handsets. 

Telstra CEO Andy Penn would not detail which brands were covered by the agreements but said that the company was continuing to “hold discussions with a number of device manufacturers and we look forward to making further exciting announcements in the near future”.