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Optus starts offering 5G-ready phones, but is its network ready?

(Image credit: TechRadar)

At the end of September, Optus announced it would be expanding its 5G-ready handset range by stocking the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Oppo Reno 5G, alongside the already-available Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G .

With this new range of phones, however, comes a series of disclaimers about the current state of the Optus 5G network, namely that it’s “starting to be rolled out in selected areas”, and that 5G coverage within buildings “is not currently available”.

While its primary competitor, Telstra, has made a bit of a display about being the first Australian telco with the next generation in mobile connectivity enabled, Optus hasn’t had quite the same fanfare, instead opting to quietly creep onto the market.

As per the dedicated 5G page on Optus’ website, the company has enabled 165 sites so far, with over 1,000 planned to be live by March 2020. You can check the full coverage map for finer details on where these locations are, but the zones are somewhat spread out and the coverage within them is noticeably patchy.

Regarding the indoor coverage, it’s worth noting that a similar disclaimer is found on Telstra’s coverage map – ”our maps depict approximate 5G coverage only and do not include indoor coverage” – so this could well be an issue surrounding the current signal strength of the telcos’ respective 5G signals.

Should I go 5G?

For those that do opt for a 5G-ready handset with their Optus plan, you’ll still be able to experience high-speed 4G connections when 5G isn’t available, as is the case with Telstra customers.

From our testing within the Telstra network, however, we’ve noticed that the 5G signal strength makes for significantly slower download and upload speeds than 4G when at the boundary of the coverage zone, which could be problematic if you find yourself on the fringes often.

We’re yet to trial Optus’ 5G network in the same manner, but it’s likely that a similar issue will occur while the rollout is still in its very early stages. Our advice for new customers at present is to wait it out a little longer until either telco's 5G network is better established.