Optus has dinged Telstra for 5G speed, but there’s bugger-all in it

Young woman using smartphone in Sydney
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Optus and Telstra have been sparring over which has the better 5G network in Australia for the better half of the year. Vodafone, for its part, has quietly watched from the sidelines. 

Telstra claims its wider-reaching 5G network – which now covers 75% of Australians – makes it the best, while Optus argues that speed is the name of the game. And by this metric, Optus has been named Australia’s fastest 5G mobile network by Ookla.

Ookla provides free testing of internet speed and performance, and its research conducted in the first-half of 2021 found that Optus achieved median download speeds of 323Mbps on its 5G network.

It’s a small ding to Telstra’s record, but it’s not exactly leaps and bounds ahead of Telstra’s achievable speeds. Telstra clocks in with a median download speed of 304Mbps, while Vodafone lags behind at 201Mbps.

And while Optus came out on top for downloads, Telstra edged ahead when it came to median upload speed on its 5G network, with 27Mbps compared to Optus’ marginally lower 22Mbps.

The numbers are tighter still for latency – Optus takes out top spot overall with a median latency of 18ms, while Telstra recorded 19ms and Vodafone 20ms.

Ookla’s figures come from just over 330,000 user-initiated 5G tests using its Speedtest platform from all over Australia, with the majority of tests coming from Sydney, Greater Melbourne and Newcastle.

Who has Australia's best 5G?

Perhaps inevitably, the answer to who has the best 5G network in Australia lies in what is most important to you. While Optus recorded the fastest 5G download speeds overall, the numbers aren’t really that far ahead of Telstra.

Arguably, if your network of choice doesn’t have a 5G tower in your area, then the figures don’t carry as much weight. Optus currently doesn’t have 5G towers in Tasmania, for example, and neither carrier offers 5G in the Northern Territory.

To check availability in your area, compare Telstra’s 5G coverage map with the Optus 5G network map.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce editor

Jasmine Gearie is an ecommerce editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers cut through the jargon to find the best mobile and internet plans for their needs. She crunches the numbers to maintain dedicated guides to the latest phones, NBN and broadband plans of all types, and covers the important telco industry news. She also hunts down tech deals on laptops, phones, gaming consoles and more, so readers know where to buy the products they want for the cheapest prices.