Queanbeyan is the first city in the Eden-Monaro area - and one of the first 53 cities in Australia - to be more than 50 per cent covered by 5G, the fifth-generation mobile network that is up to 50 times faster than previous broadband connections.
Telstra began rolling out the area's first 5G base stations six months ago, the company's regional manager Chris Taylor said; 70 per cent of the city's population now has access to the high-speed network, which covers Queanbeyan urban areas and Googong.
Coverage will extend to the rest of the region, Mr Taylor said. The company aims to have 75 per cent of the population across Australia covered by the end of the financial year.
Goulburn already has 5G coverage; Mr Taylor expects Bowral to have access sometime in the future.
What is 5G?
The superfast and interconnected 5G mobile network succeeds mobile phone calls (1G), text and picture messaging (2G), mobile data and smartphones (3G), and video calls, moving video, and streaming (4G).
Telstra CEO Andrew Penn predicted last month that no technology would do more to shape the 2020s than 5G. It was, he said, a massive leap forward in speed, data capacity and device density that would revolutionise connectivity in Australia.
5G is expected to lead to smart cities and driverless cars; virtual or enhanced reality to attend meetings, classes, concerts and sports matches; wearable medtech that can identify health issues early; and delivery fleets of drones.
One immediate benefit, Mr Taylor said, is the speed: typically 5G can be as fast as 500 megabits per second, 50 to 5 times more than the 10 to 100 megabits per second provided by 4G.
5G also increases the capacity of the network; it can handle more traffic and reduce latency (computer time lag) than 4G, while reducing the load on the existing 4G network.
The faster internet connection will make it easier for people to work or study from home during COVID-19 restrictions, Mr Taylor said.
In the future, remote health and surgical procedures, precision manufacturing, and online gaming will be enhanced through 5G.
5G and Queanbeyan
The uptake in Queanbeyan has been steady so far, Mr Taylor said, but he expected it to accelerate once more 5G-capable devices become available.
Three electronics companies will announce new handsets later this year which Mr Taylor hopes will be 5G-capable. A 5G Samsung handset and a wireless broadband router are already on the market.
5G assists Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council's desire to make Queanbeyan a smart CBD, with multi-storey car parks with electric vehicle charging points, smart street lighting, CCTV and wi-fi.
"5G will only enhance the ability to employ a more up-to-date technology to support this," Mr Taylor said.
Is 5G safe?
Conspiracy theories - apparently Russian and Chinese government disinformation - claim that 5G is dangerous, causes cancer or symptoms similar to coronavirus, and can control your mind, and that the COVID-19 lockdown was engineered to roll out the network without opposition.
Mr Taylor said he had not seen these concerns raised in the capital region.
He reassured the public:
"The 5G network is built on global standards, and it's the most secure network that you will see under those global standards."
Telstra was at the forefront of cybersecurity, Mr Taylor said; it worked closely with the government to formulate policy and action plans.
Another worry was that 5G could spread dangerous radiation; because 5G millimetre waves do not travel as far as 4G, the network requires more antennae closer together.
"In terms of electromagnetic emissions and safety concerns, we operate well within the standards set by the World Health Organization, and our electromagnetic energy emissions are quite often up to a thousand times below the recommended emissions," Mr Taylor said.
There are now more than 1500 Telstra 5G sites on-air across selected areas of 53 Australian cities and towns. More than 1000 suburbs nationally are more than half covered by Telstra 5G, and more than 10 million people live, work or pass through Telstra's 5G footprint every day.
To find out more about the 5G coverage rollout and handsets and devices, visit telstra.com.au/5g or a Telstra store.