How 5G will revolutionise communications in rural Australia

5G internet on Australia computer
Improved internet speed is just one benefit that 5G internet will bring to Australia. Photo by Rawpixel.com via Bigstock

Hot on the heels of the NBN, and the bad press associated with it, comes the new international standard for mobile data networks, 5G. Click to see how 5G will change things.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is one of the government bodies, which advises the nation’s leaders on the impact of technologies like 5G. It identifies this ‘G’ (generation) of mobile data transmission standards as ‘revolutionary, not evolutionary and are supporting the government in the steps required to fast track its deployment.

When put in place, 5G networks will connected 100 times the number of internet capable devices, and offer 1000 times more bandwidth than is currently available. There will be 50 billion connected devices around the world, 6 for every individual on the planet in just 2 years from now. How 5G technology can improve healthcare  and regional Australia will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the results.

How 5G will impact rural Australia

Beyond faster data to your phone, 5G’s effects will be so significant, because they enable such a broad array of the factors that influence the lives of Australians living in more remote areas.

Healthcare benefits

Australia suffers from a digital divide when it comes to medical facilities that are available in metro and, conversely, rural areas of the country. The difference in care standards can lead to worse healthcare outcomes for Australians who were born and live outside of the main cities. Preventable hospital admissions in more remote locations are 250% those of counterparts in metro areas, a great deal of difference beings accounted for by poorer access to a fast, accurate diagnosis of the problem.

The promise of a long round trip (perhaps requiring the investment of a whole day) to see a doctor, naturally deters people, except the extremely ill from, travelling to get it. 5G communications capabilities will enable real time interaction between patient and doctor. 5G bandwidth will facilitate the exchange of high resolution, often 3D imaging and provide the tools to assist doctors to provide an accurate diagnosis. Soon, 5G will even offer a facility for health care professionals to operate remotely on bodies in the bush using robot prosthetics.

Impacts on farming

Every business is digital now. It may seem unlikely that farming could benefit from faster data transmission but the agricultural industry has taken up any technology improvement which could drive efficiencies for the last century. Some estimates suggest that there has been a 3000% efficiency improvement in the production of crops over that time. 5G is no exception.

5G standards have resulted in batteries for sensors which last a decade on a single charge. That means they can connect anything to the Internet (the so called ‘Internet Of Things.’) This sort of facility will allow farmers to track herds of livestock, and to better manage their other assets, tractors and combine harvesters, for example, to maximize yields.

5G will lead to massively improved mobile internet coverage in rural Australia
Australian network coverage is notoriously sparse in many areas, a feature of our huge landmass and distributed population. Again, the ACMA suggest, 5G will provide 100% national coverage. The network frequencies the government are freeing up for usage by 5G operators are designed to offer maximum distance coverage with the least possible attenuation (signal degradation.)

It is easier to install ‘repeater’ stations which transmit data over huge distances than it is to bury and maintain copper or fibre lines in the ground. We could finally see the entirety of Australia covered with a data signal. Now, even Telstra covers less than 15% of the Australian landmass with their 3G signal, technology which has been in market for nearly 15 years.

Summing up the impact of 5G on rural Australia

It wouldn’t be hard to convince the average Australia that the ‘Fibre To the Node’ (FTTN) fixed broadband NBN has been a politically undermined headache. It must be said, however, that the imminent arrival of the mobile equivalent to the NBN, Australia’s 5G networks is being treated much more professionally by the government.

Rural Australia is also, often, the last to see some of the benefits despite the governments $200 million a year investment in the blackspot program (under which connectivity investments made by phone companies are incentivised by the government.) The mobile nature of 5G, it’s incredible throughput and low power consumption characteristics appear to be about to put an end to all this. 5G appears almost ideal for rural deployment.

4G networks are likely to carry the bulk of data loads for some time to come, but where required, 5G seems set to transform the lives of rural Australians in material ways.