5G modems in Australia: What are your options?

A round-up of the 5G modems available today and the providers who offer them for those looking to tap into high-speed 5G home internet.

Published on February 09, 2020
4 min read

The 5G rollout is picking up speed around Australia as more and more suburbs are connected to the speediest mobile network yet. And whether you’re looking for a 5G modem from Telstra or Optus (Vodafone has 5G but doesn’t currently offer a 5G modem), read on for the essential details of 5G modems.

It’s also worth noting that you can always tether a 5G phone when you’re within range of a 5G mobile network to tap into 5G speeds.

What is a 5G modem?

A 5G modem is a piece of networking hardware that lets you connect to a 5G mobile network. Some brand-specific 5G modems are built to operate on specific mobile networks, while others are built to be universal across the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone 5G mobile networks. Most of the 5G modems currently available are more like a portable WiFi modem than a traditional, stationary fixed-line modem.

5G modem vs 5G router

Things can get a little confusing when it comes to networking terminology, especially as it relates to the differences between 5G modems and 5GHz-capable routers. To further compound matters, some of the devices listed below are branded as 5G modems but they’re actually 5G modem-routers. We have a page dedicated to the differences between modems, routers, modem-routers and networking switches.

As stated above, a 5G modem has essential hardware that lets it connect to a 5G mobile network. But a 5G modem-router may also have dual-band WiFi connectivity, operating on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands, where 5GHz is sometimes referred to in shorthand as “5G”. While a 5G modem-router with dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands can connect your devices to a 5G mobile network, non-5G networking equipment that may still use a 5GHz wireless band cannot.

It’s worth noting that the gigabit speed potential of 5G is best paired with the 5GHz wireless band if you want to take advantage of faster wireless internet speeds.

Telstra 5G modems

Telstra 5G plans

Telstra doesn't do 5G 'home internet' deals like Optus does so the 5G internet plans available are the same as their regular, everyday mobile broadband plans (which you can bundle a 5G modem with). Here's a look at the most popular data plans from Telstra this week.

Telstra offers a few portable modems that can be bought outright or repaid over 24-month or 12-month repayment terms. There’s the cheaper 4G Netgear Nighthawk M2 or the pricier Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro.

Netgear Nighthawk M2 and Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro specs
Netgear Nighthawk M2
Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro

Price (outright)

$384

$599

Price (12-month repayment)

$32

$49.91

Price (24-month repayment)

$16

$24.95

OS compatibility

Windows 7 and laterMacOS 10.7 and later

iOS 9 or laterAndroid 4.1 or laterWindows 7, 8, 10

Weight

240g

230g

Dimensions (w/h/t)

105.5x105.5x20.35mm

73x133x18.5mm

Battery capacity

5040mAh

4500mAh

Battery duration

16 hours (500 hours standby)

9 hours (400 hours standby)

WiFi 2.4GHz

802.11 b/g/n

802.11 b/g/n/ax

WiFi 5GHz

802.11 a/n/ac

802.11 a/n/ac/ax

4GX Netgear Nighthawk M2 vs Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro

Save with 4GX or pay the premium for 5G.
Telstra 5G

Telstra 5G WiFi Pro

This is quite an interesting face-off, with pros and cons on both sides. The Netgear Nighthawk M2 works out cheaper, whichever way you choose to pay it off, to the tune of $215 compared to the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro 5G modem.

The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro specifically cites compatibility with iOS and Android devices, while the Netgear Nighthawk M2 only lists Windows and MacOS compatibility (the latter isn’t mentioned for the Telstra-branded 5G modem). Given both of these devices are portable modem-routers that can connect to the Telstra mobile network and then connect devices via WiFi (there’s also an Ethernet port to connect to a single computer or to a router), these listed compatibility options feel moot.

If you’re looking for a more compact option, the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is lighter and more compact, thought that sleeker form factor comes at the cost of a smaller battery capacity and lower battery life: 16 hours of active use for the 4G Netgear Nighthawk M2 vs nine hours for the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro.

More important than 5G connectivity (for now), the big reason to consider the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro over the 4G Netgear Nighthawk M2, though, is future-proofed WiFi. While the Netgear Nighthawk M2 taps out at WiFi 5 (802.11 ac), the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro offers faster WiFi 6 (802.11 ax), which is a faster WiFi technology whether you're connected to 4G or 5G.

HTC 5G Hub

You can also pick up the HTC 5G Hub is an Android-powered modem-router that’s capable of handling up to 20 WiFi connections and has great battery capacity (7660mAh), which equates to all-day battery. It’s currently purchasable through Telstra stores.

How fast is Telstra 5G?

For 5G home internet, Telstra is saying you should expect typical download speeds between a decent 50Mbps and a speedy 300Mbps.

Optus 5G modem

5G that's built for the home. 
Optus 5G

Optus 5G Home Internet Modem

Optus is currently offering 5G home internet that comes with in included Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway. This modem is chucked in with the plan if you opt for a 24-month plan (with one month free), but you’ll have to cough up $200 upfront if you want to stick to month-to-month (though the first month is still free).

Unlike the Telstra offerings which are built for mobility, the Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway is built to operate like a normal modem and stay hooked up inside your home. If 5G is unavailable in your area, either currently or temporarily, the Nokia 5G modem automatically connects to the Optus 4G mobile network as a backup.

Despite the name, this Nokia 5G device is a modem-router, which means it can be used as a one-stop-shop for getting online in your home. It has three gigabit Ethernet ports and inbuilt dual-band WiFi.

How fast is Optus 5G?

Like Telstra, Optus says that you should expect a minimum download speed of 50Mbps when connected to the Optus 5G mobile network. In terms of average speeds, expect to hang around 214Mbps with the Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway when connecting to the Optus 5G mobile network.

Spintel 5G modem

As an Optus mobile network MVNO, SpinTel offers 5G home internet services that use the Optus 5G mobile network. This means you’re using the same Nokia 5G modem, although it’s described as a “rental”. There’s a choice of either 24-month contract or no-contract plans, with average download speeds of 147Mbps.

Optus 4G modem

Since 5G isn't available everywhere yet, Optus still offers a 4G modem for those keen on home wireless internet through the country's second-biggest provider. There are two plans to choose from (one offering 200GB per month, the other 500GB), and you can opt for a 24-month contract with a 4G modem included or pay month-to-month with an additional upfront cost for the modem. Check out these plans below.

Does Vodafone offer 5G modems?

Unfortunately, Vodafone doesn’t currently offer any 5G modems, despite rolling out its own 5G network. For mobile broadband, Vodafone is still offering its Vodafone Pocket WiFi 3 4G device or the Huawei WiFi Cube 2 4G, both of which (as the names imply) operate on Vodafone’s 4G mobile network. Much like smartphones, these 4G-capable modems aren’t capable of tapping into the speed potential of 5G because they don’t have the requisite 5G hardware.

Are there modems with 5G backup?

While modems with 4G backup are quite common, modems with 5G backup are a whole lot less ubiquitous. In fact, at the time of writing, 10MATES is the only provider that offers a “secondary failover connection via 4G/5G”, which amounts to an external device that connects to an existing modem-router. If you're happy to stick with 4G for the time being, you can check out the most popular plans that come with 4G backup modems below.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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