5G modems and routers 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.

Telstra
Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
Starts at
$16.63
/mo
  • Check
    Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Check
    Light and compact
  • Check
    9 hours of battery life
Telstra
Netgear Nighthawk M5
Starts at
$19.33
/mo
  • Check
    Compatible with Windows and MacOS
  • Check
    13 hours of battery life
  • Check
    Pocket-friendly 5G
Optus
ZTE 5G Modem
Starts at
$12.08
/mo
  • Check
    Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Check
    9 hours of battery life
  • Check
    Light and compact
Optus
Nokia FastMile 5G
Starts at
$79
/mo
  • Check
    Connectivity indicators
  • Check
    Plug and play design
  • Check
    Wi-Fi 6
Vodaphone
Sagemcom F@st 5866T
Starts at
$60
/mo
  • Check
    Connectivity indicators
  • Check
    Clean design
  • Check
    Wi-Fi 6
May 17, 2022
7 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 mobile or home internet plan from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, you'll need a 5G modem to realise the full benefits of the technology.

While you can always tether a 5G phone when you’re within range of a 5G mobile network to tap into 5G speeds, a 5G modem is essential if you're looking to rely on a high-speed connection for your home and ditch the NBN.

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.

While the first wave of 5G modems to land in Australia were closer to portable WiFi modems than their stationary fixed-line counterparts, there are now a number of different options available to those seeking to connect to Australia's 5G mobile networks.

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 whole page dedicated to the differences between modems, routers, modem-routers and networking switches. However, if you want the short version, 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.

No. While the 5Ghz wireless band is sometimes called 5G, it is a different technology to 5G cellular or mobile connectivity. The fact that the two sound so similar is largely coincidental.

5G connectivity is named that because it is positioned as the fifth generation of wireless mobile networks. It was preceded by 4G, which was the fourth generation of mass mobile networking tech, and will eventually be succeeded by 6G.

On the other hand, 5Ghz is named after the frequency that is used to wireless transmit data over short distances.

Graphic featuring the best pocket wifi dongles available in Australia

The best pocket WiFi and WiFi dongles available

Is that a dongle in your pocket?

Telstra 5G Modems

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro

The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is the more expensive of the two mobile 5G modems that Telstra offer, but that higher asking price does net you a few extra bells and whistles.

The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro specifically cites compatibility with iOS and Android devices, while the Netgear Nighthawk M6 only lists Windows and MacOS compatibility (the latter isn’t mentioned for the Telstra-branded 5G modem).

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro

However, 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.

Ultimately, the biggest advantage here is the form-factor. The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is lighter and more compact, though that sleeker form factor comes at the cost of a smaller battery capacity and lower battery life. A single charge will get 13 hours of active use for the Netgear Nighthawk M5 vs nine hours for the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro.

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro plans

To get the most out of the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro, you're going to need to sign up for one of the carrier's mobile broadband plans. Since the cheapest option on the table doesn't include 5G access, you're looking at Telstra's Upfront Data Plan Medium or above.

The widget below lists the plans available for the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro modem.

Netgear Nighthawk M5

The Netgear Nighthawk M5 isn't equipped to deliver speeds that are faster than the alternative, but it does have a few technical differences that may make it a better fit than Telstra's 5G Wi-Fi Pro.

The most notable of these is physical size. While the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro is a little thinner, the Nighthawk M5 is a more square in shape. This might make it slightly more pocket-friendly than Telstra's house-brand option​ for some users.

The difference in battery life between the two 5G modems is more consequential. As mentioned above, Netgear promise that a single charge will get you 13 hours of active use with the Netgear Nighthawk M5. On paper, this wins out over the nine hours that Telstra say their 5G Wi-Fi Pro can deliver.

Nighthawk M5

Netgear Nighthawk M5 plans

To get the most out of the Netgear Nighthawk M5, you're going to need to sign up for one of the carrier's mobile broadband plans. Since the cheapest option on the table doesn't include 5G access, you're looking at Telstra's Upfront Data Plan Medium or above.

The widget below lists the plans available for the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro modem.

Netgear Nighthawk M5 vs Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro

Netgear Nighthawk M5
Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
OS compatibilityWindows 7 and laterMacOS 10.7 and later"iOS 9 or laterAndroid 4.1 or laterWindows 7, 8, 10"
Weight240g230g
Dimensions (w/h/t)105.5x105.5x21.5mm73x133x18.5mm
Battery capacity5040mAh4500mAh
Battery duration13 hours (500 hours standby)9 hours (400 hours standby)
WiFi 2.4GHz802.11 b/g/n/ax802.11 b/g/n/ax
WiFi 5GHz802.11 a/n/ac/ax802.11 a/n/ac/ax
Connected devices3230

Telstra 5G Home Modem

Photograph of the Telstra 5G home modem

The Telstra 5G Home Modem is designed to make setting up a 5G Home Internet connection as easy as possible. All it needs is power, plus placement in the part of your home that receives the strongest Telstra 5G signal. The modem relies on an easy-to-understand, light-based system for an indication of how strong the 5G signal is.

For faster local network speeds, the Telstra 5G Home Modem has inbuilt WiFi 6, which means it won’t be a bottleneck when connecting WiFi 6 devices to the speedy potential of 5G internet. It’s a dual-band router, too, meaning you can take advantage of the faster 5GHz local WiFi band and the longer-range 2.4GHz band, too.

There’s also a 2.5GB WAN/LAN port, four gigabit Ethernet ports, and a WPS push button for straightforward WiFi connectivity with compatible devices.

Telstra 5G Home Modem plans

At the time of writing, the Telstra 5G Home Modem must be used with one of Telstra's 5G Home Internet plans. On top of this restriction, Telstra's 5G Home Internet is only available in selected locations.

You can punch in your address on the Telstra 5G home broadband page to see if you're lucky enough to be eligible for it. If you are and you sign up, Telstra will throw in the first month for free.

After that, the Telstra 5G Home Internet plan will cost you $85 per month. It includes 1TB of data, with typical evening download speeds of between 50Mbps and 600Mbps and typical upload speeds of 10Mbps and 90Mbps. 

Other 5G modems and routers

ZTE 5G Modem

Optus ZTE 5G modem

If you sign up for one of Optus' 5G mobile broadband plans, you'll end up with a ZTE 5G modem as part of the deal.

The hardware isn't too different from what Telstra's two 5G modems deliver. In fact, it's almost identical in design and form-factor to Telstra's own 5G Wi-Fi Pro modem.

Check out the widget below for plans that include the router:

Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway

Optus 5G home internet

At the time of writing, the Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway is the modem of choice for every 5G home internet provider in Australia that isn't Telstra. This is the hardware you're going to be relying on if you sign up for a 5G home internet plan through Optus, Vodafone, TPG, iiNet, Internode or Spintel.

The Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway is a dual-band router with Wi-Fi 5 connectivity, a 2.5GB WAN/LAN port and three gigabit Ethernet ports.

In practice, the Nokia FastMile 5G gateway is built to stay hooked up inside your home and operate like a normal modem. If 5G is unavailable in your area, either currently or temporarily, the Nokia 5G modem automatically connects to the relevant 4G mobile network as a backup.

Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway plans

You can see a round-up of plans that come bundled with the Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway modem using the widget below.

Does Vodafone offer 5G modems or routers?

Vodafone 5G modem

At the time of writing, signing up for either of Vodafone's 5G home internet plans will net you one of two different modem-routers. Some customers will end up with the same Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway modem-router available from Optus, SpinTel and others. Meanwhile, some customers will end up with the Sagemcom F@st 5866T modem.

Vodafone customers don't really have a choice or say in which modem they receive. It's a what-you-get-is-what-you-get sort of deal. Thankfully, while the looks  vary, the capabilities found in the two devices do not.

As with its Nokia-made counterpart, the Sagemcom F@st 5866T features a color-based lighting system that communicates signal strength, as well as a trio of Ethernet jacks and a single USB port on the back.

You can check out a shortlist of Vodafone's 5G home internet plans using the widget below.

Are there modems with 5G backup?

While 5G 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.

Can I use 5G instead of the NBN?

While tethering a 5G mobile connection across your whole household might not be practical, a number of providers are now positioning 5G home internet as a viable alternative to the NBN.

However, the answer of the question of whether 5G can replace a fixed-line NBN setup is going to vary wildly from person. Not only are every users connectivity needs different, but access to 5G is itself fairly fragmented.

Many Australians are going to be just as likely to live in an area with competitive NBN options but poor 5G coverage as the opposite. If you fall into the former camp, then many of the advantages that a 5G home internet connection setup delivers are the same as you'd get out of a 4G-based home broadband situation.

If you've had to wait for weeks on an NBN technician, the fact that you can set up a brand new home wireless broadband connection in minutes will be music to your ears.

Of course, the opposite is also the case. Regardless of whether they're 5G or not, home wireless broadband plans can be more expensive than a regular home internet connection and unlimited data plans aren’t always available.

Still, if you're ready to cut the cord on the NBN and are lucky enough to have solid coverage, then the high-speeds offered by 5G might be tempting enough to sign up and give it a try.

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to 5G home internet, check out the widget below for a round-up of the most popular plans.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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