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What the heck is a 'G'? Why 5G mobile is awesome, what it means, and how to get it in Australia

Mixed media people on their phones with 5G access.

What is 5G? This new mobile phone term looks like empty technobabble at first. But the number of 'G's your network connection has can give you a whole new level of speed and convenience.

So let’s download some knowledge: here’s everything you need to know about 5G.

What is 5G?

Collage of a woman star jumping against an explosion of colours because her phone has 5G.

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity (the ‘g’ stands for generation). Similar to a smartphone upgrade, mobile networks get updated too, allowing us to stream, download, text, call, and more with greater convenience. 

2G started it all by giving us SMS and picture messaging. 3G brought us mobile internet access. 4G made streaming and sharing commonplace, and 5G is just the latest offering. Faster speeds and lower latency mean downloads take seconds, not minutes, so you can do things like game in real time or stream uninterrupted.

Basically, 5G just means your network connection can now keep up with your everyday life.

Is 5G better or faster? What are the benefits of 5G internet?

Collage of a woman grinning at all the phones with 5G.

As mentioned above, the main draw of 5G is that it offers:

  • Faster mobile internet speeds.
  • Lower latency/lagging.
  • The ability to connect more devices to a single virtual network.

As coverage becomes more widespread, new services will be developed to offer new and exciting benefits to 5G users. 

But exactly how fast is 5G? For most Australians, 5G will allow them to download movies in less than ten seconds, stream things uninterrupted, and connect more smart home sensors to their network.

5G will especially be useful for workers from home, or Australians make a living online, who need to stay connected on the go.

Which mobile providers offer 5G in Australia?

Collage of hands holding smartphones with 5G.

Good news! All three main mobile providers in Australia (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone) now offer 5G phones and network access. Because 5G is still in the rollout phase, different providers will offer different levels of network coverage. Additionally, 5G will only be available on certain plans with compatible devices.

Telstra currently has the biggest 5G network in Australia, reaching 75% of the population. Over 3,200 suburbs and 200 cities/towns can now access Telstra 5G, with more added each day.

Vodafone and Optus aren’t far behind, with 5G towers up and running in most Australian capitals and major cities such as the Sunshine/Gold Coast. 

To see if your local area has 5G service, check coverage maps or talk to your provider.

How do I find out whether my smartphone has 5G?

A woman studies her phone to see if it has 5G.

Because 5G is so new, not every mobile phone on the market supports it. You can tell if your device is 5G ready by looking up the specifications online, or checking which networks are supported in user settings. (Note, this will only work if you have a 5G compatible phone and mobile plan, and you’re in an area with 5G coverage).

The good news is that many new phones are 5G enabled, so if you bought your phone brand new within the last two years, the odds are in your favour. 

In fact, if your mobile plan offers it and coverage is available, your new phone is programmed to automatically connect to the 5G network – huzzah!

Here are some steps to check if your specific smartphone is 5G ready.

Apple iPhone

To check if your iPhone is 5G ready, go to Settings > Cellular/Mobile > Mobile/Cellular Data options. Under Voice & Data, if you see an option for 5G, your device is 5G enabled/activated. If you don’t, contact your service provider to make sure that your plan has 5G access. 

Note that 5G is available for the following iPhone generations:

  • iPhone 14 (including Pro, Plus, Pro Max).
  • iPhone SE.
  • iPhone 13 (including Mini).
  • iPhone 12.

Samsung Galaxy

To check if your Galaxy is 5G ready, go to Settings > Preferred network type. If you see 5G available, then your phone is 5G ready. 

Note that 5G is available for the following Galaxy smartphone generations:

  • Samsung galaxy S23 (including Ultra and Plus).
    Samsung Galaxy S22 (including Ultra and Plus).
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 (including Plus, Ultra, FE).
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 & Fold 4.
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3.
    Samsung Galaxy A13, A53 & A73 (all marked 5G).

Check out our guide for flip vs. brick smartphones to learn more.

Google Pixel

To check if your Google Pixel is 5G ready, go to Settings > Networking and internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Preferred network type. If you don’t see 5G as an available option, check with your provider that you have an eligible phone and plan, and adequate coverage in your area.

Note that 5G is available for the following Pixel generations:

How do I get 5G network access?

Collage of a cool dog bursting 5G rainbows from its cool sunglasses.

If you would like to get access to the 5G network, make sure you live in an area with 5G network coverage and that you have a compatible phone and mobile plan. You can browse a selection of offers with our mobile plan comparison tool.

Once you have a device, coverage, and plan in place, it will automatically connect to the 5G network. Contact your provider for troubleshooting help if this isn't the case. You will usually see a 5G icon on the top bar of your smartphone, which indicates you’ve successfully connected to the network.

Want to upgrade to a 5G device? You may get credit towards your purchase by trading in your old smartphone.

More FAQs about 5G

Will I be able to get 5G on my home internet or WIFI?

Luckily, as 5G rolls out across Australia, broadband users looking for an alternative to NBN may now access 5G for their home internet connection. All three major providers (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone) offer 5G broadband for your home.

RELATED: 5G vs. NBN - Which is faster?

Are 3G/4G going away or being replaced by 5G?

3G is on its last legs (Telstra has announced it will decommission its 3G network by 2024), but 4G isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, 4G is often the back-up used by mobile devices if they can’t access 5G.

Looking forward to 5G? Compare 5G mobile phone deals or browse a selection below.

Compare mobile phone deals with 5G

Mozo may receive payment if you click to the website of one of the products below currently available via our partner, WhistleOut. They do not compare the entire market, but you can see more options by clicking on the View Full Results link in the table.
Last updated 24 July 2024
Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like