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5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots have been turned on in Australia by telecom provider Telstra. The company is using the connectivity via its recently opened 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast in Queensland to power a series of Wi-Fi hotspots as well as a 5G Connected Car, said Telstra Managing Director Networks Mike Wright.

“We have said we intend to lead on 5G and with these 5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots Australian consumers will be among the first people in the world to try the technology,” Mr. Wright said. “Taking 5G technology out of a lab and into the hands of consumers is another key milestone on Telstra’s roadmap to offering 5G services in 2019.”

There are no 5G compatible commercial smartphones or tablets available today. By connecting 5G backhaul and infrastructure in the Southport Exchange, to a standard Wi-Fi access point then people can use the technology on their existing device, Telstra explained in a press release.

Using Wi-Fi access as part of Telstra’s 5G technical program is a way to show the benefits of 5G capability in real world conditions. The 5G hotspots will be open to anyone in the area and are free with a download limit of 10 GB per day per device.

“Wi-Fi has limited throughput so a single hotspot alone cannot come close to reaching the limits of 5G at our Innovation Centre. By using multiple hotspots with potentially hundreds of smartphone users served through a single 5G device we are able to get closer to demonstrating 5G in a real world environment,” Wright said. “Our 5G backhaul is capable of delivering download speeds of more than 3Gbps, which is capable of supporting around 1,000 HD movies being streamed simultaneously.”

Telstra is also using mmWave spectrum and its 5G Innovation Centre to put a connected car on the road with the Intel 5G Automotive Trial Platform, one of the most advanced 5G prototype devices available in the world today.

“Working with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel, we have put Australia’s first 5G connected car on the road. We are in the very early stages of development and are achieving download speeds approaching 1Gbps inside the car and the vehicle is also equipped with a Wi-Fi access point,” Wright said.

“This shows how quickly the technology is evolving. At the beginning of the year, our 5G prototype device was the size of a bar fridge and weighed more than 200 kilograms.  Now, in collaboration with Intel and Ericsson, we have one that has been shrunk down to the size of a personal computer and can be installed in a car.”  

The Connected Car will help Telstra to start getting real results on mobile performance over mmWave and ensure 5G network readiness.  These advances are part of a series of 5G related activities that Telstra, Ericsson, Intel and other technology companies will undertake on the Gold Coast in 2018.

The 5G Innovation Centre is central to a $60 million investment Telstra has made to upgrade infrastructure on the Gold Coast to support growing demand and major events in the area. 

Actual broadband speeds experienced on the 5G enabled Wi-Fi hotspots and Connected Car will vary and are likely to be lower than the maximum depending on factors, Telstra said, such as the type of device being used, distance from the hotspot and the number of people connected to the hotspot at the one time. 

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