Telstra today launched its first 5G enabled mobile device, a portable hotspot and multimedia tablet. The launch coincides with the release of the first 5G-capable mobile phone in Australia, Samsung’s S10 5G. Both devices will be available in stores tomorrow.

The devices mark “day one” of 5G in Australia, according to Telstra representatives who spoke at a launch event in Sydney today to demonstrate the products and discuss the telco’s 5G roadmap.

Telstra says it has moved quickly to establish its 5G network compared to previous generations of mobile networks, rolling out infrastructure while the technology remains less mature, relative to 3G and 4G roll outs.

The telco has been working on its 5G capabilities for the last three years and began building towers midway through 2018. Now it has over 200 towers providing 5G networks to 10 major cities including all Australian capitals. Telstra says within the next year that coverage will extend to 25 more major regional cities.

Coverage is restricted to certain sites within cities and users need a 5G capable device and 5G plan to access the network.

So far the 5G rollout has focused on consumer and small businesses but the new network is expected to ultimately drive several emerging technologies like IoT, edge computing and artificial intelligence thanks not only to its increased speeds but considerably lower latency.

It’s still “early days” for 5G in that regard though, Telstra engineers said today, but enterprise level use cases remain “very important” to the telco. The company partnered with the Commonwealth Bank to explore 5G enabled edge computing, for example.

HTC 5G hub

Telstra is billing its new 5G device as “the world’s first 5G/4GX media hotspot”. The battery powered hub, which acts as a portable router, resembles a tablet with a touchscreen interface which can be mirrored to larger displays.

Telstra's new HTC 5G Hub

It allows up to 20 devices to connect over wifi, offering speeds of up to 2Gbps thanks to the 5G network it runs on. Although Telstra conceded the speeds will likely be closer to 1Gbps due to network congestion.

The device and its 5G network connectivity (it is also able to connect to 4G) will allow 4K video streaming and low latency gaming according to Telstra. But it also marks a significant step for Australia’s 5G networks, according to Telstra CEO, Andrew Penn

“This is just the start,” Penn said in a statement.

“The roll out of 5G coverage is ongoing and, as 5G develops, there will be more devices and more technologies to come. But this is an important step we take today, as the first Australian network to offer mobile 5G.”

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