Telstra turned on its first precinct of 5G-enabled wi-fi hotspots this week allowing Gold Coast locals and visitors to enjoy free broadband while Telstra evaluates 5G technology.

Telstra’s group managing director networks Mike Wright said the telco is using the connectivity via its recently opened 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast to power a series of wi-fi hotspots on Scarborough and Nerang Streets in Southport.

“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,” 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, the telco said.

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.

5G for automotive industry

The 5G hotspots will also power a connected car which is designed to to help Telstra test the readiness of the 5G network.

“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 1 Gbps 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 start 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.”  

Telstra’s 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.

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