A man speaks on a mobile phone as he walks past Vodafone branding outside a retail store in London November 12, 2013.
A man speaks on a mobile phone as he walks past Vodafone branding outside a retail store in London November 12, 2013. Reuters/Toby Melville

Australia has barely spent four years on utilising its 4G LTE services and yet its biggest carriers are now preparing for 5G, supposedly the next big thing in mobile phone network technology.

Telstra has repeatedly told the press last year that the company is doing its best to bring the very first commercial 1Gbps broadband service on the local market. In the early months of 2015 , Telstra partnered with its long-term equipment supplier, Ericsson, to distinguish 5G’s many unknown aspects and commercial potentials. Telstra’s 5G switch is due in 2020.

"We've always been very aggressive in adopting new technology because it's more efficient and we can show clearly it's a lower cost to deliver more [data], customers get the latest technology and they get a better experience," Mike Wright, Telstra network group managing director, told The Sydney Morning Herald in March.

A few months later, the company confirmed that it will deliver speeds of up to 10GB per second with lower power consumption in 2020, which would be initialised and completed by introducing upgrades on its existing 4G network.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia also confirmed that preparing for 5G Internet services would be among the company’s top priorities for 2016, along with improving customer service and customisable mobile plans.

"We've spent a couple of years upgrading and improving our infrastructure. We haven't stopped and the pace at which we continue to improve our network remains and the reason for that is because we're already looking into 5G,” Vodafone chief executive Inaki Berroeta told Fairfax Media. He assured Vodafone’s loyal customers that they will have 5G by 2020.

Berroeta was a key entity in saving the country’s third biggest player from possible downfall in 2014 when a large percentage of its customers turned its back on the company after several network problems. His appointment as the new chief introduced many changes in the company such as better mobile data plans, cheaper bundles and better network connections. The company successfully rebounded and regained its loyal customers back later that year, putting the firm back to its position as one the country’s leading network carriers.

Vodafone’s Indian arm is also leading the infrastructure improvement revolution in the country upon the sudden increase of call drop-related complaints directed at local telco firms in the past few years.

In 2015 , the company was the first one to tap the services of San Diego-based 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ) , a network extender provider that promises to improve mobile network signal anywhere in the country. The company’s plug-and-play device is the very first network extender product on the market that is wireless, radio frequency-based, and does not use femtocell technology, which is capable only of improving signals in an enclosed space.

Second biggest player Optus also announced that it is preparing for the imminent arrival of 5G in the country. "3G is still critically important to so many of our customers, so we're upgrading our network in terms of 3G and 4G together," Optus head Stuart MacIntyre was quoted by ZDNet as saying at the CommsDay Unwired conference in Sydney last year.

The 5G difference

Later last year, the International Telecommunications Union formed several special focus groups that would look through the still-undistinguished commercial and technological advantages of the 5G network. Among its first findings is its capability to service more customers with the same amount of spectrum with improved speed.

On a consumer level, the emergence of a more robust 5G network would let users watch crispier movies even on small screens such as the iPad and smartphones, download and upload files faster, and obtain clearer voice and video calls via online messaging applications.

According to Cisco, the number of mobile devices could reach up to 50 billion when companies and economies start utilising 5G in the next four years. This would be an immense leap from the current 15 billion devices connected to 4G network service.

Experts believe that it will also serve as the backbone of the expansion of the Internet of Things, which will allow every device and gadget to be connected to and be operated via the cloud. The power of 5G, which will utilise a very expensive network spectrum, could also pave the way for the commercialisation of the driverless cars.