When 5G was first announced, I was really excited about having incredible mobile data speeds on devices for entertainment, education and productivity. Faster download and upload speeds are something we could all benefit from, when 5G hardware arrives. In 2020, the hardware is arriving and HTC’s 5G Hub is one of the first 5G devices in Australia.
In December last year, Telstra launched their first 5G sites in Melbourne and Sydney, so it looked like 5G support for regional areas was going to be a long time coming.
After the initial excitement about 5G, I had to then recalibrate my expectations, now expecting the rollout in regional locations like Albury Wodonga, would be years away.
Thankfully Telstra is building out their 5G network fast and the competition from Optus and now Vodafone is certainly helping accelerate that rollout.
5G is now available in large slabs of regional locations, ahead of many addresses in Australia’s largest cities. With NBN speeds often challenging in non-metro areas, it’s actually these customers that have the most to gain by faster internet speeds, however, that’s delivered.
So after attending the Wodonga 5G launch back in December, I wanted to follow up with further real-world 5G testing in Albury Wodonga.
Curves in all the right places
The device itself is an Android tablet, but angled, so the flat base allows it to stand. The screen is much larger than hotspot devices of the last generation, now offering a 5″ display running 1280 x 720.
As a tablet, it works pretty well and running Android 9.0 with HTC Sense, you can install most of your regular Android apps. I wouldn’t say it’s the fastest thing in the world and there’s a couple of quirks like the Speedtest app doesn’t work in landscape mode, so I ended up standing the Hub on it’s end, which wasn’t exactly stable.
There’s a nice fabric feel to the exterior, which actually gives the device a very warm and friendly feeling, like the Amazon Studio or latest Echo dots. While the insides are packed with technology, one omission is the lack of physical buttons to control the volume of the built-in speaker. After having this on every phone, every tablet, it becomes something you don’t think about, until its not there. Of course you can use the on-screen controls, but hardware buttons are faster to access.
How does it perform ?
My 5G testing plan started by reviewing the stated coverage by Telstra. Their 5G coverage map of Albury Wodonga shows large coverage areas across West Wodonga, North Wodonga, West Albury, North Albury, Lavington, East Thurgoona and Hamilton Valey.
Anyone familiar with the area will quickly notice that the main street of Albury is not included in the coverage area. That’s a little strange at first, but when you understand the 4G speeds in that area are quite good, they need it less than other areas around Albury Wodonga.
Testing the speed of the HTC 5G Hub is not difficult, simply drive to a number of locations included in the coverage map and run speed tests. After having done this, let’s detail the results.
High St, Wodonga
- Ping: 43ms
- Download: 458 Mbps
- Upload: 57.3 Mbps
Tesla Supercharger, Wodonga
- Ping: 46ms
- Download: 583 Mbps
- Upload: 48.3 Mbps
Albury Waste Management Centre, Lavington (4G)
- Ping: 38ms
- Download: 105 Mbps
- Upload: 16.3 Mbps
Lavington Shopping Center
- Ping: 40ms
- Download: 726 Mbps
- Upload: 36.1 Mbps
Lavington Telstra Exchange
- Ping: 34ms
- Download: 518 Mbps
- Upload: 36 Mbps
- Ping: 41ms
- Download: 181 Mbps
- Upload: 11.2 Mbps
Dean Street, Albury (4G)
- Ping: 38ms
- Download: 10.4 Mbps
- Upload: 54.4 Mbps
The Gardens, Albury (4G)
- Ping: 38ms
- Download: 3.23 Mbps
- Upload: 10.7 Mbps
- Ping: 48ms
- Download: 49.3 Mbps
- Upload: 7.77 Mbps
Sumsion Gardens, Wodonga (4G)
- Ping: 39ms
- Download: 40.6 Mbps
- Upload: 7.54 Mbps
- Ping: 37ms
- Download: 616 Mbps
- Upload: 22.4 Mbps
Not everything’s perfect
There’s no issues to speak of with this device, it basically works as advertised. The issue here that I’d like to raise is regarding Telstra’s 5G coverage maps. Despite being assured they were super accurate and updated often, one of the first places I went to check was Albury’s Waste Distribution Center near Hamilton Valley. They have recently installed a EV fast charger, which I wanted to check out anyway, so this seemed like a great location.
After arriving there I checked the HTC Hub’s home screen and it was only showing LTE, not 5G service. After firing up a speedtest I experience what was then expected slow, 4G speeds. This was a little frustrating, given any potential buyers would rely heavily on these coverage maps to make their purchasing decision.
On March 27th this 5G coverage map for Albury Wodonga was again updated and you can now see even more of Albury Wodonga is now covered. From additional testing, most places did in fact have 5G service, so I may have found an outlier at the Albury Waste Station. I drove about 500 meters down the road and pulled off to the side of the road. Upon testing from that location, I was indeed connected to 5G.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The HTC 5G Hub is now available and features the following:
- Connect Up to 20 Devices
- All-Day Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 5G
- Plug & Play Entertainment Hub
- Easy Corporate VPN Configuration
- Band support – 5G: n78, 4G: B1, B3, B5, B7, B8, B28, 4G Roaming: B2, B4, B41, B66
- Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz, 802.11 a/n/ac 5 GHz, 802.11 ad 60 GHz
The HTC 5G Hub normally retails for A$984.00, but right now you can pick it up from Telstra for just A$408.00, with free delivery of 1 to 5 business days.
Alternatively you can also purchase the device as part of a mobile plan, much like you would a 5G phone. If you opt for 24 months, the device repayment will be $17 per month, or drop to $11.33 per month on a 36 month plan.
In terms of data, Telstra’s 5G plans range from 5GB to 100GB per month with price starting at $15pm right up to $75pm. This means for under $100 per month, you could have 100GB of data on up to 20 devices.
As you can see from the performance tests, your experience with 5G will differ dramatically based on where you are. The growth in the coverage map since launch is seriously impressive for a regional locaiton like Albury Wodonga, something replicated down the east coast of Australia. This shows Telstra are committed to having the best 5G network in the country and are getting after building it as soon as possible.
This progress in just a few months, gives me hope that we’ll have fairly universal coverage in the next 12-18 months. While the world is crazy right now, most of us are consuming more data than ever as we’re working from home. It is worth noting that faster speeds mean you’ll burn through that data cap faster. This really answers one of the most important questions I had about living and breathing on 5G and the potential it has to replace your home NBN connection.
Personally I have an unlimited FTTP internet plan with Aussie Broadband. Given this, I hadn’t really considered how much data I’m using each month. Logging in to check my account revealled that we average around 200GB of combined download/upload per month. So for what we pay $99 per month for, we’d have to pay much, much more to have the same experience on 5G. Each household will have different calculations to make, but I still think 5G data caps need to grow to make it a real competitor to the NBN.
Telstra’s 5G speeds are really impressive, as much as 726Mbps down, making it more than 7x the speeds I get on 4G. Now let’s talk about why someone would need that performance. Essentially you don’t. Sure there’s the occasional Netflix movie download you’d like to happen instantly, but generally things are already pretty fast at 100Mbps.
5G speeds are really best leveraged either by multiple people, across multiple devices (up to 20), or for multitasking. This means you could have the latest documents syncing back to OneDrive or SharePoint, while downloading a Netflix movie and watching a YouTube video and running TweetDeck, Email and doing Windows Updates. If you’re the kind of power user that’s short on time and needs all this at once, then perhaps you can convince your boss to buy one for you.
I strongly recommend the HTC 5G Hub if you find a way to afford the cost of the 5G plan. It really is neat device in a really well engineered form factor that makes me really eager to have 5G in my next phone. Despite not yet having 5G coverage at home in Killara, it’s likely not far away which makes me really excited about the future. If you live or work (probably the same place now), in a 5G coverage area, you do have another option for connecting and that’s always appreciated.