Netgear's CEO is excited about what 5G can do - and he's on a 300Mbps cable connection

Your future loungeroom – no latency please, we’re gamers. Picture: Getty Images

  • 5G available in Australia by the end of 2019
  • Promises minimum of 2GB download speeds, up to 5GB
  • Netgear CEO says it will start an ‘arms race’

It’s now obvious – for many, painfully so – that 5G will arrive quicker, be rolled out smoother and deliver faster internet speeds to Australian households than the national broadband network.

If you want to make the switch, you could be clocking up speeds of 2GB, 15 times faster than the best NBN connection most Australians haven’t seen, by the end of next year.

Telstra’s roadmap shows it will handle the rollout to “major cities and a number of regional centres” in three years, for $5 billion. By that time, the NBN will have been lurching along for nine years, delivering underwhelming speeds and rage-inducing technical issues at a cost of at least $54 billion.

In Santa Fe, California, the CEO of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of routers, Netgear, is feeling our collective pain.

“We’re lucky enough that we’re in an area getting 250-300 megabits coming into our house through cable,” Patrick Lo, also a Netgear co-founder, says.

Not surprisingly, Lo’s home is as connected as homes come. Lightbulbs, IP cameras, “a lot of laptops and mobile phones and streaming devices”, he says.

“If you’re after security, or want some door opening or window opening sensors, or if you’re worried about safety in terms of fire air, some smoke or carbon monoxide detectors and so on and so fare, it’s endless,” he says.

“And now, you can do it yourself, you can buy it and connect it.

“The beauty of it is the platform is getting easier and easier. You can choose any platform now and put as many IoT devices on it as possible.”

But you need a couple of things. First, ideally, a decent router, like the one Lo is in Australia to launch tonight. It’s Netgear’s new gaming router, the Nighthawk Pro.

Obviously, it’s great for gamers, as it’s built to deliver the speeds gamers need. But that includes the need to deliver them to several devices, and that in turn means being able to control who gets what from the Nighthawk.

So if you’re trying to control broadband rage in a household running Netflix on three TVs, five mobile phones and 12 IoT devices, a gaming router could make sense.

“If you do a lot of video streaming I believe you will benefit from using a gaming router,” Lo says.

“The big benefit is it will graphically show you all devices connected to the router, and then you can graphically manipulate the amount of bandwidth allocated to each device.

“You’ll probably want to allocate 25% to TV1, 25% to TV2, 25% to TV3 and then 1% to each of the IoT devices and the rest to your mobile platforms.”

The other thing you’ll need – apart from a willingness to ignore the fact that all gaming equipment looks like it was designed by a 12-year-old Transformers junkie – is a fast, reliable internet service.

Gaming routers. Huh. Picture: Supplied

Australians, widely fatigued with waiting for their politicians to work that out, are now getting twitchy about the potential of 5G arriving within 12 months, and Telstra isn’t the only telco feeling the vibe.

Lo hasn’t fully experienced 5G speeds yet. The 5G standard was officially delivered just four or five months ago and he said the chipsets to that standard “are not quite ready yet”. That will happen towards the end of this year, he says.

But just two weeks ago, Lo got to experience an intermediate step to 5G just two weeks ago in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress.

With Telstra and Ericsson, they were able to experience a 2GB download speed on a cellular network, on LTE. And of course, 5G will go all the way up to 5GB speeds.

“I fully anticipate by the end of next year there will be widespread deployment of 5G either on a fixed wireless or on a mobile basis that will enable as minimal, a 2GB download and possible, in a dense metropolitan area, to have a 5GB download,” Lo says.

Netgear are working with Qualcomm to deliver what it hopes will be the “first 5G beta device” and will follow it up with a fixed wireless and mobile router next year.

And he says it will all change gaming “quite a bit”.

Patrick Lo, Netgear CEO. Picture: Supplied

“It could really get the speed all the way up to 2Gb to 5GB and then 10GB with very little latency,” he says.

“I think that would really please the gamers, especially those who do not have access to landlines that provide that type of speed.”

And obviously, that doesn’t just mean games will download faster. Lo says “significant speed on the upload side” will be the real game-changer, especially for mobile gamers.

“Oh, absolutely. Just imagine if you are just riding on a train or a bus from Sydney or Melbourne, you can just play games at high speed, with very little latency,” Lo says.

“Every time there is a significant technology breakthrough in internet connectivity, it creates another cycle of upgrade.

“We’ve seen that from DSL to VDsL, to DOCSIS 3.0 to DOCSIS 3.1 and of course from 3G to 4G. And now, with 4G to 5G – and 5G being able to do both mobile and fixed wireless – it’s going to spur a significant arms race amongst operators to up the speed of connection to the households.”

An “arms race”. That’s exactly what anyone looking forward to a significant upgrade, without a significant cost increase, wants to hear.

“Coupled with the rollout of wifi mesh and impending (new wifi standard) 802.11ax conversion, I think this bodes really well for the industry for a significant upgrade cycle,” Lo says.

Hopefully, once we’re all gaming at unprecedented speeds, that will give the design team time to work on the aesthetic side of things. Because grown-ups also like their Overwatch.

Lo laughs. “It is a very subjective thing. A lot of people love it, a lot of people are like ‘this is real truly looking like gaming gear’.

“We’ll take that advice and we’ll think of something and make it blend nicely into a home environment.”

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