Optus Is Releasing 5G Phones But Its 5G Doesn’t Work Indoors

Optus Is Releasing 5G Phones But Its 5G Doesn’t Work Indoors
Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Last week Optus announced it had begun selling plans for two more 5G-enabled phones – the Samsung S10 5G and the Oppo Reno 5G ” which brings its suite of 5G devices to three, including the Samsung Note 10+ 5G which drops in October.

On the surface this seems exciting, until you consider its 5G network is far from being completed. Despite these devices being sold to customers, Optus mobile 5G doesn’t even work indoors yet.

The disclaimer at the end of the most recent 5G press release states: “In-building 5G coverage is not currently available. Local conditions, including number of users, building materials and terrain may impact your ability to connect to the Optus 5G network and the speed you experience.”

In other words, the 5G capability on the phones does not work indoors.

However, this information is far less forthcoming on the telco’s own website. The lack of indoor coverage isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Optus 5G landing page ” even under the ‘coverage’ section.

Similarly, under ‘When and where will 5G be available?’ in the FAQ section of the landing page, there is no mention of the inability to connect to 5G indoors.

“Optus 5G will be progressively rolled out in limited areas of selected suburbs. When it is available, to access the Optus 5G network you will need a compatible device and Optus plan. Outside of 5G coverage areas, compatible devices will switch to the Optus 4G or 3G Network,” the site reads.

Here is the information contained on the 5G landing page at the time of writing:

Image: Complete screenshot of Optus’ 5G landing page on September 30 2019

It isn’t until you click on the ‘Coverage Map’ button that the issue is divulged in a pop-up.

Image: Optus website

When it comes to 5G-enabled device plans, the information regarding indoor coverage is once again buried in the terms and conditions:

It also appears like a full Optus mobile 5G rollout may be further away than initially anticipated.

Since Optus announced it would be carrying the Samsung S10+ 5G back in early August, the telco has been stating there would be more 5G news in the coming months.

Similarly, its most recent press release stated there would be further announcements regarding Optus’ 5G mobile plans “in the coming weeks”.

These statements, along with the release of three 5G phones implies that an official 5G network rollout is most likely happening soon.

This implication, as well as the buried coverage information, could very well entice people to grab one of these devices now on the assumption that they would have access to mobile 5G soon.

However, Gizmodo Australia understands the antenna systems that support in-building connectivity are older, don’t support 5G and aren’t likely to be upgraded until mid-next year. It is also understood that by the time Optus’ 5G rollout has been completed, the in-building coverage issue will be sorted.

This delay isn’t particularly surprising, as Optus has been focusing much of its 5G energy on fixed wireless. However, the telco won’t comment officially on timings regarding the rollout or exactly when people can expect its mobile 5G to work indoors.

“We have not disclosed details of our full roadmap as this remains confidential as it relates to in-building coverage. In-building coverage is only one element of our network rollout,” an Optus spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.

If in-building coverage isn’t currently available, and most likely won’t be for quite some time, it begs the question – what is the justification for selling 5G phone plans?

Telstra released its first 5G-enabled device into market in May, so Optus might simply be trying to compete with the rival telco. Telstra also has patchy indoor 5G service, but currently has a more developed network than Optus. This is evident in their coverage map.

“Optus is excited to be offering the latest high-performance smartphones that will be 5G-capable mobile phones on some of the most competitive plans in market. Optus continues to focus on rolling out its 5G network with close to 200 mobile sites live. We will make further announcements on our 5G mobile plans coming weeks,” Optus’ Head of Product, Shawn Van Graan said in a press release.

One could argue that people may want a device that is future proofed — especially since they are the cheapest phones in market. There’s a chance they wouldn’t even notice or care about the difference between 4G and 5G speeds just yet. This is the story that is often spun to justify the general lack of high-speed internet in Australia. But if this was the case, you might as well opt for one of the non-5G variants.

The Oppo Reno, Samsung S10 5G and Samsung Note+ 5G all have non-5G models available, and there is very little difference between them.

Considering that similar devices are available on cheaper plans and the lack of official information available right now, we would recommend holding off buying a plan for an Optus ‘5G-enabled’ device. In the very least, you should wait until the telco divulges something more concrete about its plans and timeline for its 5G mobile network.

As Optus said itself, it will have more in the coming weeks, and we’re certainly curious about what it has to say about it all.