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5G can add up to US$36 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2030. However, not all businesses are convinced of the benefits. Source: Shutterstock

Can 5G really add $36b to the Australian economy?

AUSTRALIA can add anywhere between US$23 billion to US$36 billion to its GDP by 2030 with the rollout of 5G technology, according to a recent report.

The Australian economy has already grown by two percent thanks to mobiles ramping up productivity. With 5G, the country will see faster speeds, reliability, and improved capacity for network users.

This will help boost the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, drones, and augmented reality.

In fact, the same report, which was released by Deloitte commissioned by Telstra, noted that businesses would pay more for faster, more reliable, and more responsive mobile telecommunications, which most of them believe would benefit their businesses.

Four in five businesses said they either have or are planning to implement at least one emerging technology in the next three years. Deloitte estimates that this will help grow the digital economy in the country to around US$102 billion by 2020.

One of the biggest concerns for companies adopting emerging technology is the cost. Although, most of them also recognize that 5G increases the ability for working remotely or flexible hours, as well as enable better customer engagement.

Generally speaking, 5G promises to bring speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and is expected to offer 99.999 percent uptime for “mission critical ‘ultra-reliable’ communications”.

Network speeds and availability are crucial, as 5G is expected to power a host of connected systems which will include autonomous vehicles, mobile payments, VR, and drones.

On top of that, the next generation network is designed to reduce congestions as well. Mobile subscription in the country has increased, with an estimated 27 million mobile handsets connected to the network today.

5G isn’t replacing currently available networks, but rather complementing the capabilities of 4G. 5G itself will use several spectrum bands, including those with higher frequencies. This means it will support at least 1 million connected devices per square kilometer.

The availability of better network services is key for businesses. According to the report, nearly three-quarters of Australians shop on mobile; one in three have used mobile payments in stores.

Additionally, a better network can better handle large datasets as well; companies have seen above‑average productivity and profits through the use of a data-driven strategy.

In fact, Deloitte found that companies using data-hungry machine learning platforms generally enjoy two to five times more return on investment (ROI).

Having said that, there are some companies who remain skeptical about the benefits; nearly a quarter believed it would not affect their business at all.

Overall, more than two-thirds of businesses are expecting to be using 5G in 2020 – most of them excited about an increase in productivity, increased workforce participation, and new business opportunities.

However, there remain some roadblocks in rolling out 5G. Notably, the ROI needed for a full 5G deployment across Australia.

A McKinsey study on an unnamed European country earlier this year found that network-related capital expenditures would have to increase 60 percent from 2020 through 2025. This includes requirements such as new infrastructure, base stations, backhaul capacity, and spectrum.

This will prove difficult, especially when nearly half of the businesses in the Deloitte study said they won’t switch to 5G until its pricing is the same as 4G, or if they have no other options.

Furthermore, is the ever-present issue of security. Just recently Australia has been making headlines for banning Chinese telco Huawei from helping build the network due to security concerns.

Despite the potential problems, 5G remains crucial for the country. If Australia wants to keep a competitive advantage in the global economy, it must have an ambitious agenda in place to fast-track the adoption of 5G.