Telstra to trial public Wi-Fi network in November

First 1000 sites coming to CBDs, regional hubs and tourist destinations

Telstra CEO David Thodey

Telstra CEO David Thodey

The first Wi-Fi hotspots under Telstra’s $100 million plan to canvas Australia with public Wi-Fi are set to come online in November.

Telstra has today announced 1000 trial sites for the Wi-Fi network in CBDs, regional hubs and tourist destinations.

The trial is the first part of Telstra’s plan to build about 8000 new Wi-Fi public hotspots around Australia. By providing its broadband customers with new modems that double as public wireless hotspots, Telstra expects the network will have 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots in five years.

Australians will have free access to the Wi-Fi hotspots during the trial.However, when the Telstra public Wi-Fi network will officially launch early next year, the network will be free only to Telstra Bigpond broadband customers who elect to share their personal Wi-Fi connection with other users. Non-Telstra customers will be able to pay a daily fee to access the network.

For the pilot, Telstra plans to attach Wi-Fi hotspots to payphone sites. As the network expands beyond the trial, hotspots will also be placed in Telstra retail outlets and exchange buildings, the telco said.

In addition, Telstra has contracts to bring public Wi-Fi to six stadiums around Australia, including the Adelaide Oval, Sydney Cricket Ground and Etihad stadium in Melbourne.

While Telstra did not list every site to join the trial, the telco has confirmed coverage in:

  • Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne
  • Bondi Beach, Sydney
  • Rundle Mall, Adelaide
  • Queen Street Mall, Brisbane
  • Elizabeth Street, Hobart
  • Civic Centre, Canberra
  • Perth CBD
  • Smith Street Mall, Darwin

With the explosion of mobile phones significantly reducing use of payphones, cities and telcos have been looking at new ways to take advantage of the lightly used infrastructure. New York City has announced a plan to transform public payphones into free Wi-Fi hotspots.

“Old phone boxes present a great opportunity for carriers,” according to Pat Devlin, Managing Director, Ruckus Wireless A/NZ.

“It makes use of existing telecoms assets and adds real value for both the subscriber and the carrier. Telstra joins a class of other telecom leaders, such as Spark New Zealand (previously Telecom NZ), PCCW in Hong Kong and Oi in Brazil, who are embarking on similar projects to retrofit phone booths with Wi-Fi.

“We have seen tangible benefits for carriers when they deploy a Wi-Fi service in this way. For example Spark NZ saw strong uptake, very high customer satisfaction and extremely positive user experiences. It also opens the door to commercial partnerships, as it can be used as a marketing and communications tool to engage with users and shoppers to drive them into particular retail areas.”

Telstra has been considering Hotspot 2.0 technology for its Wi-Fi network. The new wireless protocol promises faster user authentication and strong security.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags WiFihotspotsWi-Fipayphonesfree wireless networkpublic wifipublic Wi-FiTelstra

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