Telstra has switched on the first 150 Wi-Fi hotspots of its $100 million plan to canvas Australia with a public wireless service.
Telstra has turned on hotspots at busy metro areas including Hyde Park, The Rocks and Bondi Beach in Sydney; Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne; and King George Square in Brisbane.
The hotspots represent a fraction of the 1000 trials sites planned to go live this month. Telstra said the network will expand to more than 100 towns and cities by Christmas.
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 Wi-Fi network officially launches early next year, it 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 has attached 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.
“We want customers to have greater options for connecting when they're out and about,” said Gordon Ballantyne, Telstra retail group executive.
“From browsing the Web, streaming videos or sharing photos with friends, we want customers to have a taste of what the network will be like next year, when Telstra Wi-Fi members will be able to use their home broadband allowance at the hotspots.”
In a covered area, users can connect to the “Free_Telstra_WiFi” network on their device after accepting terms and conditions.
Telstra said a map of Wi-Fi locations will soon be available on its website.