Telstra buys into 802.11b

Telstra has bought Australia's biggest public wireless local area network (WLAN) from SkyNetGlobal for $3.3 million.

The investment marks Telstra's entry into the growing area of wireless local area networks. Popular in airports and hotels, the networks allow laptop computers equipped with wireless cards to connect to the Internet and other networks at designated sites, or "hotspots".

The agreement will provide Telstra with access to 50 locations across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and existing agreements with network partners.

SkyNetGlobal CEO Jonathan Soon said the agreement will complete the company's strategy, which was outlined earlier this year, to move away from being an infrastructure provider to a solutions-focused service provider.

"In addition, it will strengthen our balance sheet for customer acquisitions and provide significant immediate cost savings to our operations, taking us another step closer to profitability."

Soon said the sale will not affect customers. SkyNetGlobal will retain control and ownership of Sydney's Avillion Hotel wireless network, where the company is headquartered.

Telstra mobile group managing director David Thodey said mobile phone users increasingly needed to have seamless online services through broadband access on devices such as laptop and palmtop computers.

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