Telstra’s $100m Wi-Fi network: Everything you need to know

What does it mean for you?

Telstra chief executive David Thodey

Telstra chief executive David Thodey

Telstra has announced a $100 million plan to create a public wireless network. The investment will go towards the development of 2 million hotspots nationwide in an effort to hedge mobile Internet usage and, indirectly, lower the cost of data when roaming internationally.

Why it's needed

Internet-capable smartphones, tablets and other connected devices have strained telecommunication networks. People are demanding more data quicker, and our appetite will only grow with the advent of the Internet of Everything (IoE), where all kinds of devices will have an active Internet connection. Mobile operators need to make the technology they have today work for them tomorrow, otherwise the data overload will cripple their networks and profits.

“Today more than 20 million devices are connected to the mobile Internet in Australia. This investment helps us connect the next 20 million.” Telstra chief executive David Thodey

Telstra’s $100m Wi-Fi network will leverage the company’s fixed-line infrastructure to deliver, what it promises, is a fast wireless connection that mobile devices can use. The solution actually goes one further by undermining expensive international roaming costs by granting customers access to a global Wi-Fi network.

How will it work?

Telstra plans on building 8000 wireless hot-spots in public areas that have high foot traffic, such as shopping centres and sporting arenas, that its customers can use. Any data existing customers use will be deducted from their existing Telstra broadband allowance.

The bulk of the network will come from existing customers sharing some of their Wi-Fi speeds with the public. Telstra customers will have 2Mbps allocated to public use, and in exchange they will be able to use the wireless network of existing customers when they’re out and about. The telco hopes 2 million customers will partake in the network, and claims the Wi-Fi hotspots will deliver speeds fast enough to stream high definition movies.

Read more: Telstra claims world first 450Mbps network speeds over LTE

Patrons will have access to Telstra Wi-Fi as the carrier pledged to work closely with thousands of businesses, councils and governments.

"We are keen to work in partnership with local councils and enterprises to grow our Wi-Fi network in Australia’s largest cities and regional centres.” — Telstra chief executive, David Thodey.

I don’t want to share my bandwidth

Existing Telstra customers do not have to join the program, but not joining means they won’t be able to access their data allowance over Telstra’s Wi-Fi network.

But I’m not with Telstra...

Mobile Internet users not with Telstra can still appreciate the benefits of Telstra’s Wi-Fi network nationally. Day passes can be purchased “for a small charge” for users who are not Telstra customers.

Subscribers to Telstra Mobile only will eventually gain access to Telstra Wi-Fi, the telco has claimed.

Read more: Sony’s flagship Xperia Z2 goes on sale in Australia today

What do I have to do?

Enabling this technology will require upgrades by both Telstra and its customers. The telco will be upgrading its gateways to support the latest wireless standard, 802.11ac. Customers with modem-routers compatible with Telstra Wi-Fi can upgrade them with a simple firmware update; however, other customers will have to purchase a new modem from Telstra for $216.

Hedging international roaming costs

Existing Telstra customers will be able to circumvent nasty data charges when in select overseas countries.

Read more: ZTE V969 review

Telstra is working with global Wi-Fi provider Fon on its national Wi-Fi network. Fon claims that it has the world’s largest wireless network with 12 million wireless hot-spots in several countries around the globe. This exclusive partnership will allow existing Telstra customers to use data from their Telstra quota when travelling in one of these countries, ultimately avoiding the horrendous $3 per megabyte charge Telstra mobile customers incur when roaming internationally.

Supported countries include include the UK, France, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Brazil and Japan.

When can I get started?

The new gateways and Wi-Fi range extenders launched on May 20, while the Wi-Fi network s scheduled to launch “early 2015”.

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