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Telstra trials public Wi-Fi network with free access

As Telstra prepares to launch its first major public Wi-Fi network, Australians will have free access to 1,000 hotspots -- beaming out of payphones and into major CBD malls -- for a limited time.

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Image by Cameron Adams, CC BY-ND 2.0

Telstra will begin a trial of its nation-wide public Wi-Fi network this November, installing Wi-Fi hotspots in busy public hubs and in its network of payphones across Australia. As a sweetener, Wi-Fi access at the 1,000 hotspots will also be free in advance of the network's official launch early next year.

The soft launch comes after Telstra announced the rollout of a AU$100 million public Wi-Fi network, promising that Telstra customers would be able to use their home broadband allowance away from home by accessing one of the telco's public Wi-Fi hotspots. The first 1,000 of these will be operational before Christmas.

The network will be expanded to as many as 2 million hotspots in 5 years, thanks in part to the launch of a new modem that will allow Telstra customers to share their home network.

"For the first time you'll be able to use your home broadband allowance outside the house...all you have to do is share a little bit of your broadband access with others -- you can use their hotspots, they can use yours," Telstra said of the new network when it was announced in May.

While Wi-Fi will be free when the network trial begins in November, this will change when the network is officially launched in 2015.

Those Telstra customers who "join the Wi-Fi community" by offering up their home broadband as a hotspot will be able to access the network for free, with usage coming off their monthly broadband allowance. Non-Telstra customers (and those who have not joined the Wi-Fi community) will need to pay "a small charge" to access the network using guest passes.

Major public Wi-Fi trial locations

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

The 1,000 hotspots launching before Christmas will be set up in a number of public locations across the country, as Group Executive of Telstra Retail Gordon Ballantyne explained.

"It is not just CBD locations that are set to benefit from this trial. Regional Australia will also form a major part of Australia's biggest Wi-Fi network with a focus on regional hubs and tourist destinations in the first 1,000 sites."

According to Telstra "the first Wi-Fi trials will be located at payphone sites in the heart of local communities and in areas people want to connect," followed by locations including Telstra retail outlets and exchange buildings.

Outside Australia, members of the 'Telstra Wi-Fi community' will also be able to connect to more than 13 million hotspots globally, provided thanks to a partnership with Spanish telecommunications company Fon.