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Telstra Wi-Fi project gives customers global access to home broadband allowance

Telstra has announced an ambitious plan to roll out public Wi-Fi zones that will allow customers to use their own data plans while they're away from home. But there's a catch: users will need to "share" their broadband with others in order to access the hotspots.

Plantronics, CC BY-ND 2.0

The new project was announced by Telstra CEO David Thodey, who said the company was looking to roll out as many as 2 million hotspots in five years as part of the $100 million plan. The network is expected to officially launch in early 2015.

The hotspots will be created thanks to the launch of a new modem for customers, known as the Telstra Gateway Max modem, which allows for network sharing between users.

Promoting the new access technology, Telstra said customers will be able to go online in more ways than ever before.

"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."

Speaking about the plan, CEO David Thodey said the network would provide a "ubiquity of access".

"Telstra's new Wi-Fi network will broaden the choice of connection giving people a convenient way to get online using their portable devices when spending time at a hotspot," he said. "It will offer our customers the unique option to seamlessly use their home broadband allowance inside and outside the home.

"It's another wireless access network technology, so it's going to give customers greater choice.

"It's a bit innovative, a bit different.

Telstra customers will be able to access the hotspot network for free, though usage will go against the user's at-home data allowance. Non-Telstra customers will also be able to access the hotspot network "for a small daily fee".

In addition to new modems, Telstra is planning to build its own network of roughly 8,000 hotspots in more than 100 cities and towns to grant additional wireless access. The telco says it will "work with thousands of small businesses...[and] partner with councils, business enterprises and governments" to bring hotspots to cafes, shops, parks and stadiums.

Telstra has partnered with Spanish company Fon to develop the access technology, which has already been rolled out in the form of 12 million hotspots across Europe. Telstra is also promising that Australian customers will be able to use their at-home data allowance while they're abroad by accessing Wi-Fi through these international hotspots.

The network will be opt-in for Telstra customers using the new modem, with Telstra promising that security will be "a really important aspect" of the network and that it will ensure individual connections are "protected".

The hardware behind the network, the Telstra Gateway Max modem, hits Telstra stores today, retailing for AU$210. The modem offers other features such as increased speeds, and will also be available to existing Telstra customers, with some 100,000 users able to access the technology with a software update. New customers will also be able to get the modem with Telstra's bundles.