Telstra's Air wi-fi network goes private

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Telstra's Air wi-fi network goes private

Tuesday launch only for home broadband customers.

Telstra will on Tuesday unveil its national wi-fi network, but after teasing browsers with free access for seven months, will now only allow its home broadband customers to access the hotspots. 

Telstra announced its plans to build a $100 million international wi-fi network within five years mid last year.

The network was to include 8000 Telstra-built wi-fi hotspots located in old pay phones and a planned 1.9 million hotspots offered by its home broadband customers, along with 12 million hotspots internationally thanks to wi-fi provider partner Fon.

The first hotspot locally was switched on in November last year, and at the end of the trial period two weeks ago, the network had grown to 2600 sites nationally.

The trial sites had been offered free to any user for 30 minutes. More than 1.5 million unique devices connected to the network during the trial, Telstra wi-fi network project lead Neil Louise said in a recent blog post.

But Telstra turned off the network earlier this month to upgrade the hotspots for the official launch of the national wi-fi network, which will remain free only to Telstra home broadband customers with a compatible gateway.

At launch, Telstra will offer its home broadband customers access to 4000 of its purpose-built hotspots across 250 locations. Applicable customers can access their nearest hotspots through a dedicated Telstra Air app.

A "small charge" will be levied on non-Telstra home broadband customers wanting to access the wi-fi. Telstra said it had not yet finalised pricing.

It said in the future the network would also become freely available to Telstra mobile customers.

The telco is relying on its home broadband customers to share a portion of their bandwidth with other Telstra customers in exchange for similar access to make up the remaining 1.9 million hotspots throughout the country.

Those who join the “wi-fi community” will be able to use their broadband allowance at no extra charge across the network of international and domestic hotspots.

Telstra said more than one million of its home broadband customers currently had an Air-ready gateway. It did not detail how many had signed up to the network at launch.

Those interested in becoming a Telstra Air user will need to purchase a gateway and wi-fi range extender for $216. 

The telco is offering new bundles with increased data allowance, network security and the gateways to lure customers onto the network.

Once the home broadband customer signs up, their gateway sends out two wi-fi signals - one for the household and another for other Telstra Air members.

The signals are "securely partitioned", Telstra said, and there are limits on the number of guests allowed on the wi-fi at one time, as well as automatic switch-off when the line speed gets too low.

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