Telstra will spend more than $100 million to build a wi-fi network by next year involving around 8000 Telstra-built hot spots and a further 1.9 million wi-fi access points provided by its customers nationally.
Telstra today announced plans to establish an international network of wi-fi hot spots - which will involve 12 million hot spots outside of Australia thanks to a partnership with wi-fi provider Fon - which it expects to offer both Telstra and non-Telstra customers broadband access to two million wi-fi hot spots in Australia within five years.
Telstra CEO David Thodey said the project would address current data demands and offer capacity for the growing data market.
The telco itself will build 8000 wi-fi hotspots in community areas and social precincts as well as shopping areas, business centres and transport hubs.
It will also work with councils, governments and small businesses to bring Telstra wi-fi to cafes, shops, parks, stadiums and public buildings across the country.
To make up the remaining 1.9 million hot spots expected throughout Australia, Telstra will attempt to convince its home broadband customers to share a “portion” of their bandwidth with other Telstra wi-fi customers, via a new “secure” gateway, in exchange for similar access to the bandwidth of other wi-fi sharers across 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 hot spots.
Telstra said it would not activate the wi-fi hot spot service for any broadband user who could not receive speeds of more than 3 mbps. A spokesperson said the modem continually checked the line speed into the home to minimise the effect on the broadband customer.
The gateways and wi-fi range extenders are available from today for $210. Telstra said it currently has 500,000 of the modems in circulation and expects to sell an additional 100,000 ahead of the network's launch.
The modems - which are already fitted with Fon technology - will offer a software update once the network is live which will allow broadband users to join the wi-fi network. The gateways will broadcast a SSID for the user’s home network and a second signal for the wi-fi hot spot.
Non-Telstra customers will be charged a small daily fee to access the network.
The network will not be initially available to Telstra mobile customers. These customers will be allowed access “over time”, the company said.
“We want Australia to be a truly connected country and as part of our plan, 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,” Thodey said in a statement.
“The network will be built by Telstra, but brought to life, in part, by our customers and we’re really looking forward to watching it grow. It will be a living community, steadily growing; house by house, street by street, business by business leveraging the capacity we continue to add to our core fibre network, as well as the NBN as it is rolled out to customers.”
The announcement marks Telstra's second stab at a national wireless network.
Two years ago, the telco shut down its previous national network of wireless hot spots, which was available free to subscribers of its fixed iPhone plans or at 20c per minute for those not on an iPhone plan.
It discontinued that service - which in 2005 contained around 400 hot spots - due to a lack of profit.
"Over time we've found that our customers prefer the convenience of taking their own internet connectivity with them through the use of mobile broadband," a spokesperson told iTnews at the time.
"This transition away from wireless hotspot usage has also been driven by the availability of fast 3G mobile coverage and more affordable data pricing."