Telstra creates giant national … Wi-Fi network??


news The nation’s largest telco Telstra has flagged plans to utilise its own and customers’ infrastructure to create a giant national Wi-Fi network around Australia, in a move that comes just two years after the company shut down its existing Wi-Fi network with about 1,000 hotspots and goes against the clear Australian preference for 3G/4G mobile broadband access.

The rollout was announced today in Sydney by the telco’s chief executive, David Thodey, and will see the telco invest more than $1 million to increase connectivity in the places Australians live, work and visit including cafes, shops, sports grounds and transport hubs.

According to Telstra, the strategy aims to offer all Australians, irrespective of whether they are a Telstra customer or not, access to two million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation within five years. The network, which is scheduled to launch early 2015, will also reach overseas allowing people to connect at more than 12 million international hotspots, as part of an exclusive deal recently concluded with global Wi-Fi provider Fon.

Thodey said the plan would usher in a new era of Wi-Fi in Australia which would help meet current data needs and deliver future capacity for the explosion of traffic expected to be delivered over Wi-Fi.

“Australians already have access to one of the world’s leading mobile networks offering fast, unparalleled coverage on the move,” he said in a statement. “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. It will offer our customers the unique option to seamlessly use their home broadband allowance inside and outside the home.”

The news comes two years after Telstra shut down its existing Wi-Fi network, consisting of around 1,000 hotspots. At the time, the telco told iTNews: “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.”

To create the new network Telstra will:

  • Offer Telstra home broadband customers new gateways that allow them to securely share a portion of their bandwidth with other Telstra Wi-Fi customers. In exchange they can access their own home broadband allowance at Telstra hotspots across the nation.
  • Build more than 8000 Wi-Fi hotspots around the country to bring Wi-Fi internet to community areas and social precincts as well as shopping strips, business centres and transport hubs.
  • Work with thousands of small businesses to bring Telstra Wi-Fi to cafes, shops and waiting rooms – putting them on the map as a destination where customers can connect.
  • Partner with councils, business enterprises and governments to bring Wi-Fi to parks, stadiums and public buildings and to help create smart cities.
  • Provide customers who have compatible devices with seamless access to the combined Telstra Wi-Fi network wherever it’s available using an automatic log in.

“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.

“The opportunities go beyond connecting people. The city-wide availability of Wi-Fi coupled with the growth in the internet of things can help us improve the way we live in cities. Town planning, sustainability, traffic management, maintenance, public safety and the provision of government services are just some of the challenges that can be tackled by connecting sensors and objects with networks. This is an incredible opportunity and we are already in discussions with a number of councils to make smart cities a reality.”

With the majority of portable device traffic now delivered over Wi-Fi in the home or via hotspots, Thodey said all Australians would stand to benefit from the network.

“Today more than 20 million devices are connected to the mobile internet in Australia . This investment helps us connect the next 20 million and create an environment where our customers can read the news over breakfast at home, upload photos to Facebook while waiting for a train, check email between meetings at a local cafe and load match scores at the big game at night – all over Telstra Wi-Fi.”

“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.”

Australians will be able to access Telstra Wi-Fi in a number of ways: Telstra home broadband customers with a compatible gateway who join the Wi-Fi community can use their broadband allowance at no extra charge via domestic hotspots and connect to more than 12 million Fon-enabled hotspots globally.

Non Telstra customers and Telstra customers who have not joined the Wi-Fi community will be able to connect to Fon-enabled Telstra Wi-Fi hotspots for a small charge using day passes. The investment will enable partners to offer public Wi-Fi to patrons, visitors and communities. Over time Telstra Wi-Fi access will be offered to Telstra mobile-only customers.

A lot of the wording around this news is incredibly hyped (two million Wi-Fi hotspots?!), but what it really boils down to is that Telstra is building around 8,000 new Wi-Fi hotspots around Australia, while simultaneously attempting to turn its customers’ home ADSL/cable routers into a giant, semi-public Wi-Fi network similar to the international FON effort.

I have to say, personally I see the effort as a colossal and extremely pointless waste of time which Telstra’s customers and Australians in general will largely reject out of hand.

There is absolutely no doubt, as Telstra itself said just two years ago, that Australians prefer the convenience of taking their own Internet connectivity with them at all times via their smartphones, rather than connecting to Wi-Fi networks, with their highly variable performance. Secondly, I highly doubt that many Telstra customers will get involved in opening up their routers to the public to use for Wi-Fi access.

I am a Telstra HFC cable and 4G mobile customer, and have plenty of bandwidth to spare. However, there is absolutely no way I will be opening up my home router to semi-public Wi-Fi access. For starters, it’s a security risk allowing anyone to connect to your home network in any fashion. Secondly, I have no need for better mobile broadband access (Telstra’s 4G mobile broadband is already excellent), so I don’t need to connect to Wi-Fi networks on the road. Where is my incentive to share something I’m already paying for, when I don’t need anyone else to reciprocate? Telstra can go take a flying leap with this one, as far as this customer is concerned. Tell em they’re dreaming!

It’s possible that what Telstra is really attempting to do here is to alleviate the strain on its 3G/4G mobile networks, which can suffer from congestion at times, due to the huge number of additional customers it has taken on over the past several years (often refugees from Vodafone) as well as the massive growth in mobile data usage. And probably Telstra’s Wi-Fi strategy will have some impact there.

However, I suspect that this announcement will come to be known as the most over-hyped and pointless project of David Thodey’s career leading Telstra. Really, Telstra? A huge national FON-style Wi-Fi network? Is that really what you want to be announcing right now? Just two years after you shut your old Wi-Fi network down? Really?

Image credit: Telstra


  1. Some simple maths.

    $1,000,000 spend.
    8,000 WiFi hotspots.

    That doesn’t leave much to actually deliver it.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that at that investment level (assuming OPEX and CAPEX combined) they’re not going to be able to deliver.

  2. [quote]However, there is absolutely no way I will be opening up my home router to semi-public Wi-Fi access. For starters, it’s a security risk allowing anyone to connect to your home network in any fashion. [/quote]

    Not only that, but what happens if the people using your wifi start looking up things like child pornography, or other forms of illegal content?

    Who does the AFP end up going after, certainly not the person that looked at the content, no, they’ll be going after you, the account holder.

    No way would i recommend to any of my family (be it cousins, aunts, uncles, etc…) if Telstra was to offer them one of these would i say to get it, first thing i would do is say ‘No’.

    Unless of course Telstra had a way of monitoring what happened, but even then, that’s not enough.

    Then there is the quota, a lot of people i know go with Telstra to do the single-bill thing, but they usually get the cheaper Bigpond ADSL/ADSL2 plan which means a small amount of quota. Does this publicly accessible wifi consume some of your quota, or does it leave it alone?

  3. So, two points of order.

    1. Is the Telstra mobile data network that near capacity that they have had to think this up. Desperate play.

    2. The first person who says ‘see even Telstra knows wireless is the future so we don’t need the NBN’, needs to be shot into the sun.

    In fact, this might just be a T$ hype campaign to confuse the public as the anti LNP NBN campaign is staying to cut through.

    • 1. You’ve made a ridiculous presumption about Telstra’s network, which is lightyears from the truth. Australians complain about everything, but most don’t realise just how robust and advanced Telstra’s mobile network is. It’s one of the best in the world, if not, the best.

      2. The NBN is a huge, pointless, needs to be shunned, waste of money and time. It is the most ridiculous and embarrassing thing to happen to the country. They should have just let Telstra roll it out.

      At least they know what they’re doing.

      • 1. No. Telstra’s network maybe advanced and well designed but that doesn’t mean that the complaints about low quotas and high contention are not warranted. If you really believe that the network presents an acceptable level of service for anything more than basic browsing, email and social media, which yes the majority of users do use the mobile network for (fortunately), then I have to question your creditably on any judgement you present on the NBN.

        2. See point 1. Additionally just because Telstra can build a decent mobile network does not in any way reflect on their ability to build a fixed line network. In fact, historically, they have leveraged off their monopoly position in order to maximise profits (they only improved ADSL service when faced with direct competition thanks to ULL and the only expanded their HFC network in response to Optus) which the government allowed because of a lack of regulatory intervention.

        A position that the NBN would have denied them quite convincingly.

  4. I still feel like femtocells, done properly, would be a better way to alleviate mobile network congestion.

  5. I suspect this is the first step in their implementation of 802.11u. This standard is designed to offload cellular data traffic to wifi without requiring user authentication or intervention. The main purpose of this standard is to relieve cellular network data congestion by offloading it to as many terrestrial locations as possible; and doing so securely.

    The speed and proliferation of Cellular data has made congestion a real problem is high population locations like stadiums and shopping malls. 802.11u makes it much easier, quicker and less expensive to offload this traffic whenever possible.

  6. I think the answer as to why Telstra is doing this and is doing this now is pretty simple. It hasn’t got all that much to do with mobile data congestion, although I guess that helps.

    It’s as simple as not every premise will be connected to the NBN – I’m calling it. At some point this government will invent the term NBN-equivalent or NBN-type or whatnot. You think a quality guarantee rumoured to be 25/1 Mbps was an accident? I don’t think so. All those HFC areas that have premises without connections, they might fill some of them in, sure. But there’ll be plenty that won’t be. All those places where you have to wait for a month to get a copper connection – and the place I most recently moved to one of those – Telstra really doesn’t want to do that, they’re completely over it. All that copper in the ground – you can’t provision a quality guarantee over all that to every customer, not without spending money on it. And that’s money that neither Telstra nor, frankly, the government, want to spend.

    So what better solution than to sell Telstra Internet provided by your neighbour’s 802.11n router, piggy-backing onto a share of some VDSL or HFC? Government saves money, Telstra gets to use its market share to wallop the competition, competition gets screwed, customers get screwed over – everyone is happy.

    I am totally agnostic and in favour of whatever works. Whatever works and whatever is most cost-effective is what I want to pursue. — Turnbull

    • That said, that won’t be what this thing will be about when it first launches, but such a launch will be a first step towards going 2.0 on this and relaunching this as that kind of service down the road.

  7. Access to the Fon network when travelling is quite useful.

    This is a filler technology and makes sense across a network like Telstra.

    It’s not ‘the answer’ but it is a useful bandwidth balancing and access option for Telstra customers.

    Every announcement like this though, makes a fragmented MTM less and less commercially viable.

  8. Thinking about this just a second, I’m not sure its a bad thing. I have a 500 Gb limit per month, and theres no way I would get close to that amount without some serious work. So what if I released 20 Gb of that to this WiFi network?

    Shouldnt that mean my wireless devices could access up to 20 Gb/month free of charge through this WiFi? Effective outcome would be tieing my mobile devices to my fixed line connection, globally. Yes, the coverage wouldnt be 100%, but if this wifi is on offer in CBD areas and transport routes, then thats all I would care about.

    My niece is about to head overseas for a year. What if I freed up 100 Gb and gave her the login details, so she could access it?

    Not sure I’m going to explain this well, but I dont see it being a negative with Telstra either. Basically they are just freeing up bandwidth thats already been paid for, with someone having commited to providing it. And as (for the most part) its going to be used by people not using that parent connection, should mean less connections to have to manage on a minute by minute level.

    It should free up mobile spectrum as well, when you access WiFi by preference. That will be the big win for Telstra, less demand for more towers they would need to maintain.

    I’m not sure this is an overly bad thing is all. Depends on how Telstra tries to turn it into a profit source. Not sure I’d pay $10 for the advantage of using my already paid for internet. Alternatively, not sure I wouldnt, if it meant cutting the cord to the wireless connection I am reluctant to use, thanks to the potential of billshock, which I’ve been hit with before.

    • “I have a 500 Gb limit per month, and theres no way I would get close to that amount without some serious work”

      First off, I doubt that this will chew into your quota. One of the reasons you need a special router to support this is that the roamers will connected to an isolated wifi network that:

      a) doesn’t see your internal network
      b) does not count against your quota
      c) will be authenticated against the roamer, so unsavoury traffic will be associated with the roamer, not you

      Having said that, quota isn’t the issue; uncontrolled congestion is.

      A household can easily consume all available bandwidth given most folk are on DSL and will be so for a long time into the future. So having roamers hoping onto your network without any controls means you’ll be competing with each other on a congested link.

      You can also bet that this *is* an opportunity to offload cell-traffic onto your internet connection at your expense. Nice trick getting the consumer to pay for the hardware to do it!

      I have used these in other places around the planet and, frankly, in a residential setting they are pretty marginal. How many times do you want wifi *and* are close enough to a participating household and are prepared to park yourself outside their house for 15 minutes while your surf the net?

      Not all that often was my experience in the burbs.

      In hi-density locations and the city it *might* be different though.

      • That wasn’t where I was coming from MarkD, but you’re right.

        I was thinking that you “gift” bandwidth to create a pool of bandwidth for the wifi network, and can then access up to that gifted amount. I hadnt gone as far as how the actual network would be set up. Initially I assumed it would be something akin to the wireless connections we deal with now, with routers and repeaters dotted in high volume areas that need them – trainlines, shopping centres, etc.

        As I understood it (and I could be totally wrong), it basically lets you use your own bandwidth through public routers. I thought it was a general WiFi network that was essentially everywhere (or near enough), but if its working through customers routers only, its a waste.

        You dont consume content while driving along suburban roads, you consume it when travelling for extended times, or sitting for coffee, or lunch, or something casual like that.

        As someone points out below, the infrastructure setup appears to be what Comcast so poorly tried not that long ago. Buyer beware.

    • Was going to mention that one, thanks Dylan.

      Done right, what Comcast were setting up could be a great thing – WiFi network that reduces congestion on a national scale, by using those small micro-hotspots as a priority.

      So, leave the mobile towers for mobile communications, rather than net traffic.

      Done wrong (as they did), its a whole world of trouble as you say, but the concept isnt a bad one. I dont think Comcast should just give up on the idea, there is still some merit in it.

      Both ideas work around the concept of reducing the load on mobile connections though, and hence reduce congestion overall. Not necessarily a bad goal.

      • Oh I just read the post rather than skimming and realised they’re doing the exact thing I was slamming Comcast for doing.

        Well lucky I’m not with Telstra then.

        I guess on the plus side it might give a bit of plauseable deniability for Telstra users when the Feds come knocking for downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones – “it wasn’t me officer, it was those nasty WiFi users!!”

      • Picocells/Femtocells are cell based though (3g/4g), not wi-fi.

        It would have been a good idea for them to be included in the original NBN design (IMHO)…no more crap signal in suburban areas…

    • @DylanLindgren As long as they don’t do what Comcast in the US are doing with their “XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot” and basically turning everyone’s home WiFi routers into branded WiFi hotspots, stealing your bandwidth, and opening a hole in your home network security.

      Maybe you can explain what went wrong in Comcast’s implementation The public access point is on a separate IP, and separate VLAN. You aren’t charged for the traffic, and public traffic is QoS’ed below the home owners traffic, so it should have stuff all effect on bandwidth. Given all that, it seems unlikely someone actually had their security compromised, or noticed a hit in connection speeds.

      @Renai There is absolutely no doubt, as Telstra itself said just two years ago, that Australians prefer the convenience of taking their own Internet connectivity with them at all times via their smartphones, rather than connecting to Wi-Fi networks, with their highly variable performance.

      Are you really saying nearby a nearby WiFi hotspot is less reliable that 3G/4G? When I go to a friends house or lets me use their WiFi, it is almost always both faster and more reliable that mobile phone wireless. And not by a small amount either.

      If Telstra publishes an app that automatically logs you into to their nearby WiFi access points, and then charges you the same per byte as your land line, and there really are 1,000,000 of this things dotted around the country then sign me up. Do it on a 802.11ac router with MU-MIMO, and we have a slam dunk.

      • “MU-MIMO”

        I doubt it, what are folks going to do when their ADSL gets swamped with a 433Mbps MU-MIMO connection?

  9. I thought it was actually $100 million?

    Either way, with that kind of money, it seems to me it’s more of a marketing exercise than a real attempt at a national wi-fi network.

    I read an article by Stilgherrian today that suggested they may also try doing something along the lines of Turnstyle (, which doesn’t seem a stretch either.

  10. Telstra wants to supply a different modem to overcome the security problem. I guess the modem will transmit 2 WiFi signals.. One secure and one insecure.
    But unless you have good fixed line data availability, it won’t work. It will have to be well adopted. If ftth was rolled out nationwide, nbnco could have provided some help to make it a success.. Adsl speeds are no match for 4g speeds and won’t be good enough for decent shared WiFi .

    • That’s nice for people with 4G access, what about regional Australia who can get ADSL2 but barely receive 3G service?

  11. Imagine this

    a FTTH NTD has 4 ports
    Port 1 used for customer data what ever speed the customer wants
    Port 2 used for Telstra wi if hotspot

    They could use a modem with 2 Ethernet ports

    Oh wait we don’t live in a FTTH world any more

    • Physical ports are not required for this kind of setup. Trunking will work just as well. Afterall it’s 802.11q frames that was going to isolate the traffic in the network in the first place.

      But yes, the NBN would be awesome for this, but not because of the ports.

  12. Renai,

    Done right FON style network can be extremely useful. And an excellent means of offloading contesting networks.

    I don’t think it’s a waste of time. In fact in the UK BTs solution was extremely useful.

    However, if it’s done badly (no QoS or limited bandwidth on guest networks, inadequate isolation, no opt out option) then it’s not worth the effort.

    I think considering the current state of Broadband in Australia it’s not going to work that well.

  13. Are they kidding??? Another shot in the foot by Telstra I think. They are helping fight the NBN which just might give us the bandwidth we need and they want us to sacrifice some of our already limited resource?

  14. My understanding is that a connection will be limited to 2Mb Bandwidth, Telstra touts that as being adequate to view HD content – Go Foxtel

  15. I often have quota leftover on the home adsl connection, and I’m usually struggling to scrape by on 200mb for a month of prepaid data.

    I’m looking forward to it, especially when I’m overseas and can’t use my home quota. I just hope they get the security for home routers up to snuff. Not that it’s a big concern for me personally – the perks of living in the country is that the home wifi isn’t accessable even half way to the road. Even if it were, tho’, in principle support given: I’ve long wondered why BT can do it but Telstra can’t.

    • Wow, what do you use it for, just email?

      I’m on 80Gb and that gets tight sometimes (and I don’t torrent), just work and some games…

      • Mostly just IMing – because it’s cheaper for me than SMSing overseas (and locally) – and occasionally email or facebook.

        …wait. Bad wording? 200GB at home, 200MB on phone.

  16. A small pedantic point. I hope everyone talking about Gb (Gigabits) actually means GB (Gigabytes). :=}

Comments are closed.