Home Industry Telecoms & NBN Telstra to spend $100 million on Wi-Fi, with a twist


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Telstra to spend $100 million on Wi-Fi, with a twist

Telstra will create one of the world’s largest Wi-Fi networks as part of a $100 million-plus project. It is the Wi-Fi equivalent of the NBN.

The project will see Telstra install up to 8,000 of its own wireless hotspots and connect with a total of two million hotspots at small businesses and public buildings, and maybe even your own house, over the next five years.

Australia's biggest telco Telstra announced the massive new network in Melbourne today, telling journalists and media that it would be aiming to roll out around 8,000 hotspots across the country from 2015.

The telco also said it hopes to get approximately 2 million new Fon-enabled modems into the homes of its fixed line customers, in a move that will see customers share their connection as part of Telstra's public Wi-Fi network across Australia.

Telstra said 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.

Telstra CEO David 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," Thodey said.

"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 plan involves you sharing your own Telstra connection, with new routers — branded as Telstra Gateway Max and on sale now for $210 — to be deployed, which allow individuals to share some of their existing bandwidth with others, effectively turning any user into an individual hotspot which is part of the Telstra network.

Telstra said the routers will support HFC, ADSL and NBN cable. Thodey said it could be upgraded to use 4G in the future. Some existing models will also receive a firmware upgrade to add sharing functionality.

Telstra says the public access side will have “normal Wi-Fi security”, though it didn’t provide details, while Thodey said “part of the smarts of the modem is that it allocates you your service and then manages people coming in from the community."

To create the network Telstra said in its announcement that it 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 8,000 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.

“Mobile operators everywhere are under pressure to offer better network performance to keep up with insatiable subscriber demand for bandwidth, said Chris Evans, Country Sales Manager at Ruckus Wireless.

"It’s estimated that consumers and businesses will generate over 6.2 Exabytes of mobile traffic data each month by 2015. The cost of transporting this data is expected to outpace revenue for operators, and a poor user experience resulting from network congestion will result in churn, one of the largest costs operators incur.

“Wi-Fi presents an attractive option and a complimentary technology for operators looking to address the data demand and provide subscribers with the best possible experience. Advances in wireless technology, such as Hotspot 2.0 and Wi-Fi analytics, enables users to experience Wi-Fi in much the same ways as cellular, as well as providing carriers with additional revenue streams. As such, carriers are rapidly deploying carrier-grade Wi-Fi as one of the standard and cornerstone technologies used by subscribers to access the mobile internet.

“But one of the biggest challenges that operators will face is securing the appropriate physical locations. They tend to be finite in number and, given the competition in the market to secure them, premium in price. Operators face the prospect of a ‘land grab’ situation as like-minded organisations prepare to stake their claims. There is simply no other option than accepting that the race is on.

“Unruly though such a ‘gold-rush’ situation may sound in these modern times, it’s a characteristic of the dynamically competitive market. Wi-Fi location sites are frequently subject to limitations on equipment size, power availability and accessibility. They are also often difficult to work with physically. In the light of potential constraints of this nature, flexible, compact, and low-power form factors are essential. They can accelerate the rollout speed, and reduce installation and operating costs.

“Any decision on how best to adapt existing network architectures to cope with demand and provide a better service to subscribers is clearly driven by how a service provider believes it might best compete in a market which is becoming busier, more demanding and more competitive by the week.

“If seeking appropriate locations for mounting Wi-Fi is a challenge, then operators simply need to compare the complications of the process to the complications of a declining customer base in a growing market or consider the potential implications of missing out on securing prime locations.

“By securing locations across Australia, Telstra joins a class of other telecom leaders, such as PCCW in Hong Kong, Oi in Brazil, O2 in UK and Telecom New Zealand in NZ.”

Australians can register their details to receive more information about Telstra Wi-Fi as it’s released at http://telstra.com/wifination.



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