Telstra switched on the first 150 of its free wi-fi hotspots throughout Australia last Wednesday, and expect a total of 1,000 to be operational before Boxing Day.
The move comes as part of Telstra’s $100m Wifi Nation plan, which pledges to establish two million hotspots across the country over the next five years.
The initial locations are amongst some of Australia’s busiest areas, including Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall, Sydney’s Hyde Park and Brisbane’s King George Square. Future rollouts are expected to target “the heart of local communities”, as well as existing Telstra retail outlets and exchange buildings. Plans are also in place to follow the lead of other trial services in New York City and New Zealand, and repurpose existing payphone locations as wireless hotspots, with up to 8,000 such sites in mind.
Users will be allotted 30 minutes of access time at these hotspots, with existing Telstra customers able to use their home broadband accounts to access these hotspots indefinitely.
“This trial marks the beginning of our ambition to switch on more than two million hotspots across the nation over 5 years and give customers the best Wi-Fi experience in and out of the home,” Gordon Ballantyne, Executive for Telstra Retail, told Mumbrella. “We want customers to have greater options for connecting when they’re out and about. From browsing the web, streaming videos or sharing photos with friends, we want customers to have a taste of what the network will be like next year when Telstra Wi-Fi members will be able to use their home broadband allowance at the hotspots.”
The hotspot locations to be trialled before Christmas will be in towns and regional hubs traditionally popular during the holiday season, Ballantyne added.
Wireless hotspots in a busy shopping district represent a great opportunity for retailers, allowing them to expand online offerings and implement in-depth omnichannel marketing strategies while also providing potential customers the convenience of free internet access. That said, having the hotspots owned and operated by major telecommunications providers exposes a retailer to the potential of restricted utility and competition for bandwidth.
In a further, arguably more controversial move, Telstra have floated the possibility of allowing home broadband customers the option to open their wireless routers to Telstra’s free wi-fi network, allowing strangers on the street access to their bandwidth. Rolling out this service through new model routers for home broadband users, Telstra expect their wi-fi hotspot network to reach two million within the next five years.
This broad-stroke project is mirrored by the approach of competing telco Optus, who as Power Retail reported last month was consulting with local councils in a more selective, pick-and-choose state of mind.