Telstra has announced that its re-entry into the wireless hotspot business will go into live trial before the end of the year, using public phone boxes to host WiFi in “iconic” locations.
The system is being rolled out in partnership with Fon. Eventually, the commercial service will be free to people with a BigPond account, with others charged. While it's in trial, however, access will be free, although as noted by ZDNet's Josh Taylor, unsecured.
Those with long memories will recall that Telstra once built a WiFi network installed under a partnership with McDonald's, beginning in 2004. That network reached more than 700 locations by 2009, but Telstra exited the arrangement. The carrier's hotspot directory (linked here) currently lists a mere 21 locations, and you won't be asked if you want fries or a shake in any of them.
This time around, Telstra has decided to use its own property rather than rely on partnerships. In its press release the carrier says the first trials “will be located at payphone sites in the heart of local communities and in areas people want to connect. Beyond the trial, Telstra-built hotspots will be located at a variety of sites that best reach communities including Telstra retail outlets, exchange buildings and payphone sites.”
When the commercial service goes live, Telstra home broadband customers will have to join Telstra's wireless community, buy a suitable router, and, as announced in May, share some of their bandwidth with other members. They'll then be able to use home allowance at the public WiFi hotspots, as well as Fon's global network, which claims “more than 13 million hotspots”.
Just so long as you don't want a secured connection until the service goes properly live. ®