Telstra wi-fi hotspots go dark ahead of commercial roll out

Will return sometime later this year

Telstra’s free wi-fi hotspots have gone dark ahead of a commercial launch of the service sometime later this year.

The service trial saw public phone boxes transformed into wireless hotspots, the first rolling out at the end of last year. The six month trial was designed to provide the telecoms giant with information about user loads and how the service was used.

The incumbent says intends to provide a commercial service in the near future, rolling out an estimated two million hotspots across Australia within the next five years. Users will also have access to a further 15 million overseas hotspots thanks to a commercial tie-up with Fon.

The new commercial service will allow Telstra customers to use their bandwidth allowance from home via the hot spots. Telstra customers are also being urged to share their home bandwidth – securely, the company claims – as a way of increasing the number of available wi-fi locations.

One caveat about the proposed service is that all the trials were conducted with unsecured connections, meaning anyone with a sniffer could access the data streaming between the hotspot and the user.

Presumably, the commercial rollout will incorporate security.

The trial isn’t the first time Telstra has toyed with free wi-fi. The company had a commercial agreement with fast food chain McDonalds, an arrangement that began in 2004. The Telstra-Maccas tie-up reached more than 700 locations by 2009, however Telstra subsequently exited the deal, leaving Maccas on its own. Many McDonalds restaurants still provide (free, limited) wi-fi to customers or people who otherwise want to sit down and enjoy the ambience.

Telstra has not committed to a firm start date for the roll out of the commercial wi-fi service, but is soliciting user registrations. ®

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