Telstra's Nationwide Wi-Fi Network Is Now Called Air

Telstra has retrofitted its old payphones with Wi-Fi hotspots, and hooked up new hotspots in shopping centres, cafes, sporting stadiums and train stations, to build the largest Wi-Fi network in the country. It's being built for Telstra's home broadband customers to use when they're out and about, it's called Air, and it'll switch on next Tuesday.

Telstra Air is the new name for what was a year ago called Wi-Fi Nation, but that existing mesh of thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots in old payphones and cafes is being supplemented by new deals with shopping centres, large sporting stadiums and public transport hubs to build out and expand the Air network to cover a larger area of Australia's metropolitan areas.

250 cities and towns across Australia will be part of the Telstra Air Wi-Fi network when it's officially switched on next Tuesday, with "thousands" of hotspots in popular locations. Hundreds of new locations will be added in coming months after Telstra completes deals with different local governments, and it's likely the network will continue to expand with more deals in the future.

Telstra also has 1.1 million customers with Wi-Fi modems able to broadcast a secondary network to be used for Telstra Air -- apart from the infrastructure Wi-Fi hotspots, this will be the other crucial half of the network. Every new Telstra home broadband modem sold from Tuesday, too, will be automatically enabled for Air. Crucially, though, Telstra Air will be an opt-in service and your modem will not automatically broadcast Air.

Telstra's group managing director of consumer and products is bullish about Air's growth potential once it's up and running, saying the company "expect[s] it will grow rapidly reaching thousands of neighbourhoods and millions of people across the country over the next five years." Since Telstra has partnered up with Fon to create the Air Wi-Fi network, Telstra home broadband customers will also be able to access any of the 15 million Fon Wi-Fi hotspots when they travel overseas to 18 countries including the UK, Spain, Brazil, France, Japan and Turkey.

The backbone of Telstra Air, though, is equally reliant on the company's home broadband customers themselves -- especially for that "neighbourhood" coverage where existing Wi-Fi-enabled payphones and infrastructure Air Wi-Fi hotspots don't already exist. To access the Air network for free, Telstra home broadband customers will be restricted to download quotas drawn from their home account's allowance, and will also be required to share their own home broadband as a Telstra Air hotspot -- the same concept as Fon in Europe, the world's largest Wi-Fi sharing network and Telstra's partner in creating Air -- using one of Telstra's Gateway Max home broadband modem routers.

When they sign up for Telstra Air, a Telstra home broadband user's home Wi-Fi network will be split into two, with one frequency band re-broadcast as a Telstra Air hotspot and with bandwidth available to any other Air customer that might want to use it. So, to have the ability to use a Telstra Air hotspot when you're not at home, you'll have to be comfortable with sharing a "small portion" of your home Internet connection publicly. This usage, of course, will come from the Air user's quota and not the home broadband owner's allowance, and the separate Wi-Fi network should be completely isolated from the user's home Wi-Fi for extra security.

Four Telstra Gateway modems already support the Telstra Air network -- they've had over-the-air software updates to enable the additional Wi-Fi networks in the background. Every Telstra modem sold in the future, too, will support the creation of Air networks through secondary Wi-Fi frequencies.

If you're not already a Telstra Air customer -- that is, if you don't have Telstra Home Broadband on a compatible plan, if you're only a Telstra mobile customer, or not a customer at all -- you'll be able to purchase 1-hour, 1-day and 5-day passes for $6.60, $10 and $23 respectively.

The Telstra Air app that will allow access to the network on smartphones and tablets will show the listed location of any users' nearby Air hotspots on a map -- these will only be the infrastructure networks situated in Telstra's own payphone and public areas. Suburban hotspots will not be listed on the Telstra Air app; instead a heatmap will be shown with the relative strength of Telstra Air and Fon Wi-Fi networks in any given area.

Public hotspots will have a high amount of bandwidth available for users to access through Air; home users will share less of their bandwidth -- approximately 2Mbps according to Telstra. ADSL home broadband users will have a maximum of one Air user accessing their home router, while NBN and cable customers will have three. Telstra's minimum line speed for customers to opt in to Air will be between 5 and 8Mbps, but this is subject to change.

Telstra applied for the "Telstra Air" trade mark in mid-December last year, expedited its application at the end of January, and was granted the trade mark in early May. The mark covers classes 9 and 38, for both the telecommunications network itself and for software that will allow users to connect to it. There's also a Telstra CrowdSupport section for the Air network, but it's not yet available to the public.

Telstra Air switches on next Tuesday, and will be accessed through a Telstra Air app for iOS and Android mobile devices as well as Windows and Mac laptops. New Telstra Collection home broadband packages are on the way from then, too, with "[the] most generous data allowance yet" for a Telstra home internet package, a bundled membership for Telstra Air, and the obligatory free six-month subscription to Foxtel's Presto video-on-demand.




    Since Telstra is so buddy buddy with the government, could this be used as a mass surveillance of Australian citizens. They would know where you are at all times. It would be the same as placing tracking chips in us all.
    Thin end of the wedge. Get everyone comfortable on it and then use it for nefarious uses. It's exactly something the US government would do if they had a population as small as ours and how were so city condensed.

    Last edited 26/06/15 1:48 pm

      Are you kidding me? Telstra is heavily regulated by the government..still... If you are that worried about privacy just go and install a VPN service on all your devices...

      Just get a VPN. Also stop talking forever.

        A vpn won't stop possible tracking of the device, and hence user, location.
        The only way to stop that is to turn off the device and/or leave it at home.

        Last edited 27/06/15 9:12 am

      Since Telstra is so buddy buddy with the government, could this be used as a mass surveillance of Australian citizens. They would know where you are at all times. It would be the same as placing tracking chips in us all.

      As opposed to what? The smartphones we all carry around with us anyway?

      Every single post I read from you is one step further into Bizarro Land.

        Not saying it is, saying it could be used.

    so now the Feds are tracking user activity by ip, how will this work. Separate wifi doesn't mean separate wan ip for home sharers

      My guess would be they'll be tunneling from the home gateway to a point within Telstra's network where user/device authentication and accounting can occur, then out to the internet.

    Queue the demands from Singtel that Telstra be prevented from doing this. Just like they demanded Telstra be prevented from using money from the deal with NBN Co to improve mobile services.

    Sooo....who is liable when some honky from down the street sucks up Dallas Buyers Club through your public portion of WiFi?

      The 'honky from down the street' is liable, it will use their download allowance, not the user who is broadcasting the wi-fi signal...

      It needs their telstra account dude.. come on.. it was in the article.

        And you would be prepared to test that in court, yes?

          It's a separate Wi-Fi signal with, presumably, an isolated backhaul to Telstra unique to that user. So the guy/gal downloading (or at least, use of their account) can be determined.

          Presumption of innocence, they have to prove that it was you. From the sounds of it the infrastructure should support identification of who did what, but if it can't, then it's safety in anonymity.

          No need to test it. The "honkey from down the street" will have a different IP address than you. Therefore your account will never even get looked at.

    This looks promising however I am unable to opt in thanks to Telstra's absolutely terrible ADSL 2+ service at my house. How about fixing areas that are going to be experiencing no faster than 1.5mbps speeds before investing in this network? No ****ing chance of that happening because consumers have no other choice.

      No ETA for a fix on congestion on Gulliver exchange 4814.
      That said, being outside of Brisbane means we don't exist anyways.

        correction! being outside of sdyney and melbourne means we dont exist anyway

    I'm interested to see how these passes work. A Telstra insider told me that the FON passes won't work at Telstra Air hotspots. Seems strange. Also, my wifi barely reaches my mailbox, so I'm not sure who I'd be sharing it with... good for high density areas I suppose. We'll see!

    It's a bit slow and stuffy in here. I'm going out to get me some Air™.

    Hang on, didn't Telstra recently receive the "lowest speed in Australia" award from Netflix?!

    Their solution to this massive problem is to use some of the very limited bandwidth already received by the poor user to broadcast this "Air" service to other users parked outside their house in a van?!


      It's lowest because they're the only provider out in the sticks. Because only telstra gives a shit about people who don't live on the coast.

        Correction. Only Telstra got given a government built network that they have an entire monopoly on. If Telstra started the same way any other provider did it'd be excluding them too.

    "Telstra’s minimum line speed for customers to opt in to Air will be between 5 and 8Mbps, but this is subject to change."

    so because telstra cant provide me this, i cant take advantage of the deal. how awesome of them.

    I have to use one of Telstra's god awful modems that give me a worse connection? Pass.

    Last edited 26/06/15 7:27 pm

      With any luck they'll start using rebranded Fon modems, which are fast, reliable, and completely customisable.

        Knowing Telstra rebranded with awful locked down firmware. Really though, I wouldn't be too interested in sharing my bandwidth unless I had FTTP, I barely have enough ADSL bandwidth for myself.

    The only use I'd have for this is for overseas travel (via the Fon deal). It's useless to me in Australia. Mobile internet works fine on the go anyway and I don't want to have to use their special crappy router at home instead of the high quality one I have, just to have access to this service.

    Air to the world. Switch it on and be free to roam the world.

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