From Tuesday (June 30) every Telstra home broadband connection has the potential to form part of a huge nationwide WiFi network, and every Telstra home broadband customer can use their home broadband allowance on the Telstra Air WiFi network anywhere in Australia as the company switches on the network they announced late last year.
The concept was announced last year, using private homes, businesses, Telstra Payphones and other shared infrastructure to create what has the potential to be the biggest single WiFi network in the world.
As of Tuesday, anyone who is a Telstra home broadband customer can sign up to participate in the service.
What makes up the network?
The idea is big, the execution though requires a huge buy-in from customers across the country.
Telstra has upgraded thousands of payphones across the country and continues to do that on a daily basis to turn them into “Telstra Air” WiFi hotspots. Likewise, you can expect other Telstra infrastructure, shops and buildings to present a “Telstra Air” WiFi network to your devices as you walk near them.
But to make this a really big network, Telstra is banking on their home broadband customers taking part.
Once you sign up to participate, two things happen. Firstly, you can use your Bigpond username and password to access Telstra Air hotspots. Secondly, your home modem/gateway is enabled and becomes part of the Telstra Air national network. This is what will give it scale.
There will be a Telstra Air app, this app will allow you to find hotspots, but will also automatically connect you to a Telstra Air hotspot when you are in range. You only need to authenticate in the App once, then just connect when you need.
If you don’t have the App, you use your Bigpond username and password to authenticate, and would need to do that again if you are not active on the service for 20 minutes. So if you move location, you’ll need to re-authenticate. The App sounds like a great idea.
The App is just a part of the insight into the bigger deal Telstra have done here. Partnering with “FON” they’ve been able to use the app and infrastructure, and also open up a world of hotspots. Some 15 million locations in 18 countries, with Tesltra representatives telling EFTM the coverage in many major European cities was excellent. Great for travellers who are also Telstra home broadband customers it seems.
What you need to know (Telstra Customers)
Will it affect your home broadband speed? You’re essentially sharing your home broadband now, but worry not, only 2MB of bandwidth at most can be used by Telstra Air users. For Cable or NBN customers this won’t be an issue.
What if your home broadband speed is low? For those with ADSL running a bit slow, perhaps a long way from the exchange, Telstra’s systems will actually detect this slow speed and opt you out of the sharing arrangement, but you will still be able to use Telstra Air anywhere else yourself.
Can others access your home network data? Your home network is separated from any Telstra Air user. So if your home network was called “The Longs at home” only the people you give secure access will be able to join that network, and thus potentially share your files or printers. When your gateway/modem is upgraded, two new networks will be created. One called Telstra Air, the other called FON.
Do you have to upgrade your modem? If you have a compatible modem already, the software upgrade will be enabled as soon as you sign up, but you cannot sign up to use Telstra Air without allowing that update to be enabled. If you don’t have a compatible modem, you’ll have to buy one from Telstra. New customers will be provided with the latest compatible hardware from day one.
Is this the next big thing?
It’s great, but it does require a few hoops to be jumped through, most notably, you’ve got to be a Telstra Home Broadband customer. While that is a huge number of people, it’s not everyone.
Secondly, you have to be willing to enable your home modem as a part of the network. And finally, if you do opt in, you have to be ok with up to 2MB of your bandwidth being used by other random Telstra customers. For Cable and NBN users that won’t even be noticed, but for some – it might be worth checking on.
If you’re not a Telstra home broadband customer, you’ll have to wait – likely down the track they will introduce a pay to play option – which is essentially also available Tuesday for FON subscribers.
What do you think? Will you be signing up?