Telstra customers will share their home wi-fi in a plan to create one of the world’s largest networks of public hotspots.
The telco will roll out special home broadband modems that perform their regular function but take any unused spectrum to create a public Wi-Fi hotspot for anybody nearby to use.
It will also build more than 8000 dedicated Wi-Fi hotspots in at least 100 towns and cities, largely in areas with high foot traffic, such as cafe strips, shopping centres, and transport hubs.
Unveiled on Tuesday, the plan is expected to create about two million hotspots across the country after it launches in early 2015.
Anybody will be able to access the network for a small daily fee, though Telstra customers who opt-in to make their modem a hotspot will have free access, with the data being deducted from their home allowance.
Telstra says there will be special access options for Telstra mobile customers to be announced at a later date.
Customers will also be able to access an estimated 12 million hotspots in countries including the UK, France, Germany and Japan as part of a partnership with Fon Wireless, a pioneer in dual-use hotspot technology.
Hotspots are sites that offer wireless internet access via a router connected to an internet service provider.
They can generally handle higher speeds and larger traffic loads than 3G and 4G networks that use mobile phone towers.
Telstra CEO David Thodey told reporters in Sydney that the network would be one of the largest Wi-Fi hotspot networks in the world.
“It’s a bit innovative, it’s a bit different, and we think this is really going to provide a different way for people to communicate,” he said.
The way Australians access the internet has “fundamentally changed”, he added, pointing to a hunger for more data-intensive content such as videos.
“We’re seeing this incredible usage of wireless connectivity, both in public areas, but also in areas such as stadiums, entertainment centres, restaurants.”
“The amount of data we’re carrying on the network continues to grow at exponential rates,” he said.
Thodey said the network has been made possible through advances in Wi-Fi technology that allow far better data throughput than five years ago and much better coverage within buildings.
“We think now is the right time.”