There was perhaps a time when Telstra had monopoly over telephony services in Australia, but now there’s competition.
To stay ahead of the game, Australia's largest telco has set up a national public Wi-Fi service that it christened Telstra Air.
What is Telstra Air
It's an additional service the telco provides to its customers that sets it apart from the competition and, as of June 2017, Telstra’s nationwide public Wi-Fi network features a million hotspots around the country.
These hotspots include Telstra stores, Telstra payphones with the pink Wi-Fi sign on top of the canopy and selected public places.
To find unmarked hotspots, you can head to the ‘Find a hotspot’ page on the telco’s website and search by suburb or postcode. These could include people's homes.
All Telstra mobile plans now come with free access to Telstra Air, while the telco’s home broadband customers can choose to opt in to the service by setting up their home as a hotspot and sharing a part of their bandwidth with the public.
In addition, Telstra customers also get access to free public Wi-Fi when travelling abroad, thanks to the telco’s partnership with the Fon hotspot network.
Telstra Air on mobile
As a Telstra mobile customer, you should already have free access to the nationwide Wi-Fi service, irrespective of what plan you are on. Presently, the free access is until 27 March, 2018, but Telstra has said that the offer may be extended.
Telstra Air for home users
As a Telstra home broadband customer, you’ll need a compatible Telstra Home Gateway (or modem) which allows a portion of your service to become part of the Telstra Air network, effectively making your home a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
This does not mean that strangers have access to your private network; it’s more like setting up a ‘guest’ access.
Telstra has said that it limits the number of people who can access your home’s hotspot at any given time, as well as the speeds they can achieve.
Plus the amount of data on the public network does not count against your monthly data quota. So it ideally shouldn’t impact your private use, although you could register lower speeds at home if your network is being accessed as the same time as you.
In return, Telstra gives these customers free access to Telstra Air across the country and overseas.
Home broadband users can deactivate Telstra Air at any time by logging into Telstra 24x7 My Account and selecting their home broadband service.
Telstra Air for non-Telstra customers
Non-Telstra customers also have access to Telstra Air, but as a paid service by purchasing a guest pass.
Guest passes are available at any Telstra Air hotspot – just move into the proximity of a hotspot, connect to it and a browser will open giving you the option of buying one of four time-based passes. They cost between $5 for an hour’s access (with no limit on the amount of data you can use) to $30 for a 30-day pass.
The pass is automatically activated once the purchase is complete, but Telstra recommends using the Telstra Air app to set up your access with the guest pass, meaning you’ll need to create a Telstra ID.
As mentioned, Telstra Air users have free (at least until 27 March, 2018) access to over 20 million public Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, most of which are located in Europe, although there are some in Japan, South Korea and the US as well.
To access the Fon hotspots, you’ll need the Telstra Air app and activate your account (if you’re a new user) before you leave Australia.
Leave the Wi-Fi settings on your device on and any Fon hotspot will have the word ‘Fon’ in the name, with ‘Telstra Air’ mentioned below.
If you are trying to connect to a Fon network without the app, you’ll need to set up a ‘@wifi.telstra.com’ on your Telstra account before you depart. Just log into your account, head to My Account and follow the prompts.
Security in a public network
Telstra makes it very clear that its public Wi-Fi network is “open and unsecured” due to its accessibility, leaving the user to assess the risk of using the network and taking their own precautions. Any data sent over this network will not be encrypted and can be intercepted.
The Telstra Air app, however, can help protect you from accidentally latching on to a network masquerading as part of Telstra’s service.
[Photo courtesy of Maksym Kozlenko]