Asia-Pacific pilots Wi-Fi roaming

Wi-Fi subscribers will be able to roam between carriers throughout the Asia-Pacific region

Telstra and several Asian telecommunications carriers are understood to be preparing to launch a pilot of a roaming Wi-Fi service, encompassing networks in at least Australia, Singapore, China and Malaysia, from tomorrow.

The move follows the announcement in March of an Asian Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) involving Telstra, Korea Telecom, China Netcom, Malaysia's Maxis and Singapore's Starhub. The announcement, which covered some broad details of the inter-operator pilot service, indicated the participants were targeting a July launch date.

The service -- which targets businesspeople needing to remain connected during their travels -- is expected to give subscribers Wi-Fi access via more than 20,000 hot-spots across the region by the end of the year. At the announcement of the launch and pilot in Singapore in March, the carriers said subscribers were initially likely to gain access to more than 8,600 hot-spots, including 17 at international airports.

A Telstra spokesperson refused to confirm or deny whether a launch would take place.

It is understood the five initial members of the WBA have been holding discussions with other carriers in the region, with a view to expanding its membership. The WBA is understood to have been meeting in Sydney over the last couple of days.

Ted Pretty, Telstra's head of consumer and marketing, said in the island republic in March that the carrier viewed Wi-Fi as a key growth opportunity.

The launch comes amid moves by the telecommunications heavyweight to shore up its international ties in the face of tough regional competition from Singapore Telecommunications, owner of Australia's No. 2 carrier, SingTel Optus.

Telstra in April signed an agreement with Maxis and three other carriers -- Hong Kong's CSL, Singapore's MobileOne and Smart from the Philippines -- formalising ties to improve general packet radio services, multi-media messaging services, caller line identification and other services.

A joint statement from the carriers, announcing the Asian Mobility Initiative, said the arrangements aimed to "provide subscribers... with the same standards of seamless and reliable data communications that they currently enjoy today with voice calls".

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