Telstra's Wi-Fi network 'Telstra Air' launches on Tuesday

From Tuesday, Telstra fixed-line broadband customers will be able to sign up to the company's new national Wi-Fi network to be known as Telstra Air.

Over a year since first announcing the network, Telstra is officially launching its AU$100 million national Wi-Fi network known as Telstra Air on Tuesday.

In partnership with Fon, Telstra customers signed up to Air will be allowed to access the Wi-Fi network's 15 million hotspots both in Australia and overseas from Tuesday.

Customers who have signed up will be able to access the network for free, but will need a router upgrade in order to share a portion of their own home internet connection as a hotspot for other Telstra customers.

To date, Telstra has 1.1 million customers with compatible modems, but only tens of thousands of customers so far have expressed interest in signing up.

For customers on an ADSL connection, their gateway will be limited to one Telstra Air user at a time. For cable and National Broadband Network (NBN) customers, this is increased to three.

Customers with download speeds of less than 5Mbps on their fixed broadband will still be able to sign up for the Telstra Air service, but Telstra will not use their home line as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Non-Telstra customers cannot at this stage sign up for a service, but the company plans to offer guest accounts "for a small fee" that has yet to be announced. Telstra is also considering allowing its mobile customers to use Telstra Air in the future.

Telstra's executive director of networks, Mike Wright, denied that the product was designed to ease capacity issues on the company's mobile network, stating that the trial created a whole new category of internet traffic while mobile use stayed the same.

"We haven't seen any significant change," he said.

The network launch comes after an extensive free trial period for both Telstra and non-Telstra customers. Telstra had turned 2,600 of its public phone booths in Australia into Wi-Fi hotspots as part of the trial. The hotspots were being progressively switched off earlier this month in preparation for the Telstra Air network launch.

The trial saw 1.5 million unique users, and 500 terabytes consumed per day in the public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Wright said the company has since expanded this out to 4,000 hotspots.

The hotspots will be switched back on in 250 towns across Australia. Telstra will provide a map with hotspot locations, but for home broadband customers who have signed up for the service, this will only show a "heat map" so a person's home address is not disclosed on the map.

Telstra Air users will be able to log in to the network with a new Telstra Air app on iOS and Android. The company could not say when a Windows version of the app would be made available, but said Windows customers could still log in through their mobile web browser.

The company will also be launching new broadband packages on Tuesday, with "generous data allowances" to encourage uptake of Telstra Air. Customers who sign up for the new packages will receive the router required to participate in Telstra Air. Otherwise, customers can purchase one outright from Telstra.

The new Telstra plans start at AU$69 per month for 50GB of data, up to AU$169 for a 1TB plan that can be bundled with a Foxtel subscription.

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