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Telstra opens Wi-Fi network to mobile customers, offers free Wi-Fi

Telstra is allowing its mobile customers to access Telstra Air for the first time, as well as offering free Wi-Fi for the next six months to all customers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra has announced that its AU$100 million national Wi-Fi network, Telstra Air, is now available for mobile customers to use, with free Wi-Fi being gifted by the telecommunications provider for the next six months until June 30, 2016.

The Wi-Fi network, available across Australia using Telstra hotspots at converted payphones, retail stores, and customers' own homes, allows customers to use their home broadband data allowance while away from the home.

The network now has 300,000 users -- triple the number that had signed up by August -- and is due to expand even further with the bid to make it free for new and existing mobile customers with an eligible prepaid or post-paid plan.

In addition, Telstra home broadband customers will be given quota-free Telstra Air Wi-Fi until the end of June, on the condition that they don't surpass their home broadband data allowance.

According to the telco, the free Wi-Fi is a timely offer, as data usage jumps over the Christmas and summer holiday period.

"We're tipping customers will use the data-equivalent of sending more than 50 million high-quality photos to post, browse, share, and stream on our Wi-Fi network over summer," said Neil Louis, head of Telstra Wi-Fi.

"We're putting the finishing touches on a massive upgrade of our mobile network in more than 70 holiday hotspots across the nation."

Telstra launched its Wi-Fi network in June this year, after turning 2,600 of its public phone booths into Wi-Fi hotspots during its trial of the service.

The telco has been focused on investing in its network, with chief executive Andrew Penn in October saying the company will be pouring AU$5 billion into its networks over the three years to June 2017.

"We will also start rapidly deploying the next generation of LTE technology, including voice over LTE, LTE Broadcast, and the next stage of LTE Advance, which is delivering peak network download speeds of up to 600Mbps," Penn said at Telstra's 2015 Australian Digital Summit.

"By leveraging our superior spectrum holdings, we will create new levels of coverage and performance leadership for 4GX."

Telstra's 4G network currently provides coverage to 94 percent of the Australian population, but is slated to be rolled out to 99 percent of the population by June 2017.

Telstra's decision to sway customers during the holiday period with free Wi-Fi follows its faux-pas earlier this month to triple its excess roaming data charges for many tourist destinations. Telstra then backflipped on this decision, instead opting to lower its excess data fees while increasing data allowances after being slammed by hundreds of customers.

"Good leadership means recognising when it is right to change decisions because it is the right thing for our customers," Penn said when reversing the decision.

"Price increases are often necessary and I completely understand why the teams that look after our products made the changes they did. But they didn't sit well with me, customers clearly told us the same, so it's my responsibility to act on behalf of our customers."

As a result, Telstra scrapped the previously announced excess data fees -- which were to increase from 3c to 10c per 1MB -- while maintaining the 50 percent increase in data allowances on its Travel Passes to a greater pool of countries.

"Telstra has worked hard at removing the pain point of International Roaming charges with the introduction of Travel Passes that make using a mobile overseas more affordable and predictable."

Telstra TV adds final free TV catch-up app

From Tuesday, Telstra is also making ABC iView available on its Telstra TV platform, marking the last of the free-TV catch-up apps and SVOD services to be added to its stable.

"Our customers are craving simple and flexible home entertainment and, with lots of great content in the one place, Telstra TV makes it easy for them to find their favourite shows or movies and enjoy them on our great networks," Serkan Honeine, Telstra director of At Home Media, said.

"We also know our customers love ABC TV and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of iView on Telstra TV. We are very happy to offer them the complete set of Australian free to air TV catch-up apps."

Telstra TV, launched in October, now has SBS On Demand, 9JumpIn, Plus7, Tenplay, ABC iView, BigPond Movies, Stan, Presto, and Netflix. Netflix has been the most popular streaming service used on Telstra TV, followed by YouTube, Presto, Stan, and BigPond Movies.

Telstra TV will also be gaining catch-up highlights services for tennis, the NRL, the AFL, and the Olympics next year, but would not comment on whether access to A-League content, the rights of which are owned by Foxtel, would be coming.

Honeine revealed on Monday that take-up of Telstra TV has seen similar numbers through bundling the device with plans as it has with customers buying the AU$109 device outright. He also said that customers have yet to go over their data allowances as a result of the device, attributing this to the "drastically increased allowances" given by Telstra.

The Roku media box runs on a Dual Arm A9 1Ghz processor with 512MB of DRAM, 256MB Flash NAND storage, an HDMI 1.4 port, a USB 2.0 port, and a microSD slot.

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