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Telstra plans plug and play cloud controls for more public Wi-Fi

Telstra is planning to launch a cloud-based managed Wi-Fi product in the hope that it will lead to many more businesses offering free public Wi-Fi in Australia.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Telstra is looking to get more of its customers to begin offering public Wi-Fi services through the launch of a new plug-and-play cloud-controlled Wi-Fi managed service.

Telstra has already been targeting public Wi-Fi as one of its growth areas, and has deployed public Wi-Fi in ANZ Stadium with Cisco.

Aaron Leung, Telstra's general manager Managed Network Services Practice, told attendees of Cisco Live in Melbourne on Thursday that Telstra would look to expand out into other stadiums around Australia, but said that as part of its managed Wi-Fi service offering, Telstra would now include a cloud-managed service.

"I think I'm officially the first person to say that Telstra will be launching a managed Wi-Fi cloud solution," he said.

"It's about how does Telstra look at a different segment of the market. If you want a scale-out solution, a simple solution, and one we can deliver in a traditional managed service provider way, then this may be the Wi-Fi solution we can help roll out as quickly as possible.

"Whether that be in the traditional market space, tier 2 retail, or anyone that is looking for a simple Wi-Fi deployment, where as much as possible it can be plug and play."

The solution is built using the Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi management platform that will allow customers to control their wireless access points via the cloud. Cisco acquired Meraki in late 2012 for $1.2 billion.

Leung said Telstra is already using the Meraki platform in its New York office.

"My team started looking at Meraki a few months back, after I spent some time in the US, and had some access to some of their hardware and platforms," he said.

He said that his team looked at integrating Facebook profiles as authentication for public Wi-Fi, but there are still some hurdles to overcome. He said the analytics that public Wi-Fi can offer through integration with social networking sites is how companies can begin to justify offering public Wi-Fi, and he said he believes it is the future of Wi-Fi.

"This is where public Wi-Fi is likely to go; it's to go social and really start to access the power of the information that is available in social media," he said.

"A couple of key features is the ability for us to expose the analytics of that platform to customers in a useful way, and particularly the idea that we can enable the public use case for Wi-Fi, as well as traditional applications of guests or for a business."

He said Australia is still lagging behind in adoption of free public Wi-Fi compared to other places in the world.

"Some people are using Wi-Fi as an idea of how they are using their space. Australia is a relatively immature market from a public Wi-Fi point of view. Anytime you're overseas, you'll see that Wi-Fi is becoming the engagement method of choice when it comes to public locations," he said.

"More and more in Australia, we're seeing Wi-Fi pop up as a way not just to provide access, but also for a better way to engage with your customers. Rather than just about being about our associations and connections made, you can start talking about deep location analytics, or more information about the individuals."

Telstra's cloud-managed Wi-Fi product would begin rolling out in a month or so, according to Leung.

Leung also said that within Telstra, the company is exploring methods to get Wi-Fi onto public transport.

"I've seen a couple of Telstra solutions where we use Next G backhaul, and a Wi-Fi AP tested out in transit, and so it's certainly not at the stage where it is a product, but we definitely have the ability to use a mobile router, mobile AP, and especially the power of our network to backhaul it."

Josh Taylor travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.

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