Ross Greenwood: Now David Thodey, you’ve announced that from 2015, Telstra will have a brand new Wi-Fi network across the country. But you already have Telstra Mobile Network and a fixed line broadband network, so what’s the reason for this Wi-Fi network?
David Thodey: Well Ross, we do have great networks and the fact is we’re all consuming more and more content every day. Just look at the use of tablets, iPhones and smartphones; more people want to connect and watch video. So we need to add more capability on the network.
And Wi-Fi has become the way we often connect, especially in the home or in the business environment. By putting these public Wi-Fi hotspots out there, it’s going to give people a different way to communicate. And what’s really innovative, for those who opt in, their home can become a little Wi-Fi hotspot itself.
RG: So a person with home broadband on the Telstra Mobile Network, they can opt in so their home can be a Wi-Fi hotspot and other people can pick up the network? And if I opt in, then I can get access to the hotspots of all those people who have opted in, whether in cities, in country towns, wherever I might be?
DT: All over the place, Ross – at entertainment centres, at stadiums, at cafes and restaurants.
RG: And so I don’t have to use the Telstra Mobile Network. It’s as if I’m connecting by Wi-Fi to the broadband in my own home and using my home data allowance. Well, the first thing that people will ask about is “security”.
DT: Security is really important in the design of this network. We are very careful to protect you from anyone or anything coming in on the public side, so they can’t get access to any of your information.
RG: It strikes me that the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia was originally going to be $43 billion. The price tag rose north of $70 billion by the time the change of government came. This new Wi-Fi network that Telstra is creating is going to cost $100 million. That seems like a bit of a bargain.
DT: Well I don’t think we’re quite comparing apples to apples. This is a wireless access network that still needs the data to be carried over fixed infrastructure.
RG: So not only do people who opt in get Wi-Fi access whereever there is an existing Australian network, they also get access to Wi-Fi in many other parts of the world. Twelve million access points, you say. How does that work?
DT: The same technology is being used in the UK, France, Germany, Greece and Spain. So Australian customers who opt in will get access to, we believe, about two million hotspots in Australia within five years, and another 10 million throughout Europe.
RG: Can I get access to these Wi-Fi points if I am not a Telstra customer?
DT: Yes, you can. We want to make it as open as we can. We will charge just a daily usage fee, but anyone who wants to sign on will get the service.
It’s easy to keep doing things the same old way, but we need to accept and embrace the new digital space. The security of the Wi-Fi network is important, of course. The benefits of shared W-Fi are that Australians will be better connected.