Outside of libraries, schools and the occasional coffee shop, there’s a distinct lack of reliable public WiFi available in Australia’s major cities. Now Perth-based telco iiNet is hoping to change this, with plans to establish a network of WiFi hotspots in each capital city.
The proposed network would allow iiNet mobile and broadband users to connect to public WiFi free of charge, while non-subscribers would be required to pay a small fee to access the service.
The company is already working on its first WiFi networks in Adelaide and Perth, but is planning to extend the service to Sydney and Melbourne later this year. Assuming the east coast rollouts are successful, iiNet will then focus on the remaining capital cities.
iiNet subsidiary Internode began construction on the AdelaideFree WiFi network in August. The network consists of 200 connection ports around Adelaide that will provide coverage to approximately 97% of the city’s CBD.
The ports are designed to create continuous, seamless wireless internet which will reportedly offer faster speeds than those currently available over cellular networks.
Co-funded by the South Australian Government and Adelaide City Council, the Adelaide network is being built using Cisco outdoor wireless access points and is connected by a fibre-optic back end.
A threat to Telstra and Optus?
If the proposed WiFi hotspots go ahead, it could have a major impact on the mobile data and broadband industries in Australia – and prove a serious threat to revenue for Optus and Telstra.
Freely and easily available public WiFi in the CBD of each major city could see a dramatic reduction in 3G and 4G data use in these areas, something that has been a leading money spinner for telcos since the decline in profits from texting and talking.
Overall, it’s a bold move by iiNet to set itself apart from the big telcos. After recently unsuccessfully attempting to buy AAPT’s infrastructure assets, the company may be looking for a new way to boost subscribers.
iiNet's plan could see as many as 30,000 mobile hotspots being connected across the country. With an estimated cost of hundreds of millions, iiNet will likely be seeking partners to invest in the project if it hopes to launch its Sydney and Melbourne services in the next twelve months.
Image credit: Dayna Bateman at Flickr