May the Wi-FI Wars Commence

Telstra has announced a $100 million-plus strategy to build 8,000 new Wi-Fi access points across the country – Wi-Fi Nation is the rather grand title given to the project. Less than a week later iiNet has announced free Wi-Fi will be available in Canberra, where they’re building 700 new base stations. It’s an extension to their free Wi-Fi network in Adelaide and they’re looking for other local governments to partner with. These are two very different approaches, which one will win out?

There’s another element to the Telstra plan. As Mike Wright explains to Phil Dobbie in this week’s CrossTalk, broadband customers can share their Wi-Fi devices to provide access to public users, in exchange for similar access when they are away from home. It’s part of a partnership with FON, who are offering similar services in other parts of the world. Telecommunications advisor John Lindsay, former CTO at iiNet, says it’s an approach that’s been tried before in this country, without much success.

iiNet’s Greg Bader says he prefers to build networks with access points where people are. And partnerships with local government provides access to real estate that could otherwise be problematic.

So who will win the Wi-Fi war? Telstra’s announcement is much bigger, but iiNet’s networks are free. If it extended coverage it could scupper Telstra’s point of differentiation. Meanwhile, where is Optus in all this? All they could add was that they didn’t want to comment on Telstra’s WiFi announcement.

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