Telstra Air is Telstra's Australia-wide network of wireless hotspots; there's over 900,000 around the country. It's almost a Telstra recycling program where payphones provide something a bit more useful: Wi-Fi. If a Telstra payphone has a pink dome on top, it's a hotspot.
Telstra stores also double as hotspots, and Telstra broadband customers can also contribute to the network by turning their home modem into a hotspot in exchange for free access to the network.
If you're a Telstra customer, there's a good chance you've got free access to Telstra Air, and it can actually be pretty useful. Not only can you save yourself some data when you're out and about, you also get free public Wi-Fi when travelling overseas through a partnership Telstra has with the Fon hotspot network.
How do I use Telstra Air?
You can access the Telstra Air hotspot network for free if you're a Telstra mobile or broadband customer, but the process is slightly different for both.
After you're registered, you'll then be able to use Telstra Air hotspots whenever you come across one. You can connect to them like any other wireless network (although you'll need to enter your username and password) or the Telstra Air app can also automatically connect you to hotspots when you're in range.
Telstra offers free Telstra Air access with most new phone plans, regardless of whether they're postpaid or prepaid. Telstra will be providing mobile customers with free access to Telstra Air until March 27, 2018, but says the offer may be extended again.
If you're a Telstra broadband customer, you need to enrol in the Telstra Air network to gain access to hotspots. This means using the Telstra modem you're provided with when you sign up, and allocating a small amount of your bandwidth to people using your home as a hotspot.
Telstra says it limits the number of people who can use your hotspot at once, as well as the speeds they can access, so it shouldn't impact your use at home. Other people's data won't count toward your monthly download allowance, and the Telstra Air network is treated as a separate Wi-Fi. As such, people using your hotspot won't be able to see any of your personal information.
After you've got your hotspot set up, you'll get access to the rest of the network. Normally, the data you download will count against your monthly home broadband download allowance, but you're able to use Telstra Air data-free until March 27, 2018.
What if I'm not a Telstra customer?
If you're not a Telstra customer, you're still able to use Telstra Air hotspots, but it will cost you. Prices start at $5 for an hour, and go as high as a $30 for a 30-day pass. Telstra says there's no data limit on any of its guest passes.
What about when I travel overseas?
Telstra Air members also get free access to Wi-Fi hotspots overseas through the Fon network. Fon operates over 20 million hotspots around the world, with most of these situated in Europe. Japan and South Korea are also well covered, and you'll still find some scattered across the United States. The Fon website has a more detailed breakdown of where you'll find hotspots.
To access these, you'll need the Telstra Air App on your iPhone or Android device and your Telstra username and password. Alternatively, you can get a Fon username and password through your account settings on the Telstra website, which will be different to your Telstra username and password.
If you're a Telstra mobile customer, you'll have free access to the Fon network until March 27, 2018. If you're a Telstra broadband customer, you can use Fon without it impacting your home broadband allowance.
Is Public Wi-Fi safe?
Public Wi-Fi is fine if you want to get in a little bit of web browsing, music streaming, or social media, but it shouldn't be used for anything important, like online banking. Public Wi-Fi is typically unencrypted, which means there's the potential for third parties to intercept your data as it goes through your phone or computer to its destination.
If you need to use a public Wi-Fi like Telstra Air for tasks like banking, you'll want to use a VPN to encrypt your traffic. We recommend F-Secure's Freedome.