Free WiFi ! Australian Councils are rolling out free WiFi.

Intro – 60 second guide

Here are our findings on the recent news of the introduction of free WiFi access provided by local councils around Australia and what this means for mobile phone users. There are more key details in the following article below.

  • The latest research from ACMA states that smartphone usage of free WiFi hotspots has increased since the 2003 introduction, adding further competition to an already competitive market.
  • With new MVNOs entering the market every few months and more Australian’s taking advantage of open WiFi hotspots, Telecom companies are sure to offer more competitive prepaid plan deals to consumers.
  • Australian’s love WiFi and with new OTT services via smartphone app’s being introduced, major carriers will have to keep on innovating to continue capturing revenue from their users.

WiFi hotspots and OTT services

WiFi hotspots in Australia have become much easier to access in just about all capital cities thanks to the future thinking initiatives put in place back in 2003 by both Telstra and Optus.

From a technology standpoint, Australia has been lacking when it comes to being an innovative country, in comparison to other similar sized nations such as South Korea, which has focused on high-speed data networks and widespread free WiFi connectivity.

The good news is that the latest 2014 data researched and conducted by ACMA, Australia has come a long way with the amount of inner city hotspots being created and used by the general public increasing.

The report shows us that Australians love their free public WiFi Hotspots. As of June on average almost 4.5 million Australians went online at least once, using one of the free public WiFi hotspots.

With smartphone ownership increasing in Australia and with us all living in an ever increasing connected and digital world, the trend of using public WiFi hotspots as we are on the go is sure to continue in popularity.

Australian WiFi hotspots increase

In the 12 months to June of 2014, inner city WiFi hotspots grew by an amazing 21 percent and, at last count, there are now over three million Australian internet users (with an average age of over 18) who prefer to use the public hotspots to supplement their internet access.

If the trend in usage continues to increase, Australia’s major carriers will be sure to aggressively compete by making their mobile data allowances, even more, attractive, or risk losing even more revenue in an ever increasing competitive market.

ACMA has reported that in the five years to June of 2014, the usage of public WiFi hotspots increased six-fold. This is in comparison to the previous number recorded in 2009 of only 495,000 people accessing the free public service.

Australia’s first free blanket WiFi

The City of Perth was proud to become the first Australian capital city offering people free unrestricted access to the city’s public WiFi network. The network covered the entire area of the Central Business District, enabling smartphone users on the go to access content on demand.

Known as “Perth WiFi“, the network allows users to enjoy blanket internet coverage in the Perth CBD area and allows users to connect from anywhere in the city radius, even on the go, with no drop outs or connectivity issues.

When asked about the city’s free public WiFi network, City of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi responded that Perth’s free internet service is a key piece of city policy, which all major and local governments should support and implement, to become modernised cities.

“Blanket WiFi coverage is the next step forward from the current standard of wireless internet Hotspots used in other Australian cities,” Ms Scaffidi said

“Our free WiFi service will provide much to local businesses and tourists – allowing visitors to access their emails, social media accounts, maps and websites wherever they are in the CBD – and allow visitors to post pictures of Perth to the world will be a great assistance to our tourism promotion efforts as a picture paints a thousand words.”

Why are Australians connecting to hotspots?

People who choose to connect to WiFi hotspots, even when prepaid plans offer generous mobile data allowances, must be setting off alarm bells at the major Australian Telecom companies.

As reported by ACMA the demographic of users of the public hotspots come from a wide socioeconomic background, with different levels of education and income brackets, as well as geographical locations.

The statistics show us that 70% of adult Australians used their smartphones to connect, up 8 percent in the previous 12 months, while 30% used tablets or other handheld devices.

With modern Android and iOS backed smartphones featuring switching technology, the phones can alternate from mobile data to open WiFi hotspots when in range.

This is a simple task and done in most cases automatically by the device, saving data usage once connected to the free public network.

Will rural Australian towns implement free WiFi?

At a recent Australian Communications Consumer Action Network meeting, the general manager of fixed wireless and satellite at NBN, Gavin Williams, said the company’s fixed-wireless service is making progress in equalising broadband access throughout rural areas of Australia.

“Before fixed wireless, homes and businesses were supported with low-quality DSL, with high-cost mobile broadband, potentially with satellite … or with nothing.” – Gavin Williams, NBN Co.

But while most rural and regional towns wait for the NBN to be rolled out, smaller Not For Profit community groups are taking matters into their own hands.

The Goulburn Group, for instance, which was established five years ago and consists of volunteers, set up and installed Goulburn’s free community public WiFi network.

The Goulburn Group was established about five years ago and its volunteer members work on sustainable economic, social and environmental developments for the region.

Doctor Ian McShane from the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT, believes this is the first time in Australia that a single community has worked together to set up a free WiFi network in Australia.

Goulburn’s free community WiFi network, and the fact that it’s available in a wetland has attracted the attention of Australian scientists.

In Summary

In South Korea at the local government level, they have introduced a $44 million project to update existing infrastructure to supply the public with a free WiFi network, which will provide coverage to outdoor areas city-wide.

Australian Telecom companies must be petrified at hearing news stories like this, even as local councils around the country begin to introduce their own free versions, based on the very same South Korean model.

With savvy users making VOIP calls over the free public WiFi networks, along with other smartphone apps which can send texts and short voice messages, analysts believe that major carriers will have to compete even harder to generate revenue for their existing business models.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.