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06.Wirelss hot spots

Some conventional ISPs, including Telstra, Optus and iPrimus, offer wireless internet access from public places such as cafes, airports and hotels. These designated access points are advertised as ‘wireless hotspots’ and most use Wi-Fi technology (also called IEEE 802.11) to connect you to the internet. Wi-Fi operates in the 2.4GHz radio spectrum that's also used for cordless phones and microwave ovens.

Hotspots are fixed and have a limited range — you need to be within about 100 metres of a location.

To use a Wi-Fi hotspot, you need:

  • A Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or PDA.

To set up and pay for a wireless account with the ISP supplying the access.
Laptops with Intel’s Centrino mobile technology already have Wi-Fi built-in. If your laptop isn’t wireless-enabled when you buy it, you need to install a special wireless card, available from computer stores for around $150–$250. This plugs into the card slot on your laptop.

When you turn on your computer in a hotspot location, the Wi-Fi card should automatically detect the wireless network.

You can usually sign monthly contracts or buy a period of wireless access using a credit card or prepaid card, depending on the provider. Wireless hotspot services are generally charged based on the amount of time spent online, rather than the amount of data you use. Prices vary, so check with your provider.

Some hotspots

Telstra hotspots

  • Sydney Airport
  • Some McDonald's restaurants (free)
  • Starbucks cafes
  • Some hotels (Rydges)
  • Qantas Club lounges throughout Australia

Optus Wireless Connect Zones

  • Gloria Jeans cafes
  • Sydney Airport
  • Brisbane airport
  • Metropolitan cafes
  • Bookstores and hotels around Australia

iPrimus hotspots

  • Bookstores and cafes and eateries throughout Australia.

Azure hotspots

  • Cafes and restaurants throughout Australia.


  • Various locations in Adelaide and Adelaide airport.

You can also find hotspot listings at www.jwire.com but it isn’t comprehensive so you may want to check individual ISP websites. Whirlpool also operates an updatable list of hotspots on its site.

It’s also worthwhile looking for a free service in your area. Public Networks Australia (PubNet) operates free wireless hotspots at limited locations in Sydney, Bathurst and the Gold Coast.

All you need to use the service is a wireless-enabled laptop or device — you don’t need an ISP. Go to www.public.net.au to see if there’s a PubNet location near you.


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