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What is Telstra Air (and how do you use it)?

Telstra Air is available at more sites these days and to more than just Telstra customers.

Nathan Lawrence
Apr 18, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Back in the day, Telstra Air used to be an exclusive Telstra customer perk. To use Telstra Air, you had to be either a Telstra mobile or broadband customer. For Telstra broadband users, eligibility was dependent on reserving a portion of bandwidth from their modems to use on the Telstra Air network. Fast-forward to more recent times and Telstra Air has undergone a facelift.

What is Telstra Air?

Nowadays, Telstra Air is a free hotspot network that may be available on a street near you. See that old Telstra payphone? Get a bit closer. If you see a pink dome with a white WiFi fan on it—and/or a “Free Telstra Wi-Fi” sticker on the side—you’re near a link in the Telstra Air network.

Telstra’s been upgrading its payphones into something more practical. Not only do Telstra payphones offer free national calls nowadays—for everyone, not just Telstra customers—Telstra payphones also provide free WiFi. To everyone. As of late 2023, Telstra had roughly 3,000 WiFi-enabled payphones and announced that it was working on upgrading the remaining 12,000 payphones in the coming years.

Telstra retail stores also offer Telstra Air, some of which reportedly offer faster download and upload speeds than what you’ll get from the payphones.

Info Box
How much does Telstra Air cost?
You don’t need to be a Telstra mobile customer. You don’t have to be a Telstra internet customer. These days, Telstra Air is free for everyone, even if you’re not a Telstra customer.

How do I use Telstra Air?

The first step for using Telstra Air is finding a compatible payphone or retail store. Telstra encourages people to use its ‘find us’ page to locate eligible Telstra Air hotspots. Ensure that ‘Payphone’ is selected from the ‘Select search type’ drop-down menu, then enter your suburb or postcode into the adjacent search bar.

In your search results, look for any Telstra payphone that has “Wi-Fi Hotspot” under its details to confirm it’s configured for Telstra Air. Now you just need to get in range of the payphone. You don’t need a Telstra Air app. Just connect to the Telstra Air payphone like you would any WiFi network. Specifically, look for the ‘Free Telstra Wi-Fi’ network, read the terms and conditions, tap the unnecessarily over-capitalised ‘Agree And Connect’ button, then you’re ready to use Telstra Air.

There is a catch, though: don’t expect great speeds. I tested a nearby Telstra Air payphone and most of the download and upload speed results were too impractical for anything beyond basic internet usage. The best download speeds were a very practical 12Mbps, but that was only in one test and when I was standing right next to the payphone. All other speed tests were under 1Mbps for download and upload, and it was basically unusable about 10 metres from the Telstra Air payphone.

Practically speaking, these 1Mbps-ish speeds relegate Telstra Air to web browsing, emails and very basic social media. Basically, anything that isn’t text-heavy will struggle, so forget about smooth scrolling through Instagram or watching videos on Facebook. Telstra Air speeds can reportedly get to around 24Mbps download and 1Mbps upload, which is the best-case speeds for ADSL2+. With reliable download speeds beyond 2Mbps, you could feasibly use WiFi calling, browse images and watch lower-res videos. Ultimately, Telstra Air isn’t a replacement for a mobile plan.

If you’re in the market for a mobile plan, here are popular picks from our database.

Telstra Air troubleshooting

Telstra Air is effectively public WiFi, which means you should absolutely use a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you connect to protect your personal data. Note that a VPN may slow speeds further. If you are unable to connect to a Telstra Air payphone network, get closer. I started my tests at the payphone, then steadily shifted away from it to test its range. Latency will go up and speeds may slow down the farther away you are from the payphone.

If you wander too far away, your phone will likely shift to mobile data rather than Telstra Air. You need to accept the terms and conditions to even use Telstra Air, so keep an eye out for a network sign-in pop-up after tapping on the Telstra Air network. Outside of those issues, the main problem will likely be speed. Perform a speed test once connected to Telstra Air to see download and upload speeds, then adjust your usage accordingly.

Telstra Air frequently asked questions

Is Telstra Air still a thing?
Yes, Telstra Air is very much still a thing in Australia for WiFi-enabled payphones. There are roughly 3,000 Telstra payphones in Australia that have Telstra Air for free public WiFi.
What is Telstra Air on my phone?
Telstra Air is a WiFi network available near converted Telstra payphones, which offers free WiFi.
How do I get free Telstra Air?
To use Telstra Air for free, you need to be close enough to a converted Telstra payphone that offers free WiFi.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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