Around-Oz: Living the Dream!

Email and Internet
Inside Your Own RV Using Your Own Laptop
Using Public Wireless Hot Spots

As more and more RV'ers find the convenience of using their very own laptop on their travels, an emerging problem is that of using your own machine to download emails. Very few Internet cafes will allow this. You can find the odd visitor information centre/caravan park and real estate agents will sometimes allow you to use their fax line if you are a "fast" talker. One solution is of course using a CDMA phone, however this ranges from 16.5 to 24 cents a minute and of course there are wireless cards such as Vodaphone or the popular Sierra cards. In an effort to get more patronage many businesses are offering "Wireless Hotspots" on their premises. Dick Smith, Tandy and Jaycar all sell a "hotspot detector". This beeps at you as soon as you enter a hotspot area and costs under $50.00. Great for finding the odd "freebie"! Chrissy is using a Telstra Wireless Hotspot in a McDonalds carpark. Please note that not all hotspots work from outside in the carpark of business premises. The better your aerial the more chance you have of getting good reception.

Who Has Wireless Hotspots in Oz?
This technology is spreading very rapidly. As yet, to the best of our knowledge, the only RV park with this service is the Casino Village. Buying airtime is a total minefield - what's new! Most require you to buy a block of time with Extreme being the cheapest at $12.00 for a 12 hour block - no one seems to be worrying about downloads/uploads thank goodness, as we have found no sites that are traffic based. The following sites have Australia wide listings. They are mostly located in coffee shops and hotels and holiday apartments. Watch for billboards on the highway as these are slowly appearing. All Starbucks seem to have them and the whole of the Brisbane Mall (FREE!) and Brisbane Airport is now covered - previously only available in the Qantas Club lounges. There is a "freebie" in the Internet Cafe in Dubbo, NSW and we heard a whisper that somehow or other you get it for free in a certain caravan park! Eventually just about every McDonalds in Australia except Tassie and the NT will have it. Now we have been getting a lot of email on this one, as when you ask how to log on at your local McDonalds, all you get is a blank look! This is because it is run through Telstra. Now for the McDonalds cost! It's $5.00 "log in" which includes the first 15 minutes, then it's 20 cents a minute - everything is time based unlike the original CDMA 1X system and GPRS. This equates to $14.00 an hour for the first hour and $9.00 an hour for additional hours in the SAME session. At first glance this appears to be much dearer than going to an Internet Cafe, however you are always getting ADSL speeds so things happen a lot faster, you get to use your own laptop, so things happen pretty quickly. It is similar to CDMA Internet - you don't need a plan as you only pay when you use the service. In our case we have an ADSL account lying idle at home for months costing quid's!

How to Get Connected
If you are going touring for an extended period it makes good sense to organise this BEFORE you leave home, as it is a nightmare to do on the road, as they only accept applications online! The sad bit is you can't get credited for unused hours on your home dial up or ADSL even though you can't be in two places at once. More info from Telstra 131282 - Telstra Mobile or a better choice is 1300 131 816. Ask to register your mobile phone number. This can be CDMA or GSM.

This step is important or you will never be able to log on!

To understand this type of wireless hotspot you need to grasp how charging works, as your computer CANNOT talk to the hotspot, so it has no idea how much to charge you. This is overcome in a unique way. When you find a wireless hotspot (use the growing daily, extensive lists on the Telstra Website for Telstra hotspots ONLY) you are allowed to receive service for 2 minutes or so. Turn on Internet Explorer and go to the Telstra Wireless Login Page. Enter the MOBILE phone number you gave previously. Telstra almost immediately TEXT you a message to your phone. Enter this password into the login page and you're connected! Now you might be wondering why use this convoluted method? Well it's to stop anyone else pretending to be you or "cracking" a password. Now Telstra shops seem to not have the slightest clue about this emerging technology, so you can certainly email us with any queries. Please remember the above instructions ONLY work with Telstra Hotspots. They WILL NOT work at the Casino Village for instance. You must negotiate with the owner of the hotspot.

Other Hotspot Directories
There are hotspots springing up everywhere and some GPS units will also direct you to them. The Whereis mapping pages on the web is an excellent example.

Summing Up
It is best to look upon Wireless Hotspots as an extra to say a mobile phone connection. You do get extra speed, but at a hefty price. This however could come right down in the future, as in the USA many businesses offer it for free, as an inducement to come into business premises. The signal is actually very weak - in the order of 1/4 watt so you couldn't for instance park down the street and logon. The biggest problem is there are huge areas of Australia where you wont find one for hundreds of kilometres. What we are saying here, is that at this point in time, it would be a bad move to plan a trip relying on Hotspots as you could be sadly disappointed. Having said that - it's pretty exciting technology isn't it?



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Last updated: March 30, 2006
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