Australia Event: Broadband Australia 2008

BUMP: I’m bumping this cos I’m speaking on Friday at Broadband Australia 2008, about Community Wireless and peer-to-peer telecommunications and the implications to the digital economy that customer (social) networks with a business model will have on the Australian digital economy. If you are going to the conference, come up and say hi? Citizen telecommunications provider.

Imagine signing up to BigPond or Optus broadband networks. You get sent a modem from Netcomm or Cisco or Motorola and in it is a tiny 25c chip. When you run the installer, one of the questions is:

  • Would you like to make revenue from this router? You will be paid on a 50/50 basis for anyone who uses bandwidth you donate and it will appear as a rebate on your monthly Telstra (or Optus etc) broadband bill.
  • would you like free internet access to your mobile cell phone and iPhone while travelling the world? If you donate a minimum each month of 100MB from your 2GB allocation, you are eligible to acces any other open mesh network in the world. For example, open mesh Australia has a deal with the Fon/British Telecom network that covers the U.K.


What will you click? Yes, or No? The solution is secure, you get contra-access around the world, and your local community and neighbours benefit/share costs, with no noticeable loss of allocated monthly bandwidth or speed. Plus you get to topple the big telcos from their “we own the connection” perch, snaffling their mobile and ad hoc access revenue streams. All good stuff!
Node wireless community networks, providing broadband to each other overlaying the traditional telco infrastructure model. Do you have 100 meg to spare from your 12GB plan?

This blog post looks at consumers providing free wifi services, business models of consumer wifi solutions and how major investors (Google, Sequoia, Skype, eBay) are backing the consumer as reseller model, sidelining traditional telecommunications suppliers.


Open-Mesh is gaining popularity:

It’s two wireless networks in one: A second encrypted network is available for your private or business use.

Completely open-source: You can extend or modify the router’s functionality. Never be at the mercy of what one company decides is right for you.

Not your normal everyday router. This one turns you the consumer into an broadband provider complete with revenue and/or control over your cities mesh wifi.

That router is $49 and allows you to have your own wifi at home or business network, plus split for donation/revenue part of your bandwidth to the city wifi network. You become a node in a wireless community network. I’d like to see the Australian Government get behind these community initiatives. Perhaps it will work towards that final backhaul solution we are looking for?


Meraki in Sydney – free mesh networks and growing everyday. From IcanHazMeraki.net

Meraki is a main player the open mesh sector, currently with 100,000 consumers acting as broadband suppliers in San Francisco alone. Meraki Open Mesh is where the customer becomes a telecommunications reseller and ISP.

Effectively running a telecommunications wifi network above the incumbents, with the consumer bypassing filters, gaining revenue and/or offering wifi for free. But they annoyed their supporters by changing the EULA, with no advance warning. Leading to the move of support to an open-source solution (see above).

Fon and Foneros

I’ve written before about Fon – you become a broadband provider by donating a small amount of broadband to a social network wifi over a city. You can choose to take revenue or access yourself while away from home. Or, in the words of wikipedia:

FON (FON Wireless Ltd.) is a company that runs a system of shared wireless networks. The business was launched in November 2005.[1]

People can become members (called “Foneros” by the company) by agreeing to let FON share their wireless internet connection. Members need to purchase a low-cost wireless router (called “La Fonera”), which acts as a public internet access point; the device also creates a private network that can be used by the owner only. FON members can use any other FON access points free of charge.

Customers who do not share their internet connection (called “Aliens”) can buy internet access from FON for a relatively low daily fee. The members whose access points are used by a paying customer receive part of the revenue.

You think there is a business model here? Well…

In February 2006, FON announced that it had received €18 million in equity financing from Internet giants Google, Skype and from the venture capital firms Index Venture and Sequoia Capital. In its first year of business, FON said that it was the world’s largest WiFi community, surpassing T-Mobile in Germany, and with a substantial global presence.[3]

In March 2007, FON announced an additional $13 million in equity financing from new investors and current investors. Among the new investors disclosed, were the Japanese companies BB Excite, Digital Garage, and Tsukumo. On October 4, 2007, it was announced that British Telecom had also joined its roster of shareholders.[4]

British Telecom’s to support Fon across the U.K. is here.

In Australia

Check out ICanHazMeraki, FON Australia, FreeSydneyWireless, and of course a Facebook group Free Sydney Wireless (any more resources, let me know in comments?) EDIT:
http://freeaustraliawireless.com/ This is the umbrella group for the various local groups http://groups.google.com.au/group/free-australia-wireless A Google group for all discussions on the topic of free wireless internet access in Australia (hat tip: ADogsBreakfast)

Just so I can give you some context: my background is telecommunications – I worked for Telecom Australia “Private Lines” in the early ’80s. Since then have worked on major major projects around the world – 4 or 5 times for Optus, then over to Cisco in the Asia theatre, and UUNET/MCI Worldcom in Europe, Telkomsel in Indonesia, and so on. And in my opinion (as a telecomms person AND as a social network person), this has massive implications to our incumbent telecommunications companies, and should be at the forefront of any discussions on the broadband, digital economy by the government. So, whether it’s me, or Mark Pesce, or Miles, or Ajay or whoever, I someone get in front of them (telcos, gov and peak bodies) for goodness’s sake!!

Not a social media network, but a social telecommunications network – a game changer, a disruptor, a paradigm shift. TCP/IP and HTML started this Internet revolution: open mesh and open APIs may well finish it. Don’t agree? Ask the music industry how peer to peer turned their models upsidedown.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

6 thoughts on “Australia Event: Broadband Australia 2008

  1. A few more links for you :

    This is the umbrella group for the various local groups

    A Google group for all discussions on the topic of free wireless internet access in Australia

    From the FaceBook group you mentioned you’ll find links to similar groups around the country.

  2. Thanks dear, ADDED and HAT TIPPED to your wordpress blog 🙂

    BTW someone on Twitter asked if this makes you a carrier. yes it does. Including all regulatory stuff. But you try enforcing law on 100k and climbing social telco carriers!

  3. Given the intro to your posting, in which you posit how cool it would be to resell your Internet bandwidth, I’m surprised that you don’t mention that Meraki makes selling wireless network access very easy indeed! A few clicks in your Meraki Dashboard and you are now getting paid for sharing WiFi. More info here http://meraki.com/oursolution/editions/pro/

  4. @cooper, I’m surprised that you don’t mention that Meraki makes selling wireless network access very easy indeed! If you work for meraki, you come across as pretty arrogant. I put the whole dashboard for Meraki up including the bit that says how easy it is to get revenue from selling access. Did you even read the first bit?

    @everyone else. Forget meraki, go with open-mesh.com. Seriously, you can see how arrogant they are…

  5. Very informative blog! A related link is MerakEye.com which is dedicated to the exchange of technical and non-technical ideas forums on mesh networking with Meraki, Open-Mesh and all wireless technologies. All welcome to add to our information or ask questions as we attempt to freethenet.


  6. iiNet works with Tomizone to allow people to make money of their access point. They worked it out with ACMA: as long as you don’t advertise your access point on the street (like signs saying “Cheap wifi here”), you’re not considered a carrier.

    My 2c…


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