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Everything You Need to Know About Public WiFi Hotspots
August 27, 2018

If you’re a regular smartphone user, chances are you’re well aware of public wifi hotspots. For those that aren’t, this is the blog for you... here, we’ll discuss and compare broadband hotspots in Australia! 

Let’s start with the basics - a public wifi hotspot is a location that offers an internet connection to users with wifi enabled devices  - for example, a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

There are four main types of types of hotspots in Australia:

Municipal spaces - such as libraries, parks, museums, city centres and tourist attractions.

Public transport - such as trains, buses, ferries and within transport hubs

Enterprise hotspots - these are commercial locations like cafes, airports and shopping malls.

Closed networks - these are restricted networks provided by private organizations where a username and password is generally required.

Free Public Wifi Hotspot at a local cafe

Are all public wifi hotspots free?

Unfortunately, no - not all types of public hotspots are free. Operators of these hotspots generally offer the following types of connection access:

  1. Free and open - users are not charged and can connect without a password
  2. Free with conditions - users are not charged but are subjected to certain terms of use
  3. Free for customers only - users have to make a purchase from the provider to gain access
  4. Charge for service - users are required to pay for access

If your local public hotspots are all “charge for service” and you’re worried about using all of your mobile phone data while out and about, consider upgrading your current plan. Check out this handy tool where you can compare Australia’s best mobile plan providers.

What can I do with a public wifi connection?

You can use the public wifi connection for anything you’d legally do from your home or office - surf the internet, check emails, access social media and even play online games.

However, it’s important to note that some public wifi operators may put a limit on the data you use, restrict access to specific websites or even impose time limits. If you’re connected to “Free with conditions” hotspot, be sure to read through the terms and conditions.

How do I find to a public hotspot?

Firstly, make sure your wifi is switched on - when you’re within range of a public wifi hotspot, bring up your wifi settings on your phone. The hotspot should automatically appear on your device under wifi network listings. 

All accessible wifi hotspots will be shown here, along with the signal strength of the connection. Exact instructions of how to connect to the hotspot will depend on what type of device you’re using. Simply do a Google search with your device type - for example, “how to connect android smartphone to public hotspot”.

Once you’ve joined a network, your device may join automatically next time you’re within vicinity.

Are public hotspots secure?

There is no required law for public wifi hotspots to be secure from potential online threats, so be aware that you’re likely on an unsecured connection. While hotspots are free and convenient, there is a potential for online threats such as stolen identity, malware being downloaded, hackers accessing your personal information and even your credit card information being stolen.

Be sure to only use secure connections - you can find this by looking for “https://” at the beginning of the URL of the website you’re visiting (the “S” stands for secure). Make sure you also turn off any file sharing and location services on your laptop/mobile phone.

Why is the public wifi faster than my internet at home?

Generally, most public hotspots will have a fibre internet connection - meaning both faster speeds and increased bandwidth. 

If you’re wanting faster internet at home, consider using our online comparison tool to check out the best wifi deals from Australia’s top internet service providers. You may find a cheaper broadband plan with higher speeds and data allowance!