Understanding Wi-Fi and Mobile Data

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Most of us rely on the internet every single day – whether it’s at work, at home or out and about, having an internet connection is vital to much of what we do.

You might hear about two different connection types - Wi-Fi and Mobile Data. While both of these are a type of internet connection, the two are very different.

So what is Wi-Fi, when should you use mobile data, and how can you make the most of your daily browsing?

What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is wireless connectivity, and is the technology that allows devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets to connect to the internet without the need for a wired connection.

The technology uses radio signals to transmit information between your Wi-Fi enabled devices and the internet, allowing the device to receive information from the web in the same way that a radio or mobile phone receives sound.

Your modem at home likely emits a Wi-Fi signal, which is what enables your devices to connect to your home broadband service wirelessly.

You can often find free Wi-Fi connections in restaurants, shopping centres and on public transport across Australia and overseas. There are also more than 1 million Telstra Air® hotspots across Australia which offer free Wi-Fi to eligible Telstra mobile and broadband customers.

What is Mobile Data?
Mobile data connects to the Telstra Mobile Network to provide an internet connection to your mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

You may have data usage included in your Telstra mobile plan, which is provided using the Telstra Mobile Network. When you browse the internet on your mobile device without being connected to a Wi-Fi network, you are using this mobile data allowance.


Mobile data can be great for all sorts of online activities, such as browsing social media. In saying this, some plans have a limited amount of data included each month, which depending on the amount included, can run out with excessive browsing or streaming. You can keep track of your mobile data usage using the My Telstra App or My Account.


Making the most of your mobile data

If you exceed your mobile data limit, and you don’t have Peace of Mind Data as part of your plan, you’ll be charged an additional $10 per 1GB of data you use until your plan usage resets. Here’s a few ways you can keep your mobile data from running out before the end of your billing cycle:

Use Wi-Fi whenever you can
Connect to Wi-Fi when watching videos, streaming music or downloading pictures, as these activities can use a lot of data. If you are an eligible Telstra mobile or broadband customer you could connect to a Telstra Air® Wi-Fi hotspot for free when you’re out and about (Guest Passes are also available for purchase).  


Chat with family and friends on Wi-Fi
Apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber can be great tools for communicating with friends and family, especially if you live in different parts of the world or are on holiday. These apps require an internet connection though, so try and use them when you have a Wi-Fi connection to conserve data.

This is an especially good idea when travelling, as the calls, SMS and data usage included in your plan may change when heading overseas. Be prepared before you travel with an International Day Pass.

To use these types of apps to makes calls and text, or if need to access apps like Google Maps, simply turn off ‘Data’ and turn on ‘Wi-Fi’ within your device settings. You can then select from the available Wi-Fi networks.

Hotels and restaurants will often provide their Wi-Fi password for you to access their internet. Some networks may ask you to enter your email address and accept the T&C’s before use. Once you’ve secured your Wi-Fi connection, and ensured that mobile data is toggled off, you can use your device without using any of your data.

Important to remember: Wi-Fi connections are not always considered secure, particularly if they are open network with no password protection. There are no guarantees for the speed or quality of external Wi-Fi networks, as each network is different.  

Turn off your mobile data
If you’re watching videos or listening to music, your device might choose to use mobile data even when you think it’s connected to Wi-Fi. To ensure it keeps using available Wi-Fi, turn off mobile data in your settings as above (you'll still be able to send and receive text messages and calls). For more help turning off your mobile data/cellular data, visit Mobile Support.

Good to know: You can turn mobile data/cellular data back on any time, to use the internet or check your email.

Limit sending and receiving files and ‘push notifications’
Sending and receiving files and attachments like pictures, documents, videos or music by email can use lots of data. Try changing your settings so you receive emails less often; for example, select 'every hour', or even choose to do it manually.

Your devices might also be set to ‘push notifications’ - which means real-time email downloads, and constant checking for new emails and apps (all of which uses data). Avoid this by deactivating ‘push notifications’ in your device settings.

Delete email messages that won’t send
If an email won’t leave your Outbox, your device may be continually trying to send it - and each new attempt uses more data. Delete any messages left in your Outbox, and either try again with a new email, or try another platform like Gmail, Outlook or another mobile email app.

Send big files when connected via Wi-Fi
Sending large email files uses lots of data. Instead, wait until you have a Wi-Fi connection before sending.

Limit social media usage, video streaming, gaming and browsing
Checking Facebook and web browsing generally can use a lot of data, particularly due to video streaming. Gaming can also contribute towards your data usage. Find out what things use the most data.

If you have a mobile on a plan, you can increase your data allowance with a Data Pack.

If you are a Pre-Paid customer, add a Plus Pack that meets your usage requirements.


Using public Wi-Fi safely

It’s important to be mindful that some Wi-Fi connections are ‘open’ and may not be as secure as other Wi-Fi options that require a password (denoted with the lock symbol). Sometimes public hotspots are set up to seem legitimate when they are not, so it’s important to ensure you choose the correct network before connecting.

There are a few things that might be best done on a secure home, office or mobile network, such as:

  • Online banking
  • Online shopping
  • Entering passwords or credit card details on websites
  • Sending confidential emails or messages
  • File sharing


Be sure to disconnect from public Wi-Fi networks when you’ve finished using them too.

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