2degrees trials wi-fi for 20,000 in Wellington
2degrees says it will trial wi-fi for 20,000 customers in the Wellington CBD — but it faces CBD dweller who seem highly dubious about the existing free wi-fi service provided by 2degrees' partner, CityLink (part of NZX-listed Team Talk [NZX:TTK]).
The three-month, invite-only free trial starts today (see a coverage map here).
2degrees says it will extend wi-fi to other parts of the country if the trial goes well.
No decision has been made on whether to charge for it, a spokeswoman tells NBR (Telecom offers its free access to its phonebox-mounted wi-fi network to around half its customers up to 1GB per day; others pay $9.95 a month).
2degrees' Wellington wi-fi uses new wholesale wi-fi service from CityLink, aimed at events, shopping malls and telcos.
That's ambitious; big events are notoriously hard to provision through cellular or wi-fi as many people in a dense space fight for a slice of the same bandwidth.
Wellington's CBD already has a free wi-fi service, cbdfree, provided by the Wellington City Council in partnership with CityLink. cbdfree claims around 75,000 users.
NBR's unscientific Twitter survey drew a hostile response from Wellingtonians, who panned cbd free as slow and unreliable (scroll down for Tweets).
2degrees CEO Stewart Sherriff says the trial is a chance to explore the potential benefits wi-fi can provide to not only its customers, but also its network.
“With exponential data growth on our network every year, WiFi is becoming a logical option for mobile networks to explore further,” he says.
“Conceptually, we already understand the benefits wi-fi i can provide, but this trial will give us valuable insight into how it can augment our network, influence data traffic patterns and, most importantly, how it can provide additional value to our customers.”.
Telecom's wi-fi numbers
There are around 400,000 active users of Telecom's phonebox wi-fi network, spokesman Richard Llewellyn tells NBR.
Of those, around 80,000 were active last month.
He could not break out a number for Wellington.
Telecom now has close to 1000 wi-fi hotspots, Mr Llewellyn says.
In September last year, the company said it hoped to roll out between 700 and 2000 hotspots in the programme's first year.
It's five-year goal is 10,000.
The company's long-term goal is for customers to have seamless transition between wi-fi and cellular, but says the technology to make this easily happen is some time off.
2degrees says its ultimate goal is a single wi-fi/cellular network too.
Telecom and 2degrees' wi-fi moves are part of a broader trend toward hybrid networks and alternative technologies. Yesterday, Vodafone said it will trial "small cells" for customers in poor coverage areas.
Wellingtonians, do you use cbdfree wi fi? Is it worth its salt?— Chris Keall (@ChrisKeall) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall quite slow and unreliable.— Nicola Kean (@nkean) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall usually not worth it, unless you're stuck with no other option— Hadyn Green (@hadyngreen) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall SLOW— Peter Graczer (@petergraczer) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall No, I turn off Wifi when it tries connecting as it's slow & annoying. But as a tourist w/ no data, I'd deal with the slowness.— Katie Brown (@katie_pai) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall patchy coverage in place and usually very slow. Good for tourists but perhaps limited value outside of that?— Lukasz (@Lukasz_Zawilski) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall used it a bit in 2011 when telcos were less generous with data. Just use mobile data now. Might be useful for tourists.— Hamish McConnochie (@mishviews) June 4, 2014
@ChrisKeall nope, it's slow and painful to login— Charles (@nz_charles) June 5, 2014
@ChrisKeall I use cbdfree. It’s strong along a reception corridor but weak near it. Cuba St, eg, has almost no cover.— Karl Woodhead (@KarlWoodhead) June 5, 2014