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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.

Neither 2degrees nor CityLink had an immediate response on the question of what sort of speeds Wellingtonians could expect from the new service.

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.



More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

if free means free to all without having to be a 2D customer or having to re-register every 30 minutes... it will definately a welcome to have free Wifi in wellington. With UFB available there is allot ot under utilised access bandwidth that is just waiting to be consumed.
WifI roaming would also be nice to have, but more importantly with security risks being so real, how do customers know that its really 2D or cbdfree or if its just a masked hacker attempting to steel your credit card details any opertunity presented to vulnerable users.

This idea of doing something just because your competitor is doing it is terrible. 2D should concentrate on improving their coverage around the country and probably 4G services in the major centres as well.
Wifi is good but why not identify a smaller town which has UFB and trial the service there, and if it fails it would be easier to pull the plug on the project!!