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Auckland Wi-Fi network to expand but no free access

Auckland Council has entered a partnership with Tomizone to expand its Auckland Wi-Fi network but access will cost users, unlike Wellington Council's free Wi-Fi initiative

Alex Walls
Wed, 13 Jul 2011

Auckland Council has announced it has teamed up with Tomizone to expand its Auckland Wi-Fi network, but users must pay for access.

The announcement follows on from Wellington Council's statement in May that it would provide free Wi-Fi access across most of its central business district in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup (RWC), the first New Zealand city to do so.

Auckland Council said the expanded service would be offered at "a guaranteed discount to benchmarked market rates", which Tomizone executive director Steve Simms said was $3 per hour, $6.50 per day, $20 per week or $30 a month.  Data caps were under review but for a week's access, there was a cap of 1.2GB, he said.

An Auckland Council spokesperson said the council could make the Wi-Fi service free, but that would be a cost to ratepayers.

"Instead the council has decided to establish a self-funding sustainable expanding Wi-Fi network across the region at no ongoing cost to ratepayers."

Auckland Council said free access would, however, be provided to a number of websites offering information about public services, RWC activities, tourism and transport services.

Wellington Council would fund its free network at an initial cost of $80,000, and then $216,000 per year, with some cost expected to be offset by sponsorship, it said in a release.

Free access is already available between Frank Kitts Park and the railway station thanks to NZWireless in conjunction with Wellington Waterfront, the first company to launch such an initiative in Wellington, managing director Chris Aspros said.  There was also free Wi-Fi access established by Trademe and Wellington City Council from Te Papa to Frank Kitts Park, said Trademe spokesman Paul Ford.  Wellington Waterfront property manager Allan Brown said both initiatives had been very popular with users.

Mr Simms said Tomizone would not advocate for ratepayers to pay for others' free access and he thought commercial entities were fairly happy to provide sponsorship for free access.

"We would hope that commercial sponsors would want to come on and provide free access when it suits them and their commercial requirements."

Auckland Council said the network expansion would provide an important service to RWC visitors, as by the RWC, it would cover Kingsland, Queen Street, Britomart, Queens Wharf, lower Parnell, northern Ponsonby Rd, Mt Eden Village, Onehunga and certain rugby training areas and transport hubs around Auckland.

Access could be purchased with a credit card as needed, a voucher at participating retailers, an account could be set up with Tomizone or access could be arranged through sponsors, Mr Simms said.  The network was an open space and street level network.

"It's providing reasonable coverage within buildings, but not bathroom coverage if that's what people are expecting."

The expansion has already begun and would remain in place after the RWC, with further expansion funded by profits from the service, the council said.

The council said the expansion would deliver economic benefits to the region with mayor Len Brown saying the 85,000 expected visitors for the RWC would be able to access information about Auckland immediately upon arrival.

"For Aucklanders, it means more and better wireless internet access for portable devices such as iPads."

Alex Walls
Wed, 13 Jul 2011
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Auckland Wi-Fi network to expand but no free access