Denizens of and visitors to New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, can look forward to affordable wireless broadband in many areas from this week, as a metropolitan Wi-Fi network goes live in town.
The metro Wi-Fi was part of Auckland City Council's economic development plans, said Councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, and has been set up in time for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series regatta for America's Cup yachts, starting at the end of January, and continuing throughout February.
Bhatnagar said the network was the first of its kind in the city, covering waterfront areas popular with tourists and regatta sailors. Bhatnagar said these high-net-worth individuals and super yacht owners hadn't been served with internet connectivity in the past, but now had access to fast, wireless broadband where they resided during visits.
The primary driver for building the Wi-Fi network wasn't to make money, but to develop the city's economy, Bhatnagar said. The council doesn't expect to make money directly out of the network for that reason.
He added that the network would continue to operate after the Louis Vuitton sailings, with hopes to expand it beyond the current coverage areas. Bhatnagar believed the council's Wi-Fi network would succeed where other, smaller efforts — for example, from Telecom New Zealand — have failed, as the council intends to work closely with commercial partners to keep roll-out costs low.
The Auckland City Wi-Fi is a public-private partnership between the Auckland City Council and state-owned enterprise Kordia, which provided the network backhaul and infrastructure in conjunction with Wi-Fi specialist RoamAD.
Wi-Fi sharing specialist Tomizone has set up the service platform for the project, through which users are authenticated and payment is gathered.
Emmanuel Hooson, Tomizone's general manager for affiliates, said users of the service would connect in a similar manner to hotel Wi-Fi service, by firing up a web browser and being redirected to a payment and authentication portal.
Auckland Wi-Fi is charged by Tomizone in time increments only, with no data caps. The cost for using the service starts at NZ$3 per hour, with the daily charge being NZ$6.50 and the weekly one NZ$30, all payable by credit card.
The technology used is 802.11b/g and speeds are said to be 2Mbps or more. Network coverage is throughout Auckland's central business district around Aotea Square and Karangahape Road, with upmarket shopping and residential areas Ponsonby, Remuera and Parnell, as well as the council-owned Westhaven Marina where the sailing syndicates are based and the waterfront tourist and hotel district The Viaduct.
However, the Wi-Fi network will be in zones and not contiguous coverage throughout the above areas, said Emma Morrison, communications and brand manager for Kordia, due to the infrastructure provider not getting access to buildings, to ensure wireless connectivity everywhere in Auckland. A map outlining the exact coverage areas will be available online soon, Morrison said.
Kordia has been working on deploying Metro Wi-Fi networks nationally for the past two years, with Morrison saying Auckland City Council had been very helpful in providing low-cost access to street furniture and lampposts. This has made possible an affordable network roll-out, Morrison said.
According to the manager, Kordia's metro Wi-Fi network sees around 250,000 wireless devices connect to it each month. This represents 10,000 unique devices with 5,000 log-ons, and Morrison expects these numbers to double during the Louis Vuitton regatta.