Victorian government taps iiNet for free public Wi-Fi

iiNet has secured an agreement with the Victorian government to build an AU$6.7 million public Wi-Fi network in Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo.

Australia's third-largest internet service provider, iiNet, has been chosen by the Victorian government to roll out a new Wi-Fi network in Melbourne, Bendigo, and Ballarat.

As the state of Victoria heads to an election on November 29, iiNet today announced that it has reached an agreement with the first-term Liberal-National government to build the Wi-Fi network dubbed VicGovFree across the three cities, worth an expected AU$6.7 million, to be rolled out over the next five years.

A spokesperson for iiNet said that the Victorian government had planned to go to market for a pilot in March this year, despite the timing of the announcement coinciding with the election.

"The Victorian government had expressed a commitment to pilot Wi-Fi before potential expansion, with expressions of interest called for in March 2014. A total of 34 vendors registered for the expressions of interest, and 20 responses were evaluated through a rigorous procurement process. iiNet won," the spokesperson said.

Under the project, there will be 1,000 wireless access points built in the central business districts of the three cities, the city loop train network and tram network in Melbourne. Anyone accessing the free Wi-Fi will be able to use 250MB per day.

According to the Victorian government's website, users will have no time limits and will not have to provide personal emails or log in details, and there will be no advertising on the service.

A trial of the service has been set up at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Sturt Street at Queen Victoria Square in Ballarat, and the View Street Arts Precinct in Bendigo.

iiNet's chief business officer Greg Bader said the company has been working with both the state government and local councils on the project.

"Public Wi-Fi is now the new benchmark for modern communities, so we applaud the vision of the Victorian state government. The Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo councils have been fantastic to work with, so we look forward to expanding this to other communities," he said in a statement.

"This infrastructure will position Victoria as a world leader in connected cities. iiNet is committed to Victoria. We have more than 250 passionate staff here, and it is our area of fastest growth."

Victorian Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said that the network would be built on existing infrastructure.

"The Wi-Fi network makes use of existing public infrastructure, such as light poles, bus shelters and government buildings, and is available outdoors," Rich-Phillips said in a statement.

"When activated, the free Wi-Fi service will help locals, visitors, and people meeting or working outdoors, and be invaluable during emergencies when telecommunications networks are under pressure."

iiNet has already rolled out free Wi-Fi in Adelaide with 300 access points, and in the first few months since launch, there have been 90,000 unique users on the Wi-Fi in any seven-day period.

The City of Adelaide is now looking to leverage the free Wi-Fi network to become a test bed for new applications and projects to allow the city to become a smart and connected city.

iiNet also announced on Wednesday that it has doubled the capacity on its hybrid fibre-coaxial network in Geelong, now reducing the congestion on the shared medium allowing speeds of up to 100Mbps for each of the 50,000 premises passed by the network.