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
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
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.