Mobile networks boosted for Hobbit premiere

00:23, Nov 28 2012
Hobbit gallery
Peter Jackson stunned fans with a surprise visit to the Hobbit pre-premiere party at the Amora Hotel.
Hobbit gallery
Barry Eldridge made knitwear including capes and scarves for the Hobbit, and sold his wares at the Hobbit Artisan Market at Wellington's Waitangi Park in the days leading up to the premiere.
Hobbit gallery
Starbucks Courtenay Place baristas Rachel Henderson, left, and Alex Francis stayed up for two nights to dress up their store in Hobbit-themed decorations.
Hobbit gallery
Weta Workshop created this sculpture of Gollum looming from above in Wellington Airport.
Hobbit gallery
Embassy Theatre, which is to host the Hobbit premiere, installed a huge sculpture of Gandalf above its entrance.
Hobbit Gallery
NZ Post put up backlit silhouettes of Hobbit characters on its Wellington building.
Hobbit gallery
Hobbit stars Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Zealandia's Lauren Schaer, Elijah Wood and Richard Armitage pay a visit to Zealandia.
The Hobbit: The fans get ready
Robert Schrimf and Lisa Heissmeier camp out.
The Hobbit: The fans get ready
This group came well prepared.
The Hobbit: The fans get ready
Stephanie Kirkby and Meg Gatland-Veness.
The Hobbit: The fans get ready
Some even braved the Wellington night air and camped out overnight alongside the red carpet.
The Hobbit: The fans get ready
Charlie Allan, Elise Hart and Victoria Gridley go all out for the Hobbit premiere.
Trolls on red carpet
Giant trolls have been set up on the red carpet in Courtenay Place
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans hit Courtenay Place
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans will be watching a live stream from the red carpet in Waitangi Park.
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans will be watching a live stream from the red carpet in Waitangi Park.
The Hobbit: Premiere day
The Hobbit cast join director Peter Jackson for a media conference on premiere day.
The Hobbit: Premiere day
Cate Blanchett with Jackson at a press conference this morning
Trolls on red carpet
Giant trolls have been set up on the red carpet in Courtenay Place
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans hit Courtenay Place
Hobbit presser
Cate Blanchett at the Hobbit premiere press conference.
Hobbit presser
Martin Freeman at the Hobbit premiere press conference.
Trolls on red carpet
Statues of Middle-earth figures are put in place on the red carpet.
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans dressed as elves wait for the show to start on the red carpet in Wellington.
hobbit fans 2
Hobbit fans look at a giant screen before the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington.
embassy's hobbit view
A view from the Embassy Theatre as the red carpet is set up for The Hobbit premiere.
Trolls on red carpet
Hobbit fans wait for the show to start on the red carpet in Wellington.
More hobbit fans
Hobbit fans line the barriers at the red carpet for the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
dwarven hobbit fan
A Hobbit fan dressed as a dwarf - complete with knitted hair and beard - waits for the show to start.
gandalf the grey
Derek Carver of Christchurch - dressed as Gandalf the Grey - waits for the show to start on the red carpet.
nazgul fan
A Tolkien fan dressed as a Nazgul or black rider poses for a photo with other fans on Courtenay Place.
high angle hobbit
A high-angle shot of the red carpet on Courtenay Pl ahead of the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The Hobbit premiere red carpet
A view of the end of Courtenay Pl near the Embassy Theatre as the premiere event for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey heats up.

Wellington's free wi-fi network, cbdfree, is set to have its busiest day since it was set up in September last year as the film industry descends on the city for The Hobbit premiere.

Patrick Sharpe, marketing manager of CityLink, which runs the council and advertising-funded network, said 1600 people had logged on by lunchtime, racking up 3000 internet sessions. 

"The network in Courtenay Place has experienced an average day's number of connections in four hours.

"We installed fantastic new network equipment in Courtenay Place recently, and even have some temporary access points, so it's working well within its capacity and giving a faster and better experience than ever before,'' he said.

An Australian publicist in town for the premiere said she had racked up a $100 bill on hotel wi-fi in less than a day and a half in the city. She hadn't heard of the free network but now hoped to try it. 

Cbdfree racked up its millionth internet session in May.

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Vodafone has temporarily improved its mobile coverage to cope with the extra mobile traffic.

As many as 100,000 people are expected to line Courtenay Place from Taranaki St to Kent Tce, and many of them will be taking pictures of the stars and sending them to friends or uploading them to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Vodafone spokeswoman Michelle Baguley said the mobile network was expecting a lot of wireless traffic.

"We are absolutely taking it seriously and boosting capacity in the area. We've doubled the capacity of the Courtenay Place site and we're putting a temporary call site on wheels down there."

Telecom spokeswoman Jo Jalfon said the company already had ample network coverage to handle the event.

"Telecom installed additional cell phone capacity for Rugby World Cup 2011 and we have retained this capacity for events just like this in central Wellington. We have at least four cell sites covering the Courtenay Place area alone.

"It's hard to ascertain how many calls [and] texts would typically be sent at an events such as this but, as an example, we saw voice traffic volume increase 15-fold and texting by 20 per cent at Christmas in the Park in Christchurch last weekend. We'd expect to see similar increases in Wellington thanks to fans sharing their experiences of the night with friends."

The weather, too, will play its part. Metservice forecaster Brooke Lockhart said morning cloud will clear for a fine evening.

"The good news is it's going to be dry. The only thing, they [fans] will have to watch for is the northerly winds strengthening in the afternoon.

"They're probably getting to about 30kmh - a stiff breeze would probably be a good description."

- Tom Pullar-Strecker, Sam Boyer and Paul Easton

The Dominion Post