Free wi-fi starts today in Wellington CBD

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 07:53 01/09/2011
wifi map
A map showing Wellington CBD's free wi-fi zone.
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Wellingtonians will be able to browse, tweet and Facebook to their hearts' content with the launch of free wi-fi in the central city today.

Related content: Map of all the free wi-fi areas in Wellington

The network - called cbdfree - will be available in outdoor areas fromWestpac Stadium to the Embassy Cinema, including the Golden Mile and Cuba St.

Along with Trade Me's free waterfront network, the new service will see Wellington become the first city in Australasia to provide comprehensive free wi-fi in the CBD.

The network has cost $50,000 to set up and is expected to cost $216,000 a year, although this will be offset through sponsorship.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown will officially launch the network at Midland Park at 12.30pm today.

She said the free wi-fi network would provide a great advantage for anyone living in or visiting the city, and businesses.

"Our compact CBD means free wireless is far more manageable to install than most cities. We've got a huge number of laptop and smartphone owners in this smart city of ours, and we see this as a small step towards enhancing our digital and communications reputation."

Wellington City Council senior strategy adviser Philippa Bowron said the service did not have a time limit but a sponsor screen would pop up every 30 minutes.

It was designed to work in outdoor places and, while it was unlikely it would pass through solid walls, it could work through glass in some areas.

Legal advice had been taken surrounding the new law against downloading copyrighted material and the council was happy the new service would comply, she said.

Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford said an average of 500 people a day were logging on to its network, with numbers up more than 1000 on busier days around events and sunny weekends.

Numbers were expected to surge during the Rugby World Cup and technicians would be keeping a close eye on the network's performance.

Peer-to-peer software was banned on the network but the company would deal with any problems arising from the law change as they happened, he said.

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Have you tried the new wi-fi network? Leave a comment to let us know how good or bad it was.

HOW IT WORKS

* Wi-fi is a networking system that uses radio waves to enable electronic devices to connect without using wires.

* Wellington's central city wi-fi will allow wi-fi-enabled devices to freely connect with the internet from anywhere outdoors within the designated area.

* These devices include smartphones, laptop computers, iPads and other electronic tablets, game consoles and digital audio players, although the system will be prioritised to prevent streaming or downloading large files.

* It will provide free outdoor internet access in most of the CBD.

* It will be used primarily to access emails, social networking and internet sites.

* It will permit users to log on multiple times.

* It will be open to users without needing to sign up for an account or give any form of personal/payment information.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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