Passengers crossing Cook Strait on Strait Shipping's Bluebridge ferries will be able to use the company's free wi-fi on all sailings from today.
The wi-fi would be available in Bluebridge terminals and all on-board passenger areas with a wi-fi logo, the company said.
Strait Shipping managing director Sheryl Ellison said the free wireless internet access was aimed at both international and domestic customers.
"We're expecting our international passengers to use the wi-fi to book activities and accommodation and make forward travel plans - which will also benefit the wider tourism sector."
The company fitted large 3G aerials to the ferries which sent signals to the wireless access points around the ships.
Browsing speeds would vary depending on passenger usage and, because the service relied on the 3G mobile phone network, coverage might drop entirely due to atmospheric conditions affecting signal strength.
Bluebridge communications manager Wendy Pannett said though there was no time limit on each passenger's wi-fi usage, they would not be able to download "large" items such as movies because the service was intended for web browsing and checking emails.
Interislander communications manager Sophie Lee said passengers on the competing Cook Strait ferry service could pay $1 for 10 minutes' internet access at kiosks in the company's ferry terminals at Wellington and Picton.
Wi-fi on Interislander ferries cost $7 for 40 megabytes or was free if passengers paid for special access to the Premium Plus lounge on the Kaitaki and Aratere or The Cove lounge on the Arahura.
- The Marlborough Express