Uni hopes Gigatown means grads stay on

Otago University students can now access the university’s computer systems from anywhere.

Otago University students can now access the university’s computer systems from anywhere.

Otago University hopes Dunedin's Gigatown win will encourage more students to stick around in the city after they graduate to set-up technology start-ups.

Information technology services head Mike Harte said the student precinct in north Dunedin already had one of the the highest uptakes of ultrafast broadband in the country and the availability of gigabit broadband from March could mean the city retained more of its transient student population.

"Internet to them is more important than food. The town is buzzing," he said.

In a happy coincidence, the university has just spent $3.1 million on remote-access software from United States company Citrix that means its 20,000 students can now access the university's 60 software systems from anywhere using their own devices.

Previously they had to visit a campus and log-on through one of the university's 1600 personal computers. In 1999, only 40 per cent of students owned laptops, now it was 99 per cent, Harte said.

Dunedin was the only university town among the finalists for Gigatown and Harte said that had formed a big part of its entry.

Christchurch's Snap Internet has joined MyRepublic and Orcon in announcing retail gigabit plans for Dunedin. Vodafone has also said it will retail gigabit plans but has yet to confirm timing. Spark spokeswoman Lucy Fullarton said it would too, but it might wait until it was in a position to offer a gigabit service nationwide.

"We would like a clear understanding of what the roadmap to nationally-consistent broadband speed inputs will look like, and there are currently discussions underway about that with Chorus and the other UFB network builders," she said.

In the meantime, Spark is upgrading some of its wi-fi hotspots in Dunedin so they could each support a gigabit of bandwidth, shared between users, to "show support" for Dunedin's win.

"Rolling it out involves installing very high-end and expensive wireless modems on each hot-spot," Fullarton said. "We currently have nine wi-fi hotspots in Dunedin and we are committing to upgrade a number of these to 'giga-wi-fi'."

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 - The Dominion Post

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