Mobile networks boosted for Hobbit premiere

Last updated 12:57 28/11/2012
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.

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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.

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.

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"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

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