Wi-Fi trial deemed success

Wakatipu residents and visitors are connected to the worldwide web as never before, the ongoing Wi-Fi trial service by Telecom hailed a success, the Queenstown Events Centre launching free internet access permanently last week and the national ultrafast broadband roll-out reaching central Queenstown next month.

Telecom activated its free summer service from nine Wi-Fi hot spots in Queenstown, one in Frankton, one in Arrowtown, one in Lake Hawea and three in Wanaka, among other popular New Zealand holiday destinations last month, to see if there is an appetite for public Wi-Fi and to consider how it might be hosted and supported more consistently across the country.

Head of Telecom Labs Philip Ivanier said last week Queenstown was the only ''hot spot'' in the country where virtually all of the town centre was made Wi-Fi-active.

''More than 3000 people are logging on to the regional service each day since its mid-December launch,'' Mr Ivanier said.

''That's roughly 10% of the whole user population across the country, across more than 43 locations New Zealand-wide.

''Queenstown Wi-Fi is the most popular service in the region, with more than 250 users per day, although users in Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Arrowtown are also accessing the service regularly.''

Early results indicated users were accessing the service for more than just email and surfing the net. Some were using the service to download content.

Queenstown was selected for the trial as it had a large influx of ''tech-savvy tourists'' keeping connected constantly and the compact town centre was well positioned to maximise the use of the Telecom telephone boxes already in place, which each had ''Free Wi-Fi'' signs, Mr Ivanier said.

''It's great that tourists can directly share their extraordinary South Island experiences with friends and family around the world,'' he said.

More than 17,000 people have registered to use the national service, using more than 20,000 internet-enabled devices such as tablets and smartphones to upload and download about 2.5Tb so far.

More than 3000 people are using it around the country each day and about 1000 new registrations are being received by Telecom a day.

All users need to register is a New Zealand cellphone number from any provider, not just Telecom, which is able to receive an authentication code sent via text message.

Telecom will review the results of the trial when it ends in mid-March.

Meanwhile, a permanent free internet service for the public has been introduced at the Queenstown Events Centre thanks to Lakes Leisure in partnership with HQWiFi. Access is available throughout most indoor areas and users will receive 30 minutes of free internet access per 24 hours through the HQWiFi network when using their own devices.

A further 30 minutes costs $3, 60 minutes $6, two hours $10, or 24 hours $15 using a credit card online, the time being able to be used at other HQWiFi hot spots.

HQWifi installed the infrastructure free of charge to provide internet access during major events such as the travel trade expo Trenz in 2012. Lakes Leisure decided to permanently extend the service, events and venues manager J.

D. Marrable said last week.

''It's a great way to give our visitors a bit of added value and people can now enjoy catching up on Facebook or surfing the web for free while they wait for their next class to start, have a coffee or collect their children from sport,'' Mr Marrable said.

Questions on how to access the service should be directed to events centre receptionists, he said.

The Government's ultrafast broadband contractor Chorus continues its roll-out of fibre connectivity in Queenstown, the work having begun last winter.

More than 600 residents on Queenstown Hill should now be able to call their internet service provider and get connected to ultrafast broadband after four cabinets and fibre were installed by Chorus.

Contractors will start work on Gorge Rd once the poor weather subsides.

Chorus said the central business district of Queenstown was set for ultrafast broadband from mid to late February, to avoid inconveniencing businesses and holiday-makers on Waitangi Day (February 6).

Business operators will be informed about the roll-out by letter drop.