Summer holiday free WiFi hotspots

Free WiFi is here for the summer after Telecom installed public hotspots throughout the country.

Launched yesterday, the initiative is part of a New Zealand-wide trial involving more than 100 Telecom WiFi hotspots in popular summer holiday regions.

The company is activating the service through existing Telecom telephone boxes, and in some cases by building WiFi access points into shops and surf clubs.

There will be nine hotspots at telephone boxes in Rotorua, three in Whakatane and one in Ohope. There will also be a hotspot installed at Whakatane Surf Lifesaving Club, so people can surf the web from the beach.

Despite being a popular holiday location, Taupo is not part of the scheme at this stage, according to Telecom media/PR adviser Holly Linnell.

"We have selected the regions where we were able to leverage existing infrastructure to support," she said.

Ed Hyde, Telecom general manager - mobile product, said all that was needed to connect to the service was a New Zealand mobile number, with any provider. Users will be taken through a short online registration process before their device automatically connects to the service each time thereafter.

"Whether it's searching for a nearby cafe, uploading a few holiday snaps to your Facebook page, or, in my case, checking work emails, Kiwis and visitors can get online for free without having to leave their deckchair."

Ms Linnell said 80 to 90 per cent of hotspots were activated yesterday with all expected to be operational within the next few days.

She said a fair-usage policy would limit use to one gigabyte per day per device, which should be more than enough for most people.

The trial would initially run until the end of February, with Telecom keen for feedback through its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"It might well be something we roll out wider from March next year," she said.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has announced it has increased its capacity, installed new cell sites and is rolling out COWs (cell sites on wheels) to popular holiday destinations.

COWs will be installed in Hahei, Pauanui, Mount Maunganui, Russell, Mangawhai Heads, Whangamata and Whitianga, while capacity will be boosted to cope with crowds attending summer events.

Vodafone's chief network officer Tony Baird said the company monitored network performance year on year to balance the traffic over peak periods.

"Ahead of each year's holiday season, Vodafone boosts its network capabilities to manage the high volume of calls, texts and data. Not everyone wants to race back to work in the New Year, so we aim to boost capacity in the busiest holiday spots to ensure smartphone and mobile broadband users can still get access to their apps and information from the bach or camping ground."

The 44 holiday hotspots where capacity has been improved include Coromandel, Gisborne, Hahei, Kinloch, Omaha, Opotiki, Ohope Beach, Taupo, Turangi, Waihi Beach, Whangamata and Whitianga.

- By Katie Holland of The Daily Post

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