Free fast WiFi zones for city

Click on to enlarge. Graphic: ODT
Click on to enlarge. Graphic: ODT
The hot spots will be free to use and spread across the city, from the botanic garden through the...
The hot spots will be free to use and spread across the city, from the botanic garden through the central city to the Esplanade at St Clair, Macandrew Bay and Port Chalmers.

Sandy Graham.
Sandy Graham.

Dunedin is set to be lit up by a network of 12 more Gig-speed free WiFi zones across the city.

The Dunedin City Council has signed a three-year, $430,000 contract with Spark to provide 12 Gig-enabled WiFi hot spots in addition to the Octagon WiFi launched late last year.

The hot spots would be free to use and spread across the city, from the botanic garden through the central city to the Esplanade at St Clair, Macandrew Bay and Port Chalmers.

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Council corporate services group manager Sandy Graham said the first five of the sites were expected to be ready before the end of the year.

The rest would follow next year and the council was already considering plans to expand beyond the first 12 sites to outlying areas such as Brighton, she said.

The council and the Digital Community Trust, which has been tasked with implementing the plan, were finalising plans for a "Living City Hub'' inside the Dunedin Public Library.

One of the first of the 12 WiFi hot spots would be based there and the site would also demonstrate the potential of Gig-speed internet and its applications.

Other hot spots would include Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, the Dunedin Chinese Garden, Wall Street mall, the Otago Museum Reserve, the Mosgiel Library and and the Exchange.

While the range of the hot spots would be limited, they would push the development of a "mesh'' that would eventually cover large parts of the city, she said.

That would eventually enable residents and tourists to move seamlessly from one hot spot to the next, she said.

The first 12 sites were seen as "anchor points'' in that mesh, and she hoped businesses would contribute hot spots that would tie together with the council's.

Alternatively, the council could pay for more hot spots, she said.

"Our intention is to make coverage as broad as we can.

"Somewhere like St Clair, we can just imagine people sitting there with the surfing champs on, being able to stream the images back.

"It's a great opportunity to promote the city, also it's a great service, so people can engage with the facilities that we have.''

The WiFi initiative would boost the GigCity initiative, which has been criticised for a slow roll-out and lack of major projects since the Gigatown competition victory in late 2014.

An ODT Insight investigation has found rising levels of frustration as some parts of the city continue to face long waits for the network to reach them or delays connecting once it does.

GigCity projects co-ordinator Lesley Marriott acknowledged the roll-out had been frustrating for some but believed the mood was improving as the network spread.

Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher said the WiFi and library hub projects would help more people experience and understand the benefit of Gig-speed internet.

"It brings a whole lot of this stuff to life.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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