Wellington to have wi-fi choice

Council plan progresses as Trade Me-sponsored network announced

Wellingtonians and visitors to the capital could soon have a good choice of wide-ranging free wi-fi services, but potential conflicts may have to be carefully managed. A Wellington city council plan for wireless access in the central city, mooted for a few years, has reached the request-for-proposal stage — only two weeks after TradeMe announced it would set up a wi-fi service covering the Wellington waterfront.

At the time of the TradeMe announcement Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast was quoted as giving the plan her enthusiastic support.

The areas covered will be different but may partially overlap, says WCC senior strategy advisor Philippa Bowron.

The council’s plan concentrates on the central city and the so-called “golden mile” — the Lambton Quay-Willis St-Manners St-Courtenay Place main shopping stretch — but the plan in the RFP shows coverage extending over a good part of the waterfront and as far north as the Westpac Stadium. The prospect of the 2011 Rugby World Cup is a major motivator for the scheme, the RFP notes.

Current WCC strategy is to work in with other WiFi offerings as much as possible, avoiding too much overlap, says Bowron, and naturally TradeMe will be welcome as a bidder for the larger project.

An amendment to the RFP filed on September 27 shows WCC is sensitive about conflict with commercial wi-fi offerings too. A clause in the “functional requirements” section, which originally read: “Outline options for free or pay (eg café within zone insisting on coffee purchase) WiFi access based on hotspots, indoor/outdoor locations” has been replaced by: “Outline how the proposed free service could work alongside (rather than compete with) other commercially operated wi-fi services.”

A TradeMe spokesman confirms the company intends to press ahead with its plan. It has been aware of the WCC plan for some time, he says and is involving the council in its planning.

TradeMe indicates it will review its wi-fi plan after a year of operation. The WCC RFP undertakes to run the service “in high-use areas of the city for a minimum period of 3 years.”

Deadline for notification of intent to respond to the council RFP is/was October 4 and final proposals must be in by November 1.

Computerworld is published by Fairfax, which also owns TradeMe

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