Capital coffee-slurpers gain wireless choice

Latte-drinking Wellington urbanites will soon be able to swap messages without the need to plug into a network.

Latte-drinking Wellington urbanites will soon be able to swap messages without the need to plug into a network.

CityLink, which runs a metropolitan ethernet fibre network through Wellington’s central business district, is alpha-testing CafeNet, a wireless LAN project.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the Wellington CBD,” says CityLink product development head Hamish MacEwan, “you’ll be able to get into CafeNet and communicate with other CafeNet users over the wireless LAN.”

It’s a similar offering to CityLink’s public LAN, says MacEwan. “It’s equipment-agnostic and doesn’t burden you with built-in security.”

Security will be the responsibility of users, achieved through virtual private networks and other means.

CafeNet will operate with 802.11b equipment, also known as Wi-Fi, and CityLink aims to have it at beta test stage by July, MacEwan says.

Users will be charged at the beta-test stage. City Link is considering “a number of options” for getting revenue from customers, he says. “It may be gathered from users via prepaid cards.”

One who says he would benefit enormously from such a facility is Telecom Users Association (TUANZ) chief executive Ernie Newman.

Would he use CafeNet? “Hell yes — I’d love it,” Newman says.

“I typically spend two to three days a fortnight in Wellington, and for a lot of that time I’m operating from cafés between meetings. To be able to sit in a hotel or café and be able to call up the web would be a tremendous boost to the efficiency of my day.”

CafeNet would be a further enrichment of Wellington’s increasingly prominent image as a go-ahead electronic city, he says.The CafeNet project differs from most other wireless LAN ventures because it will involve a CBD-wide network, rather than being done site by site.

MacEwan envisages CafeNet’s clientele as being “out of office workers, nomadic CBD workers and tourists”.

MacEwan says between 15 and 20 parties are taking part in the alpha trial.

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