Free wi-fi to roll out in central city

ATTRACTION: The city council will roll out free wi-fi in the central city this year, and if successful, it would become permanent.

Free wireless internet will be rolled out in the central city over the next six months – and it is expected to draw more people in and boost business.

The city council, in collaboration with Canterbury Transport Operation Centre, is working to offer free wi-fi in between the four avenues.

City council Smart Cities programme manager Teresa McCallum said it was a ‘proof of concept’ project under way to make Christchurch an innovative and sustainable 21st century city.

She said the phased roll-out of the wi-fi in the central city would happen over the next six months, starting in May.

The city council was currently working on defining the trial scope, estimating costs and planning how to implement it, she said.

If it proved successful, it would become a city council level of service.

Central City Business Association chairman Brendan Chase said it was a good thing.

“Having people in the central city is good for business, it’s as simple as that.”

He said the wi-fi would help bring people into the central city, and in turn many of those people would then visit the businesses.

“It’s going to appeal to a wide range of the community.”

Ms McCallum said the city council would install radios, access points and switches for the network, by leveraging existing CTOC and city council networks.

“It is anticipated that this will be structured in a similar way to council’s existing free public wi-fi network currently in libraries, service centres, and recreational facilities.”

She said it was unlikely there would be a time limit for those using the wi-fi, although the plan was not finalised.

Until the wi-fi was rolled out, she could not give certain costs.

But it was estimated to be about $7000 a month depending on data usage, she said.

The phased roll-out meant staff could understand the demand, how to manage it efficiently, and explore the potential for leveraging the wi-fi network for other Smart Cities projects, she said.

Innovation and Sustainable Development Committee chairwoman Vicki Buck said Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority had a concept for free wi-fi along the Avon River bank, but it was not delivered.

“We think this is exciting.”