City free Wi-Fi now available

Free Wi-Fi - Ian Carpenter After months of development, Geraldton residents and visitors can now access free Wi-Fi across the City.

The service is now fully up and running with the completion of the City of Greater Geraldton’s pilot roll out completed at the end of 2013.

The Wi-Fi has eight points across the Geraldton CBD, allowing for free connectivity across the foreshore area, the Queens Park Theatre and the Queen Elizabeth II Seniors and Community Centre, with future plans to extend the service to the Geraldton Airport and other popular locations.

The cost of the 8 Wi-Fi nodes and the uncontested fibre capacity for the City Centre Wi-Fi will be in the order of $30,000 per year with annual costs varying depending on any unexpected maintenance costs.

It has taken the City months to get the Wi-Fi working to full capacity after some setbacks with the preliminary development.

“The ‘soft’ launch was for testing purposes, after preliminary development, and it quickly revealed lots more demand than had been anticipated, overwhelming the bandwidth capacity available,” a City spokesperson said.

“That made it difficult for some people to connect, and stay connected. As a result, a new controller was installed, and new uncontested fibre bandwidth capacity was arranged, to cope with the demand.

“Our white Corella visitors didn’t help either, attacking a few nodes, requiring repairs, and addition of some spikey protection to a couple of nodes to discourage the destructive attention of the birds.”

According to the City, now all nodes operating properly, feedback suggests that connection issues have been resolved, and the available bandwidth is fine.

The free Wi-Fi is part of the broader plan to revitalise and activate the CBD and Foreshore area – to get residents and tourists to spend some more time in town, spending and supporting CBD businesses and their employees – and the City sees this as very good value for money.

The City appointed local business Market Creations to implement the free public Wi-Fi based on the recommendations of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Report released in 2012, after six IBM executives spent three weeks in Geraldton analysing the City’s strategic planning and recommending the way forward.

The report made recommendations on two key challenges the City faced; identify smart digital services and opportunities that leverage the availability of broadband and; develop smart energy strategies that would enable the community’s vision of becoming a carbon-neutral region by 2029.

One of the recommendations was to accelerate the City’s ability to participate in a digital economy by building a free, public Wi-Fi network to deliver fast internet in the CBD.

“The free public Wi-Fi project is one of the first recommendations of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and we’re extremely pleased to be involved,” said Market Creations Managing Director, Darren Lee.

Since inception, the Wi-Fi has been monitored for usage and is being utilised across the access areas within the City, with the Apple iPhone being the most popular device used for connection.

The month of data from mid-December until mid-January shows in excess of 450 users connecting during peak periods, which fall between noon and slowly taper off from 4.00pm.

City Mayor, Ian Carpenter, said the free Wi-Fi forms an integral part of the City’s scope to become an IBM Smarter City.

“The new infrastructure offers social wellbeing to our residents and tourists,” he said.