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Bill Bennett


Auckland Transport’s stingy Wi-Fi

Two cheers for Auckland Transport. It plans to install Wi-Fi at train stations, bus terminals and ferry wharves.

Auckland’s public transport Wi-Fi is likely to be technically robust. It uses the same technology already proven in Telecom NZ’s nationwide Wi-Fi network.

Sadly the scheme as described in the gushing propaganda is half-baked and mean-minded.

You need an Auckland Transport Hop Card to get the full 1GB a day of data. Non-card holders only get ten minutes online.

That’s a slap in the face to out-of-town visitors who will leave Auckland with memories of petty, penny-pinching.

Overseas visitors often complain about the lack of free Wi-Fi in New Zealand compared with cities elsewhere.

Why does Auckland Transport offer Wi-Fi?

Could it be Auckland Transport’s aim is to use Wi-Fi as a Hop Card lure?

That doesn’t make sense. Either Hop cards stand on their own merits, or they don’t. Throwing in free data is not enough of a draw to undecided passengers.

On one level it makes sense to ration the service. Unmetered free Wi-Fi could undermine commercial operations and cause crowds to form in busy transport hubs.

If cost is an issue, then cut the 1GB daily allowance. It’s generous — movie downloads aside, it’s hard for a mobile device to chew through that much data while waiting for or travelling on public transport.

There are two other stingy gotchas. First, your Hop Card has to be in credit to use the service. What is Auckland Transport’s motivation for this restriction?

More restrictive and even harder to understand is a rule the Hop Card has to have been used in the last five days, not including the day in question. In other words, you have to be a frequent public transport passenger to use the service.

If the aim is to encourage people to use public transport, and what possible other purpose could this rule serve, then it’s potentially uneconomic as it will potentially encourage meaningless journeys by people wanting Wi-Fi access.

It’s also counterproductive in a more subtle way. Infrequent travellers might be tempted to choose rail or ferry over a car if it means they could make better use of their time — say working on a tablet during the journey. The last five-day requirement effectively rules out this option.




6 thoughts on “Auckland Transport’s stingy Wi-Fi

  1. I think it is a sly way to not encourage people. ‘Fibre to the press release’ is ‘Free WiFi to the press release’ here. Auckland’s public trnasport is in desparate need of more buses and it shows when you try to hop on one and they’re all full to the brim already. They don’t need any more incentives to get people on buses, people already want that. They need to supply more, and better buses, and better routes.

  2. How about “Thanks Auckland Transport for giving free wi-fi to daily commuters pn their way to and from work” ?? But no, have to put a negative slant on it… They way to get effective public transport is not by encouraging tourists to use it but by getting people that will use it everyday for 48 or so weeks a year for about 40 years of their life. Sort the commuters out and the tourists will use it as well!

    1. It’s not free wi-fi on your commute to and from work – it is just in the station. Folk who spend time commuting on public transport will already have 3G plans so they have access.

      This system is a pointless waste of money that will just create angst with visitors to Auckland. Compare this system with the free wi-fi you get on the Airport Flyer in Wellington – and the positive impression it gives of the city.

  3. Callplus/Slingshot offered a free wifi network in Auckland for the Rugby World Cup. It was a huge success with tens of thousands of users downloading an average of 500Gb per day. We had 450 retail outlets offering it (cafes, restaurants and bars mainly). We could only do it because we had a trial Wimax network running at the time, and had spare access points.
    The only input we had from the Council was when they seized our Access Points that vendors in the Cloud venue had installed. Apparently our free offer interfered with their limited pay offering!
    Anyway the point of this comment is to state what should now be obvious- wifi is only successful where it is ‘free’ to the end user and has no config rigmarole to go through.
    I wish they would get the message. Its embarrassing running a technology company in such a backwards city.

  4. Just about every tourist who steps foot in London ponies up for an Oyster card to make it easy to get around London while they’re there. I don’t see why it’s such a crazy idea for tourists to do that with the hop card in Auckland.
    This is just one more incentive to get everyone using a card that speeds up boarding to make bus services run faster and also saves people money once they’ve used $100 worth of public transport.

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