Telecom’s Christmas gift to New Zealanders and overseas travellers is a summer-only network of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
The hotspots are mainly based on payphones in tourists places. That’s mainly towns, but the first one I found was in tiny Momorangi Bay off Queen Charlotte Sound between Picton and Nelson.
Before taking my Nokia Lumia 920 on a summer road trip I made a note of hotspots for when I ran short of data on my phone while away from home.
Free data, what’s not to like?
In the event, I didn’t use Telecom’s free Wi-Fi. Although I saw plenty of hotspots and my phone found more, the service was mainly available in places where I didn’t need it. That’s not a strike against Telecom, more a big tick in favour of savvy tourism operators.
We rented an apartment in Nelson that came with free Wi-Fi. I found it easier to use that for bulky data – like sending photographs. If I needed data while moving about, I could always dip into the 500MB included with my monthly mobile plan.
Apart from downloading road maps, the Lumia only sipped data while I was on the move.
Our Wellington and Taupo hotels both had in-room broadband – delivered through an Ethernet cable, how retro. And they had paid-for Wi-Fi, but the price wasn’t right. In Wellington the Ibis allowed some free Wi-Fi access, but you needed to do everything quickly before charges kicked in. Ethernet cables were no use to me. I was also disappointed that the Ibis didn’t find the Nokia charger – luckily not the wireless charger – that I left in the room. Poor form.
Wellington has plenty of free Wi-Fi. Interestingly we had difficulty logging on to the free CityNet from just about every spot we tried, even though the phone could ‘see’ the hotspots. On the other hand, the free Te Papa Wi-Fi expended for some distance around the museum and worked well.
The Bayview hotel at Wairakei wanted a whopping $8 for 30 minutes internet access, which seems excessive and far more expensive than Telecom 3G data. Likewise the Interislander advertised 40MB, that’s not a misprint, for $7. Mind you, it was fun watching our position using the phone’s GPS while on board.