Monday, 01 December 2014 21:22

The stage two birth of more free Wi-Fi in Perth


The City of Perth is creating a ruckus over the expansion of its free Wi-Fi network into Northbridge with more free high-performance Wi-Fi for residents, visitors and businesses using Ruckus Wireless equipment.

The good ship Free Wi-Fi has a new berth in Perth: Northbridge, thanks to the City itself, Ruckus Wireless and Technical Services Group (TSG).

It’s stage two of the project following last year’s installation of a free Wi-Fi network in Perth’s CBD, and it will all presumably lead to a stage five clinger where you can even crash a wedding and bam, free Wi-Fi is everywhere.

But we’re not there yet, with stage two just completed, along with stage one in Perth’s CBD leading the West Australian capital to declare it was ‘the first Australian capital city to offer comprehensive Wi-Fi coverage’.

With nearly 25,000 devices connected at any given time during September, and over ‘200,000 reliable connections’ having occurred in the last 12 months, it’s no wonder Perth is making a ruckus about its new ‘continuous link from the City centre to key public spaces and commercial areas in Northbridge, including the Cultural centre, Piazza, Russell Square, and William, James and Lake Streets.’

Obviously, when it comes to city planning, you want to have some strategy about things, with the claim of a ‘strategic focus on public spaces, consumer businesses, support of tourism activities, and extended visitor dwell times and expenditure.’

The city’s council bangs the free Wi-Fi drum about how the community is increasingly mobile, how Wi-Fi is a key economic driver for enhanced business growth, while giving the benefits of free Wi-Fi to visitors.

Of course, my usual caveats here apply: if you’re a business user, are you really going to trust your devices on what is effectively an open network? You’ll be sure to want to use a VPN so your private data isn’t hacked, sniffed or man-in-the-middled, no matter what the reassurances are from the Wi-Fi’s providers - but hey, that’s up to you - it’s your business data!

Perth’s Lord Mayor, Lisa Scaffidi said: “Our network has been designed with a strategic focus on activating public spaces and targeting areas with population driven business that support tourism activities.”

“Following the success and popularity of last year’s Wi-Fi deployment across Perth’s CBD, we wanted to extend the network to other parts of the city.

“The network now covers a total area of approximately 50 hectares. What makes our network special is its blanket coverage – users can now walk from the Bell Tower to Northbridge Piazza without being disconnected.”

Of course, if you have a data on your SIM card, you can walk around the -entire- city without being disconnected, but let’s not look a gift Wi-Fi in the mouth - free Wi-Fi is pretty cool, after all - even Telstra is (at least for the moment in a trial phase) offering it.

Phase 2 of the rollout sees Ruckus’ ‘ZoneFlex outdoor APs’ on street lamps and ‘furniture’ around the city, all connected via SmartMesh networking so things are cable-free - well, presumably for the most part.

TSG’s MD, Kamie Ang, had no angst in declaring: “We continue to be impressed with the quality and design of the Ruckus APs. They’re quick and easy to deploy, thanks to the SmartMesh Networking feature. Many of the APs only needed to be mounted and connected to permanent power, which reduced the disruption to the city’s infrastructure.”

Jonathan Stoate, the city’s CIO, noted that he “chose wireless technology that could cope with lots of interference in a challenging and changeable outdoor environment,” and that Ruckus technology was up to the job, with up to 2000 users trying to connect simultaneously, or a ‘high density of users in a single location’ trying to connect because of something like a concert, with the Ruckus tech coping ‘comfortably and effectively’.

The Wi-Fi network is fed by a fibre-optic infrastructure that is all owned by the city’s ratepayers, we’re told, which also supports functions such as CCTV, car parks and high-speed data transfers between various city spaces, with Stoate talking about how the Ruckus tech was so good it could easily stream the WA Symphony Orchestra’s ’Symphony in the City’, and also a TEDx Perth Event, and that the infrastructure allows the city to work with any ISP it chooses for ‘amazing flexibility’.

The CBD and Northbridge are now Wi-Fi enabled, with Stoate saying he is “considering further expansion in these areas as well as other locations to the east and west of both major precincts.”

The City of Perth’s website notes that: “Users have a download limit of 50mbs per connection. Once this limit is reached users will need to reconnect to the service. If users do not exceed their download limit they can remain connected to the network for an hour. After an hour users will need to reconnect.”



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