City’s free Wi-Fi hot spots vary in user uptake

Tourist hot spot . . . English tourists Joanna Hill and Matt Shadwick surf the internet using a Dunedin City Council Wi-Fi hot spot in the Octagon on Tuesday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

People can surf the internet for free at Wi-Fi hot spots across Dunedin – but some are hotter than others.

Dunedin City Council information released to The Star reveals the 15 public Wi-Fi hot spots in Dunedin cost nearly $450,000 to install and more than $13,000 a month, excluding GST, to run.

The average monthly data usage rates of the hot spots were given to The Star for the first quarter of this year.

On average, the most gigabytes were used at the hot spot in Dunedin City Library (1564Gb a month) and the least was used in Macandrew Bay (50Gb a month).

A request from The Star for hot spot usage statistics for a year was declined due to the time it would take to collate the information.

However, the council did provide The Star with usage stats for a year for the hot spot in the Octagon – the second most used hot spot site in Dunedin for the first quarter of this year.

In the Octagon in the past year to end of July, the most data was used in February (1175Gb) and the least data was used in July (242Gb).

An average New Zealand residential home used 277 gigabytes of data a month, a Chorus spokesman told The Star on Tuesday.

So more of the hot spot sites in Dunedin failed to use more data than one average New Zealand residential home during the first quarter of this year.

Macandrew Bay librarian Anne Pentecost, of Macandrew Bay, said she was not surprised the hot spot in her suburb used the least of the 15 sites across the city.

“I don’t use it.”

Macandrew Bay librarian Anne Pentecost prefers reading books to surfing the internet using the Wi-Fi hot spot in her suburb on Friday.

People could access the hot spot in the privately-owned library but nobody did, she said.

The spot might have been used more when freedom campers were allowed to stay overnight in the area, she said.

English tourists Joanna Hill and Matt Shadwick said they were visiting Dunedin for two days from Monday.

After The Star showed them the list of available hot spots in Dunedin, Mr Shadwick said they had visited many of the places but were unaware free Wi-Fi was available.

The council should install signs in hot spot areas to let people know, he said.

He had been using his own data from his British mobile operator, which did not bother him because it was cheap to use.

“I have a worldwide deal so you can use your data anywhere.”

Council city services general manager Sandy Graham, when asked if she was happy with the usage rates of the hot spots across Dunedin, replied: “Absolutely”.

“It’s about giving people options – it’s not about how much is used – it’s about providing a service.”

She was “surprised” at the high level of usage at most spots, she said.

The number of sessions at hot spots was a better indicator than the number of gigabytes used.

For example, the Octagon hot spot was used for more than 17,300 sessions in December last year.

Percentage of the average monthly data usage per hot spot for the three-month period from January to March 2019.

Hot spot users were not streaming as much content as a user in their own home, she said.

The council would not be installing signage to let people know Wi-Fi was available.

“When you pull out your phone and search for Wi-Fi in the Octagon – it says ‘free Wi-Fi’.”

Macandrew Bay was selected as a site “because we coagulant ignore the peninsula”.

As it was getting cheaper for people to buy data from mobile operators, the hot spot service would be reviewed and could dictate “the cost, relocation or level of service we need to provide”.