Sydney goes for municipal WiFi


The NSW premier has announced that Sydney and other regional cities in the state will get free WiFi in their central business districts in the next three years.This is great news for those in Sydney, especially since Internet Service Providers in Australia are not the best at providing plans at reasonable prices, with low broadband download limits (sometimes 100MB per month!) a dirty eccentricity of the local industry for many years now. Yet go to the WiFi Networking News blog, and in its daily Metro roundup there are four announcements about municipal wireless availability around the world on the same day, including a PR firm providing free WiFi throughout Leicester Square in London. On a global level, the free municipal wireless trend is strong and rapidly building momentum. So what are the implications for telecommunications firms (among others)? Last week a highly-quoted piece in the New York Times on mobile phones with WiFi capabilities discussed how free WiFi will allow mobile users to cut out the mobile phone companies completely and speak for free. In fact, there are many restrictions, including the limited coverage of even the broadest free WiFi initiatives, and even more the very high battery drain of WiFi devices, which allow only fairly short speaking time on mobile phones. However there is no question that initiatives like Sydney’s municipal WiFi will cut out many revenue opportunities for telcos that are still striving to squeeze money out of their customers. On the other side is the far more important issue: individuals and businesses will be vastly enabled in connecting, creating, and tapping new opportunities. This is an exercise in unleashing the potential of connectivity. It’s an important step forward for Australia, which is at best in the second tier of developed countries in terms of its mobile and Internet connectivity.