The Victorian government and iiNet have announced a free public Wi-Fi network in Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo.
VicGovFree is a $6.7 million network with 1,000 wireless access points. It will provide free Wi-Fi coverage across the CBDs of the three Victorian cities.
The contract with iiNet covers management and maintenance of the pilot service for five years.
The network will be free to everyone in those cities, but each user will have a daily data quote of 250 MB, iiNet said.
In Melbourne, the coverage will include the City Loop train stations of Southern Cross, Flinders Street, Melbourne Central, Flagstaff and Parliament.
In addition, the network will cover the Queen Victoria Markets, the exterior of Federation Square, and several parks including Flagstaff Gardens, Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens.
The network will also work on Melbourne trams on the City Circle line and Bendigo’s tourist tram.
The network makes use of existing public infrastructure, including light poles, bus shelters and government buildings.
Victoria Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said the free Wi-Fi network "will provide Victorians who don’t have Internet access at home or mobile Internet with a means of getting online to access information about government services, employment and public transportation."
It can also be used in emergencies when telecom networks are under pressure, he said
“This pilot is part of the Victorian Government’s agenda to establish infrastructure that enables ‘smart city’ initiatives to strengthen Victoria’s position as Australia’s leading technology state."
There will be no ads on the network and it won't request private information or browsing history, he said.
The announcement follows two similar iiNet Wi-Fi deployments in Canberra and Adelaide. The ISP has said before that it was in talks to state governments in New South Wales and Queensland to roll out similar services in Sydney and Brisbane.
When completed, it will be the largest public Wi-Fi deployment made in Australia, said iiNet chief business officer Greg Bader.
“Public Wi-Fi is now the new benchmark for modern communities, so we applaud the vision of the Victorian State Government,” he said, adding that iiNet looks forward to expanding the network to other communities.
“This infrastructure will position Victoria as a world leader in connected cities.”
Victoria is iiNet’s area of fastest growth, and the ISP has 250 staff based in the state, he said.
Australians will also soon have access to a public Wi-Fi network from Telstra. The telco announced in May that it is building a national Wi-Fi network that will be free to its fixed broadband customers and available for a fee to other Australians.
The goal of the Telstra network is to provide access to 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots around Australia in five years, including Telstra broadband customers who opt to share their connection.
More details about the free Wi-Fi network in Victoria can be found on the Victorian government's website.