Wellington wants free wifi

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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4 thoughts on “Wellington wants free wifi

  1. Wow, I’ve got LinkedIn ID 14xxx – practically a staff member ;-)

    We have 2+ Wifi vendors (Cafenet, Tomizone) already in Wellington, both with spotty coverage. Kordia are there too I guess.

    How much coverage do you want? How will it be profitable? Should we ask Wellington Airport (Infratil) how well it goes there?


  2. Cripes, Bruce: you were early! I am in the 140,000s.
       I want to build on the existing infrastructure and have begun some chats with the players. So it will remain a bit spotty, Bruce, at least initially.
       Some of the companies, like WiMax, made fairly advanced plans on a free service, so they need a nudge from the right people to get them up and running.
       Presently the services make little money with a paid model. It would be relatively easy to sell the log-on page given the amount of traffic it would get. I reckon that could make more.
       Your suggestion of asking Infratil is not a bad one. They have “trialled” for years, and I would imagine an outfit like Infratil, which admittedly is very keen on the bottom line, would not retain the service if it were a failure.
       However, I know they do not sell advertising on their service having been a frequent user of it. It is, nevertheless, a must for an airport in my view—and if Wellington is to be a modern city, it is a must for us, too.

  3. Thanks for the reply Jack.

    Spotty coverage is probably okay; mobile isn’t everywhere and wifi will always be less. Bridging the current deployed Wifi players into a meta network might work (I forgot Telecom’s).

    I can believe the wifi providers make little money; the cost to serve must be high and cellular connectivity is now relatively cheap (for email at least).

    I believe Infratil may have been shamed into providing wifi by Sam Morgan who made some comment on finding no Wifi one day, although they either see no money in outsourcing it and making money off licensing their airspace (a la Auckland) or they see the (real!) annoyance they’d generate if they did. Given their approach to parking I can’t really explain it :-)

    Could you achieve the same outcome, with less capital cost, by giving out data-only SIM cards w/100MB credit at the airport? Perhaps defining the target market would help — tourists, micro-business, students, or all of the above?

  4. I am starting some face-to-face meetings next week on the wifi provider front though I have talked to numerous experts so far. Basically, it is something we can accomplish reasonably quickly, and kickstart some of my ideas about job creation here in Wellington.
       I like your idea of bridging providers, and it makes sense. With the city behind the programme, it could work—and we would not face accusations of trying to create monopolies.
       I can’t explain Infratil’s willingness to provide free wifi either, though I am very glad they do. They really should look at keeping the service free but commercialize some of the space with the odd banner—I really would not mind if they did.
       I haven’t considered the SIM method, though it is a good idea. My plan was to open it up to all Wellingtonians, beginning with providing wifi in the central city (benefiting businesses the most, of course, though the tourists would benefit heaps, too), and using whatever infrastructure that exists.

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