The roll out of the CBD’s multi-million dollar free WiFi has stalled and it is unknown when the project will be implemented.
The State Government last year announced a $6.7 million project comprising 1000 free WiFi hotspots in the Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo CBDs.
In Melbourne, a single free WiFi hotspot was established in the food court of the Queen Victoria Market but further announcements have not been made.
In January a spokesperson for the Digital Government section of the Department of Premier and Cabinet predicted the project would be completed by December.
“Further services are expected to be available on major streets, transport hubs and tourist precincts by mid-2015, with remaining coverage expected to be deployed by December 2015,” the spokesperson told CBD News.
The Digital Government office no longer exists. In its place is an entity called Enterprise Solutions. It’s website coyly refers to last year’s change of government as: “In 2014, changes occurred within the Victorian Government. To reflect our new role and responsibilities, our name has been updated from Digital Government to Enterprise Solutions.”
Since last year’s announcement, the company contracted to roll out the “VicGovFree” project, iiNet, has been taken over by rival TPG in a $1.56 billion deal, which was heavily scrutinised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Before the takeover, iiNet was also expecting the project to be wrapped up by December.
The plan promised users a free 250Mb quota each day. Coverage was to include the City Circle Tram and City Loop train stations.
“Every student, professional, resident, tourist and business traveller can now enjoy 250 Mb of download daily,” a Government promotional video says.
The City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government say that TPG is still committed to the deal.
The City of Melbourne told CBD News: “Progress continues on the Victorian Government’s free public Wi-Fi pilot in the City of Melbourne.”
“City of Melbourne is working closely with all stakeholders, namely TPG which recently acquired iiNet – the business contracted to deliver the pilot.”
“The State Government is expected to make a public announcement on the status of the project in the coming weeks.”
The State Government told CBD News: “iiNet, which is contracted to deliver the pilot, has recently been acquired by TPG. TPG is committed to the pilot and is working with the Government to explore how its involvement can add to the project. We will be making some more announcements regarding the pilot in the coming weeks.”
Mobile phone coverage was extended to the City Loop last month.
On October 15 Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced that passengers now have access to high-quality 3G voice and 4G data coverage throughout Melbourne’s 12 kms of rail tunnels and underground stations.
The mobile coverage in the City Loop project is being delivered by Victorian rail asset owner VicTrack.
The Government says further work will be undertaken over the coming 12-18 months that will enhance 4G data services, increasing capacity and data speeds even further.
Ms Allan said: “This ends years of frustration for passengers, who would be in the middle of a conversation only for their phone to cut out when they entered the loop.”