NSW public transport wi-fi in new agency's hands

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NSW public transport wi-fi in new agency's hands

Consultants recommend ad-supported model.

The NSW Government's new integrated transport authority has been handed formal responsibility for approving a wider rollout of free WiFi on the state's buses, trains and ferries.

The responsibility came despite a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggesting that individual departments would have delegates responsibility for the approval of internet services.

The report had suggested that a wider rollout of free internet services at Sydney train stations could be made soon by a RailCorp steering committee.

The State Government has run numerous trials of publicly-accessible WiFi networks on M10 Metrobuses; Manly and wider Sydney Ferries; and most notably at Circular Quay train station.

The station's network, according to Transport NSW, had garnered more than 10,000 users between September 2010 and January this year who generated 26,000 sessions and downloaded 55 GB of data during the first two months.

It had been extended several times since it was first introduced.

The M10 Metrobus route trial, begun in December, offered 45-minute internet sessions or the equivalent of 30 MB in data downloads. The trial racked up 16,000 user sessions a month.

Queries to RailCorp, operator of Sydney's CityRail network, on the future of WiFi services on its rail network were referred to the NSW Department of Transport.

"The new integrated transport authority will determine future direction for WiFi on public transport," a spokesman for the department said.

That could leave a decision on the future of public transport WiFi services in the balance for months.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian last week announced continued plans for a Department of Transport restructure.

They follow on from significant changes over the past year. Back office support staff for most agencies, including those involved with operational IT, had been moved to a shared services division in December last year based on a government-wide blueprint outlined in 2010.

Still demand for free internet

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report [pdf] had suggested that a WiFi network could be installed by a third-party provider with the Department of Transport recovering capital and operational costs for the network through advertising.

Such a business model would align with consumer sentiment on the issue, with those surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicating they would frequently use the network provided it was free or subsidised through advertising.

"The appeal and benefit of WiFi access justifies its implementation from a customer service perspective," the report stated.

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