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Council staff working on fixes for Adelaide's "slow" free WiFi network

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Adelaide’s notoriously slow public WiFi network could be improved by relocating access points and connecting it to new fibre optic cable, the council’s chief technology guru says.

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The received wisdom about the Adelaide Free WiFi network is that it is slow-to-useless for most people.

But that widely-held view is based mostly on anecdotal evidence.

Testing by TPG – the telecom company that owns the network – late last year showed an average download speed of 40 megabits per second and an average upload speed of 27 megabits per second.

These speeds are relatively fast, although a variety of factors can mean users don’t see those speeds in practise.

Increasing interference from more than 100,000 smartphones in the city each day, the distance between a user and an access point, the fact that many people use public WiFi in transit and the particular calibration of individual smartphones can each contribute to a poor user experience.

The way an iPhone is calibrated for WiFi, for example, means that it will only “roam” – search for a stronger signal from a better access point – after the strength of the signal it has latched onto has fallen well below the point at which most users have become frustrated and disconnected.

Nonetheless, staff within the Adelaide City Council’s administration are moving to improve the network.

The council’s associate director of information management, Peter Auhl told InDaily his team is developing a proposal to relocate the access points that project the WiFi signal and to connect the network to Ten Gigabit Adelaide – the council’s new fibre optic network, currently rolling out across the city.

He said he and his team would present the project, some time after the election, for the next council to consider.

“Our focus at the moment is ensuring that the assets are deployed in the most (useful areas),” said Auhl.

He said technology experts in the council’s administration were using analytics to establish how the WiFi assets might be distributed more effectively, to give a better user experience.

Lord Mayoral candidate Mark Hamilton told InDaily his experience of the service was that it was inconsistent and generally poor – and promised to look into the cost of improving the service if elected.

“It’s poor … I don’t think it works very well,” said Hamilton.

“In certain parts of the city, it’s weak.

“I think there should be much better free WiFi city-wide.”

But he said he would need to investigate options to improve the network before making any commitments.

“We should aspire to have excellent connectivity … the question is how to achieve it.

“I’m certainly not going to be promising expenditure of money when I’m unaware of the (cost).”

Fellow Lord Mayoral candidate Kate Treloar told InDaily that while Adelaide Free WiFi was, in her experience, “a bit inconsistent” and “a bit slow”, improving it was not a major priority for her.

“I think it comes down to ‘it’s fine’,” she said.

“It always works in the end. I just thing we’ve got bigger priorities.”

She said her focus was on issues including the environment, small business, liveability and alternative transport.

InDaily contacted Lord Mayoral candidate Sandy Verschoor for comment, but she was unavailable.

Fellow candidate Steven Kelly said he was no longer speaking to InDaily because of an “incident” that involved this publication. He did not explain what incident he was referring to.

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