Daniel Brown 19 years old of Manly uses free Wi-Fi on the Queenscliff ferry to Manly. Photo: Simon Alekna
  In June Wi-Fi was introduced on Manly ferries for a three-month trial, allowing laptop users to use the internet while sailing to and from the city. ANZ Bank has also gone into Wi-Fi in a big way, helping to fund the government’s Manly Ferry experiment and sponsoring free Wi-Fi hotspots in 100 cafes in the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane business districts and at ANZ Stadium’s gold members’ lounge. ”It would be simple to put into into public transport,” Michael Baker of MIMP said. Ruwan Weerasooriya’s company CafeScreen provided the system for Manly Fast Ferries and said the technology’s spread was inevitable. With many of Sydney’s cafes, libraries and pubs already offering free or low-cost Wi-Fi access, the state government is joining the party, creating wireless hotspots on train stations and even ferries. IT IS an invisible revolution and it is gaining momentum. Half are free. The Minister for Transport, John Robertson, said yesterday it had been a huge success with more than 60,000 passengers logging on so far. Commuters who log on to the system are limited to 20-minute sessions and a download of 50Mb so they do not slow the system for other users. ”RailCorp is now trialling free Wi-Fi at Circular Quay station and since last week when the trial began about 3000 commuters have accessed the service. NSW has about 1000 Wi-Fi hotspots – most in Sydney. ”The key to providing Wi-Fi free to consumers is finding somebody who is happy to fund it while at the same time getting something out of it for themselves,” he said. And this month, the government started another pilot program offering commuters Wi-Fi access at Circular Quay station. MIMP Connecting Solutions is testing a bus passenger information service with a spin-off that could revolutionise the use of Wi-Fi in Australia and put the technology into trains, buses, taxis and private cars. The government will continue to look at ways to extend new services like Wi-Fi to public transport users.”

An Adelaide company is providing a glimpse of the Wi-Fi future for public transport. McDonald’s and small cafes provide most of the free services. MIMP has put internet-connected systems on government buses in Adelaide and Perth that give passengers not only timetable information and security coverage but Wi-Fi access for laptops. ”Until now innovations in IT have been driven by corporations but if consumers demanded this sort of free access to a service, governments would undoubtedly react to what people want.”

The government jumped on the Wi-Fi bandwagon only after Manly Fast Ferries, one of Sydney Ferries’ private rivals on the Sydney-Manly run, began offering internet access in May.