Contenders line up to provide free WiFi in Melbourne

More than 35 vendors vying to equip central Melbourne with free public WiFi access, with an outcome expected in May.

More than 35 contenders are vying to equip central Melbourne with free public WiFi access, ­slated to become available in the second half of the year.

Victoria’s scheme to provide internet connectivity to the masses at no cost began in March, and also covers the regional centres of Bendigo and Ballarat.

Responses to the government’s expressions-of-interest exercise in Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat “has been very positive from both the local and international industry”, a government spokeswoman said.

The outcome was expected to be announced in May, she said.

The Department of State Development, Business and Innovation is evaluating all vendor responses and has a number of options to proceed.

It could enter into direct pre-contractual negotiations with one or more registrants, invite further submissions or ditch the project. The department could also prepare a shortlist of registrants and call for tenders or reboot the process. The expression of interest is the first step in determining the feasibility and business models of free public WiFi services in Victoria.

To support the move, the ­department could provide grants to aid the implementation process and offer in-kind contributions such as advertising, sponsorship or priority access to public infrastructure.

“It is expected that the service will stimulate greater use of ­wireless services for a variety of new applications and content services,” the EoI said.

“These may include location-based services, business transaction services, tourism services, and community and government information.”

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