A number of key industry groups have praised plans by Victorian Premier Denis Napthine to roll out improved mobile phone coverage in rural areas and provide free Wi-Fi services on trains.
As SmartCompany reported yesterday, the $40 million program will see free Wi-Fi provided to passengers on the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon V/Line services.
Aside from areas suffering poor coverage along V/Line railways, Napthine says the package will also be used to reduce other mobile coverage blackspots across the state.
The latest announcement comes after the state government announced a free public Wi-Fi program around the Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo CBDs last month.
In a statement, Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) chief executive Dianne Smith welcomes the move, telling the government to consider rolling out more Wi-Fi services across the V/Line network.
“This initiative will enhance the visitor experience of Melburnians together with interstate and international visitors when they travel by train to enjoy the many attractions of these fantastic regional cities.
“VTIC has consistently called for the introduction of free Wi-Fi on V/Line trains so it is very pleasing that there has now been this commitment made by the state government to deliver this to support regional tourism operators and related businesses.”
The move also earned praise from VECCI chief executive Mark Stone.
“This initiative will help commuting employees, business owners and managers continue working and servicing clients while travelling, as well as provide benefits to tourism travellers.
“VECCI previously called for the introduction of free Wi-Fi on V/Line trains and we applaud the state and federal governments for collaborating for the good of regional business.”
The policy is also winning praise from the telecommunications industry.
A Vodafone spokesperson told SmartCompany the carrier welcomed the government’s investment in mobile communications.
“Free wi-fi on V-line trains is a welcome enhancement to trains services in Victoria, especially for people who use them to commute significant distances to work each day. All consumers with smartphones and tablets will benefit, as does the economy as a whole through increased productivity and the social benefits connectivity brings.
“This is a good example of how government funds can be used to benefit the customers of all mobile operators and a strong statement about the importance of mobile connectivity.”
Meanwhile, Rodney Gedda from Telsyte told SmartCompany this morning the program should have benefits for small business people who need to travel to a rural city by train.
“I catch the train and often see passengers using 3G or 4G dongles. Any opportunity to provide Wi-Fi where there’s no network coverage – or patchy 4G coverage – is a good thing.
“As with hotels, the cost should be inclusive in the cost of providing Wi-Fi… Many small business would gladly pay the premium, because if they’re working on client services on the train, because if they’re doing that they’re actually making money.”