Road Worrier Tests Free Internet At Sydney Airport

Hanging around waiting is a common feature of airports, so a free Wi-Fi service is always welcome. I’ve just tested out the new Tomizone-powered and Optus-sponsored service at Sydney Airport T2, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how speedy it was.

With the important exception of Adelaide (which has an airport-wide free service courtesy of Internode), generally the only way to get free Internet at an Australian airport is to go into one of the airport lounges. While it’s sometimes possible to hang around outside a lounge and hook onto the same network, that isn’t always easy: Qantas lounges are often located on an upstairs level, and Virgin Blue lounges are often landside rather than past security.

Sydney’s T2 terminal (which handles Virgin Blue, Qantaslink, Rex and Aeropelican) now has a free Wi-Fi service provided by Tomizone, and currently sponsored by Optus. It’s not clear how long the option will be in place for, so I figured it was worth heading to T2 for a quick speed and usability test on the service.

Logging on is pretty straightforward: you’re asked to provide flight details and a reason for travel, but you can in fact select ‘Not flying’ for all those options. After a brief Optus-promoting ad (no video, just an image), you can surf to wherever you like. The service was accessible in both wings of the T2 terminal, as well as the food court, and stayed connected on my iPod and BlackBerry when I walked from one end to the other.[imgclear]

The results were impressive, and indeed slightly odd: the upload speed was reported as higher than the download speed. In practice, it was entirely possible to watch YouTube videos, download mail and access other services: the only obvious restriction was blocking on some adult sites, which is pretty standard behaviour on free public Wi-Fi services.

Those speeds might of course vary as the airport gets more crowded, though even before lunchtime on a Wednesday, T2 seemed relatively busy. For in-transit travellers or perennial early-at-the-airport types, it’s definitely a handy option. Here’s hoping Optus (or one of its rivals) decides to sponsor a similar scheme through Tomizone at other airports across Australia.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman seems to be making a habit of mid-week public Wi-Fi tests in Sydney. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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