First published Tuesday 20th July 2010 12:17pm
Last updated Tuesday 20th July 2010 12:17pm

Now that everyone is back again for B semester, we'd like to start a series of posts that introduce you to how things work behind the scenes at Lightwire.

In this first post, we'd like to introduce you to the history of Lightwire and where we came from. We hope to write a number of posts over the next few weeks which we hope will address a number of the common questions raised in the 2010 Lightwire Survey. Some posts (like this one) will be generally informative, others will be a bit more technical.

Lightwire's History

Way back in 2001, the WAND Network Research Group in the Computer Science department right here at the University of Waikato started the CRCnet project. CRCnet was a project to connect remote and rural communities around New Zealand to the Internet using then-new wireless technologies. Over the following years, CRCnet grew to cover a large portion of the central North Island, connecting some of the most remote schools and communities to the Internet from which they were previously completely cut off.

In 2006, Rural Link Limited was founded as a joint venture between the University and Rezare Systems to commercialise the research work done in the CRCnet project. The CRCnet project members who were employed by the Computer Science department started to split their time between the University and Rural Link, which based itself at the Waikato Innovation Park, just down the road from the University. CRCnet continues to provide rural wireless broadband service today under the no8wireless brand.

Most of the Rural Link staff were either University teaching and research staff or students. As we grew CRCnet and started to look for other opportunities, we realised that what was really lacking at the University was a cheap, easy and accessible way for students to get on the Internet.

Prior to Lightwire, there was no Internet access in many of the Halls of Residence. If a halls user wanted to use the Internet, they needed to either go to a common room with a shared computer or to a University lab. Internet access on campus required the use of the Waikato Proxy, which charged students via UniCash and only allowed Web access, so other applications such as voice chat, games, etc, weren't supported.

And so, the idea of Lightwire was born. Our vision is to provide affordable Internet access wherever you need it. We've come a long way since Lightwire was launched in 2008, but there's still plenty of scope for improvement. Lightwire started in 2008 as a subscription service in the Halls only, with users paying per month for access. We moved to a casual pre-paid top-up system in 2009, which made managing your Internet spending much easier and we also made Lightwire available across campus. In 2010, we introduced an even better pricing system where your credit doesn't expire, and we expanded Lightwire's reach even further throughout the Hamilton CBD.

Before Lightwire, casual wireless access could cost hundreds of dollars per gigabyte (seriously). Now, you can get a gigabyte of data for about ten bucks (even cheaper if you top-up more), and you can use it in the Halls, around campus, and now even when you're out and about in town.

Lightwire is still staffed by the same people who started it - a small group of students and ex University staff who recognised the demand for affordable Internet access wherever you are. As previous students, we know what it's like, so we've designed Lightwire to be as useful as possible without costing the earth or requiring contracts.

In an upcoming post we'll talk in more detail about how the physical network works and how we provide Internet access to you over it. Also we'll discuss how we hope to work with the University to improve the physical network to make sure we can deliver a great experience to all our users. We'll also try to answer some of the common questions that came up in the 2010 Lightwire Survey.

Feel free to join us on Facebook and ask questions or start a discussion.

Thanks for reading,

The Lightwire Team.

First published Monday 19th April 2010 3:33pm
Last updated Monday 19th April 2010 3:33pm

Welcome Back!

We've missed you all so much that we've decided to splash out and make off-peak data half-price!

Until the end of April, any data you use between 2am and 8am will be charged at half your current data rate.

Simple as that! Check out our pricing and don't forget to top-up either online with your credit card or at one of our resellers around campus.

First published Friday 26th February 2010 5:01pm
Last updated Friday 26th February 2010 5:01pm

You can now buy your Lightwire top-ups from Unimart - the convenience store on campus. Unimart is located at the bus stops at gate 1.

First published Thursday 17th December 2009 2:50pm
Last updated Friday 18th December 2009 8:55am

2009 was a huge year for Lightwire. We moved to a pre-paid topup card model, completely revamped the website, added a captive portal system so that normal users didn't have to set up PPPoE, expanded our network onto the University of Waikato campus Wi-Fi network, improved the Halls networks substantially over 2008, launched Lightwire in Hamilton City, met new friends on Twitter and Facebook and increased the amount of available bandwidth to our users and made sure that everyone got a fair share of it.

2010 is shaping up to be another exciting year. We're currently working hard to get Lightwire@Home ready for you when you move into your flat next year and we'll be keeping you up to date with progress over the next couple of months.

We're also changing the way our pricing plans work. We got a huge amount of feedback from the surveys we did during 2009. A huge percentage of you were happy with the Lightwire service and prices, but a common theme that kept coming up was that you didn't want your credit to expire after 30 days (or 90 days on the Twilight plan).

Well, we've listened to all your feedback and come up with something new. We're keeping the old plan names, but instead of buying gigabytes for a certain time period (e.g. 5GB for 30days) you'll now simply be putting money on your account. So, if you buy a Daylight card, your account will be credited with $10, or $30 for a Limelight card.

Additionally, your credit will not expire after 30 days! That's right - your credit will stay on your account for a whole year from the last time you topped up. As long as you topup once a year, all of your balance will remain.

So, what can you do with the money on your account now? Well, this is where things get really interesting!

When you topup, as well as adding money to your account, you get access to a special data rate for the next 30 days. The special data rate reduces the cost of every megabyte of data you use. Once the special rate expires, your credit stays but you move back onto the standard data rate. You can then choose to use the remainder of your credit at the standard data rate, or topup again to get back on a special data rate.

The more you topup and the more you use, the cheaper the data will get!

CardCreditSpecial Data Rate
Daylight$10Standard Rate (1.2c/MB)
Twilight$200.9c/MB for 30 days then 1.2c/MB
Limelight$300.6c/MB for 30 days then 1.2c/MB
Spotlight$400.5c/MB for 30 days then 1.2c/MB
Highlight$500.4c/MB for 30 days then 1.2c/MB
Floodlight$750.3c/MB for 30 days then 1.2c/MB

Our standard data rate has dropped from 1.33c/MB in 2009 to 1.2c/MB for 2010. On top of that, we're still not charging any fixed monthly costs, making Lightwire one of the cheapest ways to access the Internet in New Zealand. With our new plans, we'll make sure that we give you access to the best rate based on what topups you've added to your account recently.

The new plans will take effect from 5 January 2010. We'll be converting any remaining balance you might have to the new system on that day, and we'll post details about how we are going to do the conversion soon.

We hope you like the new plans - we've put a lot of thought into them and we think they address most of the comments people made about last year's plans. We're interested in hearing your thoughts on our new pricing scheme, so feel free to drop us a message on Twitter or Facebook and let us know what you think.