Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Telecom launches free wi-fi in popular holiday spots

This summer there will be over 100 free wireless hotspots to connect to, at holiday destinations across the country. Photo / Thinkstock
This summer there will be over 100 free wireless hotspots to connect to, at holiday destinations across the country. Photo / Thinkstock

Free Wi-Fi at popular holiday spots this summer will make it easier than ever to share your holiday snaps - but experts warn it could be bad news for workaholics and smartphone addicts.

Telecom today launched more than 100 free wireless hotspots at holiday destinations throughout New Zealand, including some of the most-visited beaches in Auckland, Northland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

Communications experts say it will bring connectivity to traditional blackspots and make it easier for families to stay in touch over the Christmas break.

But they also warn compulsive workaholics will find it more difficult than ever to avoid checking in with the office or sending work emails.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said there had been an "alarming" trend of people working through their breaks since smartphones took off.

"It is a big concern, I think. You really do need to decompress and get away from it all, and working from home and being remote and mobile should not mean that you are always at work," Mr Brislen said.

"I encourage people to actually have a holiday when they're on holiday - you've got to have some kind of work-life balance."

Teenagers addicted to Facebook and Twitter should also try to switch off their smartphones and enjoy their surroundings.

"If you're in a place of natural beauty -like we are hopefully over summer, with some gorgeous weather - then make the most of it. Get out and go kayaking or go for a walk or just walk the dog - it doesn't matter, just get out and about."

Auckland University business connectivity expert Darl Kolb said the hotspots would be welcomed because people often complained about the lack of free Wi-Fi around New Zealand.

But while some workers liked to check everything was ticking along back at the office, the constant connectivity might be a source of anxiety for others.

Dr Kolb said it all came down to individual choice and willpower.

"Just because you have a smartphone and you're sitting in a cafe near the beach, doesn't mean you necessarily have to hook into work emails."

He said the temptation was always there - and some people would struggle more than others.

"Some people, you can't pry the phone out of their hand ... The freedom of these devices is only as good as our ability to make choices."

Dr Kolb said most employers would not expect their staff to check work emails over the break.

"Here in New Zealand we still have a very strong, fairly unified culture around the sanctity of summer holidays," he said.

Telecom is offering the free Wi-Fi service from transmitters installed in telephone boxes, surf clubs and local shops.

To connect, users will need a mobile number with any New Zealand provider. After completing a short online registration process, devices will connect automatically.

In Auckland, hotspots have been installed at some of the region's most frequented beaches, including Muriwai, Piha, Omaha and Orewa.

Other popular North Island holiday spots include Russell and Paihia in the Bay of Islands, Whitianga, Pauanui and Whangamata in Coromandel, Mt Maunganui, Waihi Beach and Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty, and popular Waikato surf beach Raglan.

Telecom has also installed hotspots at top South Island holiday locations including Queenstown, Wanaka, Hanmer Springs, Nelson and Motueka.

Telecom mobile general manager Ed Hyde said the free Wi-Fi would help people stay connected with friends across the country.

"There's nothing like sharing your summer experience with loved ones even if you can't be together," he said.

"Whether it's searching for a nearby cafe, uploading a few holiday snaps to your Facebook page, or, in my case, checking work emails, Kiwis and visitors can get online for free without having to leave their deckchair."

HOW TO SWITCH OFF ON HOLIDAY:

* Keep separate email addresses for work and personal use
* Consider a second phone so the temptation isn't there
* Try not to check your phone constantly - it will get easier after a couple of days
* If you lack the willpower, just leave your phone charger at home
* Or consider a campsite with no cellphone reception at all

Sources: Paul Brislen, Dr Darl Kolb

- APNZ

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