Duncan is a freelance writer, avid rock climber, and frequent meanderer. When he isn't getting lost he's writing about it.
Published October 1st 2012
For those times when you desperately need to send an email or just check facebook free wi-fi can be more than a lifesaver, it can be a way around having to use 3g (or 4g) on your phone. In Adelaide's CBD it's not hard to find free wi-fi, there are a surprisingly large number around the place. The problem is that's no guarantee of quality. So, with my trusty android phone I went around to test a few of these places to find out which is the best.
Wi-fi is very common amongst coffee houses these days. Gloria Jean's Coffees and Hudson's both have wi-fi, to name a few. The thing with small businesses is that it can be difficult to tell whether it has free internet or not. More than once I found myself wandering around with my phone trying to work out which shop was broadcasting.
In the end these can be the least reliable of the list. Whilst there may be some gems here and there they can be hard to find and often they have unreliable connections. For the most part places like these favour Internode. These have fast become the largest providers of free wi-fi. Their connections require no login, which is a bonus, but if you don't know where the source is you will usually be working with a sub-par connection that drops in and out.
The best connection I could find was in the Rundle Mall Plaza (the one with JB Hi-Fi and the Next Byte Apple Store). Standing in the plaza, outside of the Apple store, I found was the best location.
Fast food restaurants were hit-and-miss. Fortunately the results were consistent between the stores of each franchise, meaning that if one franchise was good the rest of their stores were, too. So let's start with the big one first, McDonald's. Sadly being one of the most popular fast food outlets did not mean that their wi-fi was the best.
To start with there was a login page where the user agreed to their terms and conditions. Whilst this may not have troubled me it does put constraints on what you can and cannot browse, and it simply slows down the whole process. I was then able to connect to the internet and load a few pages at a reasonable pace. Once I went to test the speed the problems became apparent. Some apps (maybe all) could not connect to the internet. Whether this was a restriction of the net or just a shortcoming of the connection was unclear, but those wishing to use apps at Maccas may be disappointed.
Hungry Jack's had one of the best connections. Though it also had a login screen it had an excellent connection speed and no restrictions on apps.
Download Speed: 1030kbps
Upload Speed: 800kbps
1. Food Courts
The best part about food courts was that there were usually multiple outlets for free wi-fi. David Jones' food court was the exception. I found only one outlet for internet. The speed test showed that it was one of the better connections but it did drop in and out a great deal so it wasn't perfect.
The real shining star, and my choice for the best wi-fi location in Adelaide, was the City Cross food court. There were the most choices for free wi-fi of anywhere I'd been and it had the fastest connection, located at the KFC near the Grenfell St entrance. Not only did that KFC have the best speed results of any other place I'd tested, it also gave the user a little bonus when they logged in, in the form of a store coupon. Nothing huge but it's the little things that make the difference.
As an important note these results will always vary depending on the device you use. I actually brought an iPad 2 along, intending to use it as the primary test device, but as it happened very few of the providers worked with it.
To find out where Internode free wi-fi hotspots are located you can use their handy website.