Free Wi-Fi in works at Honolulu Airport — The existing contract for service at the facility ends in April

Passengers waiting for flights at Hawaii’s largest airport could have access to free Wi-Fi by the end of the year — if state transportation officials can make it happen.

Currently, visitors to Hono­lulu Airport can access Wi-Fi to surf the Internet by paying $6.95 for two hours or $8.95 for 24 hours under the state Department of Transportation’s contract with Oahu-based Wi-Fi service provider Shaka Net. Visitors can also pay $24.95 for a full month of Wi-Fi service there, according to the airport website.

That contract with Shaka Net ends in April. Once it expires, the state can pursue a free service to be used by a lot more passengers waiting for their flights, DOT Director Ford Fuchi­gami said recently.

However, any company willing to provide that service would first have to install an expensive new antenna at the airport to accommodate more Internet use, Fuchi­gami added, so that the Wi-Fi service doesn’t slow to a standstill from the new demand.

Fuchigami, who served as the deputy director for airports before becoming DOT director, said he’s wanted to get free Wi-Fi at Hono­lulu for several years now.

Such a move would bring Hawaii’s main air hub in line with many of the major airports across the globe. In 2013 the website Airfarewatchdog listed 52 major airports around the U.S., plus airports in 30 other countries, and whether they offered passengers free Wi-Fi.

The group found that 36 of those U.S. airports provided some free Wi-Fi for at least a limited time. Additionally, 26 of the airports outside the U.S. offered some level of free Wi-Fi to airport customers.

Honolulu Airport is the only one in Hawaii to offer Wi-Fi service, although there are special Internet kiosks at Kahu­lui Airport on Maui, DOT officials say.

The time limits for free Wi-Fi at Hono­lulu once it becomes available haven’t been determined yet, DOT officials say.

Companies would indeed be willing to spend to install the multimillion-dollar antenna needed at Hono­lulu Airport to provide the free, stronger Wi-Fi service there, Fuchi­gami said. They could then lease space on that antenna to other communications companies.

Once the new equipment is installed, the Wi-Fi would be free up to certain speeds. Users could use the free service to send texts and surf the Internet but not to stream movies or other tasks that require a lot of Internet capacity, said Ross Higa­shi, deputy director for DOT’s Airports Division.

The state plans to issue requests for proposals from interested companies in the next several months, Higa­shi added.

To check out Airfarewatchdog’s airport Wi-Fi list, visit goo.gl/cY8PFR.

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