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Free Islandwide Wifi

Singapore, one giant hotspot
Singapore takes a big step in the infocomm age with free WiFi for 2 years from January

Christie Loh
christie@mediacorp.com.sg

FROM January, the information age will have another free conduit in Singapore, which allows wireless access to the Internet from almost anywhere on the island. All a person would need is a laptop or mobile phone that can detect Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), a technology that transmits data via radio signals.

Free connectivity will first cover areas with high human traffic, such as Orchard Road and the Central Business District (CBD), before reaching thousands of other designated public areas by September next year.

This zero-dollar unlimited-usage offer will last three years, say SingTel and iCell Network, whose proposals beat six other bi dders. As for QMax Communications — the third chosen operator — it is unsure if it will offer free surfing beyond the stipulated two years. “It will depend on the market environment at that stage, as well as what the other operators are offering then,” QMax director Alex Tan told Today.

After those “free” years, access is still expected to remain “highly affordable”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, during a gala dinner to celebrate the nation’s 25 years of infocomm development.Though the free wireless initiative was greeted with widespread appreciation, telecoms analysts say that people should not ditch their broadband subscriptions as yet, as the public network may raise some security and quality issues.

The free package is for Internet access speeds of up to 512 kilobits per second (kbps), which is 10 times faster than dial-up connections, although slower than SingTel’s fixed broadband service, which can go up to 25,000kbps, and StarHub’s MaxOnline and Pacific Internet, which can reach speeds of 30,000kbps. Those craving higher speeds on the wireless networks can pay for that service, say the companies, who will reveal details in December. The free service will enable users to surf seamlessly throughout the country’s 5,000 “hotzones” regardless of the service provider. For instance, SingTel has been designated to run the WiFi network in the northern parts, including Bishan and Orchard Road. But Internet access in those areas will be open to subscribers of iCell or QMax.

However, Singaporeans should not expect to easily gain free WiFi access from their home. The hotzones are designed to cover public areas, such as HDB town centres and bus interchanges. Even if a flat falls within the wired area, the free broadband connection may not be what the user is accustomed to, said Mr Victor Liu, industry analyst of In-Stat, a market research firm. He explained that the signal strength depends on location and the number of people sharing one access point. What is more, there are limits to what WiFi can do, Mr Liu said.

“When you are moving, you can’t go online. You have to stay at a table in a coffeeshop. So you can’t expect to use WiFi to make mobile calls,” he told Today. Also, a free network may create concerns about “hackers”, said Mr Liu. Although passwords could provide some protection, workers handling sensitive information may be hesitant to log onto the public network, Mr Liu said. For this reason, he believes homes and businesses will not look to terminate their fixed broadband and mobile subscriptions once the wireless broadband service is launched.

However, Mr Liu said the long-distance call businesses of SingTel, StarHub, and MobileOne might suffer slightly. This is because the wireless operators will be offering unlimited calls over the Web, which is also known as Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP), as long as a mobile phone or laptop is WiFi-enabled. It is by offering Web-based services such as VoIP and video content that the WiFi operators are hoping to snare subscribers and make money, the three companies said at a media briefing.

The WiFi infrastructure is estimated to cost a total of $100 million, of which $30 million will be subsidised by the Government. Strategically, the infrastructure investment will reinforce Singapore as a place to do business, said telecoms consultant Mike Connors. Aside from wiring up the country, the Government will work to help certain groups of Singaporeans jump on the infocomm bandwagon, said Mr Lee. About 10,000 low-income households with schoolchildren or disabled family members will pay under $300 to get a brand new desktop computer with three years of free SingNet broadband access. In the first quarter of next year, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports will have set up an Infocomm Accessibility centre, that will provide the disabled with industry-relevant apprenticeship programmes and suitable technology tools. The elderly also have a part in the grand plans. They can attend workshops on how to use web-based applications including Instant Messaging and online mahjong, as well as new hobbies such as digital photography.

“We must create digital opportunities for all Singaporeans, and never allow a digital divide in our society,” said Mr Lee.
Singapore takes a big step in the infocomm age with free WiFi for 2 years from January

(Extracted from Today, 11 Oct 2006)

2 Responses to “Free Islandwide Wifi”

  1. Voip Calls Are Free Says:

    The VoIP 'Discount' is Free Calling…

    Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP for short, is a class of hardware and software that enables the Internet to be used by people as a medium of transmission for phone calls. VoIP is used to send voice data in packets instead of the normal POTS circui…

  2. jean Says:

    where can I find free-wifi svs in the neighbourd shopping mall or cafe (north-east area) to surf internet ?

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