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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Wireless@SG surfing speed to be doubled

Smartphone and tablet users will have their surfing speeds doubled on the country's free public Wi-Fi system under new government plans.
The Straits Times - August 31, 2012
By: Irene Tham
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Wireless@SG surfing speed to be doubled

SMARTPHONE and tablet users will have their surfing speeds doubled on the country's free public Wi-Fi system under new government plans.

They will also be able to access the network, known as Wireless@SG, without having to sign in. This means that if they find themselves stuck with slow surfing on their 3G smartphones, they can easily switch to Wi-Fi for a faster connection.

The plans were announced yesterday by Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong.

"Given our high wireless broadband penetration and many sophisticated users, we envisage a continued increase in the use of Wi-Fi to access the Internet and services," he told an event at Marina Bay Sands.

At the moment, surfing speeds on Wireless@SG are capped at 1Mbps. The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) wants to at least double this. It is also looking at a new system that automatically recognises users by the identification details in their 3G SIM cards without requiring registration and signing in.

Mr Foong King Yew, research vice-president for communications at technology advisory firm Gartner, said these upgrades are necessary if Wireless@SG wants to become a substitute for 3G.

But he added that because the basic service is free, it might not provide enough revenue to pay for continuous improvements to its capacity and network.

Ms Mar Pages, principal at telecommunications consultancy firm Delta Partners, said upgrades to Wireless@SG were much needed in the light of recent moves by Singapore's telcos to limit the amount of data that customers can use.

SingTel and StarHub have announced plans to cut the free 3G mobile data cap from 12GB to as low as 1GB.

"This could make customers more conscious of free Wi-Fi alternatives," said Ms Pages.

Wireless@SG was launched six years ago and has 7,500 hot spots islandwide. More than two million people subscribe, with each staying on the network for an average of 25 hours a month.

At present, the service is run by SingTel, M1 and iCell Network. But the authority is asking all telcos that are keen to operate it from next year to submit proposals by Oct 25. It expects to award a contract to at least one of them by early next year.

M1 and iCell said that they are interested in making proposals - as is StarHub, which currently runs its own Wi-Fi systems at selected areas such as Changi Airport and Singapore Expo.

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