SINGAPORE: From 1st December, everyone in Singapore can enjoy free wireless access at public areas islandwide.
Not only does this come a month ahead of schedule, the offer has also been extended for three years, one year longer than announced previously.
Surf for free online from laptops, PDAs or mobile phones at downtown areas, major town centres, libraries, country clubs and shopping malls.
There are now 900 hotspots to tap on – courtesy of the three operators – iCELL network, QMax Communications and SingTel.
And the number looks set to grow progressively to 5000 by September next year.
50,000 users are currently using such hotspots, and the Infocomm Development Authority hopes to see a five-fold increase in two years.
One just needs to sign up with any of the three operators online or face-to-face to get an account to roam freely across the different networks islandwide.
The registration process has been made simple for those who are not tech-savvy.
Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, says: "All they need to know is their mobile number, enter it and they will be signed up.
"Getting the operators to accept signups using a mobile phone was very important because not just Singaporeans can do that but foreigners can also similarly do that."
To register, log on to the website of any of these three operators - QMax Communications, iCELL network and SingTel.
Once the online registration form is completed, a password will be sent via SMS to the user's mobile phone.
The three operators are all geared up for the launch of the Wireless@SG network, each targeting at least 100,000 users in the first year.
Alex Tan, Director of QMax Communications, says: "All three operators are actually working very closely together to make sure the operation moves on smoothly.
"I would expect that there might be hiccups here and there, and we encourage users, subscribers to feedback to each of the operators. We meet almost on a weekly basis to resolve subscriber issues."
As to how the operators plan to stay commercially viable while providing free WIFI service for three years, Terence Lai, Director of Wireless Broadband at SingTel, says: "The three operators will come together to push WIFI as a wireless broadband to a lot of consumers. Get them used to using WIFI, but with premium services, we will be selling our services like Voice over IP, the advertisements or broadband TV.
"Individual operators have their own services - that will be the competition pushing to the end-user."
Users of the Wireless@SG network will enjoy basic-tier access with surfing speeds of up to 512 kilobits per second (kbps).
But you will have to pay for premium services like higher access speeds and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol or VoIP. - CNA/so