Singapore looks to extend free public Wi-Fi

Government calls for proposals from industry players to explore the feasibility of extending the country's free public Wi-Fi service, Wireless@SG, until 2017.

SINGAPORE--The government has issued a call for collaboration (CFC) to deploy the next phase of Wireless@SG, with the aim to extend the free public Wi-Fi service until 2017.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong said the CFC, led by Singapore's ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), will look at proposals from industry players and explore the feasibility of extending the Wireless@SG initiative .

"We are becoming a highly-connected society with mobile applications increasingly integrated into our lives. Since 2006, there are 7,500 Wireless@SG hotspots and 2.1 million subscribers, with 25.2 usage hours per user per month," said Wong, during his opening address Thursday night at the Singapore IT Federation (SITF) 30th anniversary and awards ceremony.

"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 said.

Launched in 2006  as part of Singapore's Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) masterplan, the government-funded Wireless@SG initiative offers local residents free wireless broadband access in various locations across the island. A second phase was deployed in June 2009 to include the delivery of services and apps for consumers and businesses, and access speed doubled to 1Mbps later that year.

In February 2010, the initiative was further expanded to include hotspots marked Wireless@SGx , where users connect to the network via Seamless Secured Access (SSA) which adds an authentication layer during the login process. This facilitates the delivery of location-based services and apps over the wireless network. 

The new CFC invites operators and services to work with IDA and other partners to deploy the next phase of Wireless@SG, slated for rollout between 2013 and 2017. According to the ICT regulator, this next development stage is necessary with the increasing use of Wi-Fi which uses unlicensed shared spectrum.

IDA said: "A fragmented Wi-Fi landscape with uncoordinated and possibly competing Wi-Fi deployments will likely lead to potential interference, network congestion and ultimately degradation of experience for the public."

Proposals submitted will need to meet the requirements laid out by the regulator, including:
•  provide free basic Wi-Fi services for the general public at a typical speed of 1Mbps until 2017, as well as highlight ways to increase this speed to 2Mbps and above; and
•  enhance registration and login process through the deployment of an interoperable SIM-based authentication system by Apr. 1, 2014, and develop SSA enablers for non SIM-based authentication.

IDA said proposals submitted should aim to provide an efficient use of unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, an inter-roaming platform for users to tap multiple Wi-Fi networks as well as a "cost-effective" platform to drive enterprise adoption of wireless services.

Proposals should be submitted by Oct. 25 this year, where those selected will be announced sometime in February or March 2013.

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