Steps to ensure quality of public Wi-Fi

WITH more malls and retailers rolling out free Wi-Fi services to woo shoppers, the Government wants to ensure that this development does not affect the quality of public Wi-Fi services, including its own Wireless@SG.

A preliminary survey by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has shown that the proliferation of Wi-Fi access is largely uncoordinated, which may disrupt or slow down Web surfing on these networks.

This happens when several Wi-Fi hot spots overlap and their signals interfere with one another. Slowness may also occur when the specific radiowaves for carrying Wi-Fi signals are overused.

IDA has appointed Singapore-based communications equipment maker Nera Telecommunications to look into the matter. Specifically, the authority wants to examine how such interferences may affect the quality of services provided by the government-funded Wireless@SG that was introduced six years ago.

It has more than two million subscribers, with each staying on the network for an average of 25 hours a month.

"With the increased demand for Wi-Fi from both consumers and businesses, IDA observed a surge in the deployment of Wi-Fi hot spots... indoors such as commercial shopping malls," said the IDA in documents seen by The Straits Times.

The authority also wants to draw up guidelines for all public Wi-Fi operators to rein in stray signals. It did not name the malls where interferences were spotted.

The Straits Times reported in July that some mall operators had rolled out their own free public Wi-Fi networks though they also have tenants that offer Wireless@SG access.

These shopping venues include Singapore Press Holdings' Paragon Shopping Centre and UOL Group's United Square and Velocity@Novena Square.

Other landlords like CapitaMalls Asia, Far East Organization and AsiaMalls Management work with Wireless@SG operators - iCell Network, SingTel and M1 - to provide Wi-Fi links mallwide.

Wireless@SG is available at about 1,200 venues in total, including hospitals and museums.

Events project consultant Roy Nahar, 31, said he used to have only one choice for Wi-Fi access - Wireless@SG - on his smartphone at his top haunt, Plaza Singapura. Now, the list has ballooned. "I have to scroll down to view the complete list of wireless networks available, some of which are open to the public and some not."

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