Free Wi-Fi access in Chinatown soon

A street at Chinatown.

SINGAPORE - Visitors to Chinatown will soon be able to get free Wi-Fi access while navigating its streets.

A free network will be implemented on March 28, covering five areas of the popular tourist spot: Smith Street, Trengganu Street, Pagoda Street, Sago Street and Kreta Ayer Square.

Operated by SingTel, it will run at the speed of 360Mbps and be able to accommodate up to 2,000 wireless devices at any one point.

As well as being able to surf the Internet, visitors who log in can also access a map of Chinatown that highlights popular landmarks and places of interest such as the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Chinatown Food Street.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Chinatown Business Association (CBA) and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

"Visitors today are increasingly digital-savvy and often plan their itineraries on the move," said CBA executive director James Ong. "Having easy access to online travel sources via the free Wi-Fi network will enable visitors to discover hidden gems and deepen their understanding of Chinatown and its colourful heritage."

The manager of Sago Street dried goods store Hu Zhen Long Foodstuff Trading, Mr Roy Aw, 49, welcomed the idea. "If tourists want to look for the location of my shop, they can use the Wi-Fi to help them," he said.

The initiative is not related to the Wireless@SG programme which provides free Wi-Fi access in public places. This was rolled out in 2006 by the Infocomm Development Authority to accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband

In conjunction with the launch, STB will organise an event on the March 28 to 30 weekend to solicit ideas for a digital programme or application that can "bring alive the stories and heritage of Chinatown".

The event, called Chinatown coLAB 2014, aims to bring together some 100 participants from various backgrounds, including software developers, urban planners and students.

Participants will get to tour Chinatown and attend talks on topics such as the precinct's heritage and urban design. They will also be given access to visitor data to help them develop their concepts.

Teams will present their prototypes to a panel of judges on March 30 and the winning concepts may be developed into digital applications or Web-based solutions.

"We hope to have new ideas on how to leverage technology to augment the storytelling aspects of Chinatown," said Mr Poh Chi Chuan, STB's director of cultural precincts and tourism concept development.

"This will suit the needs of the increasingly tech-savvy and sophisticated group of visitors whom we now see in Singapore."

Registration for Chinatown coLAB is open from now until March 28.

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