HetNet trial at MRT stations for seamless speed surfing

A NEW network will go on trial early next year at MRT stations to allow commuters to surf seamlessly at speeds of up to 1Gbps, with no fears of disruptions.

HetNet - short for heterogeneous network - enables users to hop across 3G, 4G or WiFi networks, regardless of who operates them, during disruptions or when surfing is slow on one network.

Five months of consultation have been carried out with 570 companies and individuals on the idea, which is part of a 10-year infocommunications and media masterplan that will take Singapore through to 2025.

Details of the concluded consultation were released yesterday on the Ministry of Communications and Information's (MCI) website. The MRT train stations for the HetNet trial have not been disclosed.

However the Land Transport Authority has said that 32 stations across the entire MRT system will offer free WiFi by the end of next year.

IT consultant Nigel Tan, 28, is looking forward to the commercial availability of HetNet, but is concerned that his mobile phone bill might increase.

"Public WiFi networks are very slow and can hardly provide back-up in the event of a mobile disruption," he said.

HetNet, first mooted in Parliament in March, received some resistance during the consultation as some respondents cited commercial issues.

For one thing, mobile operators will need to build larger networks to cater to subscribers roaming from other networks, resulting in higher operational costs, the MCI said.

There is also the question of who takes responsibility for quality of service issues.

HetNet is part of the Government's long-term goal to ensure that the little wireless spectrum available is maximised to meet rising mobile data demands.

Singapore could be among the first countries to adopt HetNet after Holland, which rolled out the system following a 2012 disruption of operator Vodafone's mobile services which affected about a quarter of its five million users for several days.

Also included in the masterplan is the idea of home-based health care using sensors that, for example, could allow patients with chronic diseases to monitor their conditions and receive doctors' attention when needed.

Some respondents to the consultation were concerned that privacy would be breached if the health data is shared with the likes of insurance firms.

Other ideas discussed include teaching young children computing concepts.