Big boost for super Wi-Fi rollouts as licences not required

-- PHOTOS: GARDENS BY THE BAY, RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA, ALPHONSUS CHERN
-- PHOTOS: GARDENS BY THE BAY, RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA, ALPHONSUS CHERN

Licences not needed; 180MHz of unused TV spectrum will be made available

Surfing from Sentosa and Googling from Gardens by the Bay may soon get easier thanks to trials of "super Wi-Fi", a technology which received a timely new boost last night.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced that licences will not be required for setting up super Wi-Fi links - as some in the industry had feared would be the case.

Singapore is following the likes of the United States and Britain in pioneering the technology, with Dr Yaacob adding that an estimated 180MHz of unused TV spectrum will be made available for its use.

Housing Board estates are also trialling super Wi-Fi, which aims to provide wireless broadband in hard-to-reach areas and ease the crunch on 3G mobile networks.

It works by taking advantage of unused television broadcasting airwaves called "white spaces".

Its signals can travel farther than Wi-Fi or 3G equivalents and penetrate more walls and obstacles. This means there is no need to install as many base stations - which transmit and receive signals from users' wireless devices within a defined radius - resulting in time and cost savings.

At Gardens by the Bay, super Wi-Fi technology is used to connect users of the free Wireless@SG service to the Internet. Before the trial started last October, Wi-Fi could not be set up there because the number of base stations and antennae required would have spoilt the park's natural look.

Dr Yaacob said last night that super Wi-Fi would help telecom regulators to "meet the demand for greater connectivity".

He was speaking at the Ministerial Forum welcome dinner at the National Design Centre, which precedes the week-long Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) infocomm trade show at Marina Bay Sands, starting today.

A group including StarHub, Microsoft and the Institute for Infocomm Research is involved in the current trial. It backed the Infocomm Development Authority's decision, saying it would help the development of super Wi-Fi, which could eventually access even more remote areas such as beaches and bodies of water.

"It will provide wider access to wireless broadband," said Mr Jeffery Yan, technology policy director at Microsoft.

The Orchard Road Business Association is also interested in testing super Wi-Fi.

Its executive director Steven Goh said: "The hundreds of millions of yearly visitors to Orchard Road could download shop promotions or coupons without turning on their 3G connections which are expensive."

itham@sph.com.sg

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