New network to be tested at MRT stations to allow seamless surfing

Trials for a new network that will allow commuters to surf seamlessly at up to 1Gbps with no fears of disruptions will begin at MRT stations early next year. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Trials for a new network that will allow commuters to surf seamlessly at up to 1Gbps with no fears of disruptions will begin at MRT stations early next year. -- ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - The authorities will test a new network early next year at MRT stations to allow commuters to surf seamlessly at up to 1Gbps with no fears of disruptions.

Called HetNet for heterogeneous network, it will be designed to enable users to hop across 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks during disruptions or when surfing is slow on one network.

This has come after five months of consultation with 570 companies and individuals on the idea, which is part of a 10-year infocommunications and media masterplan that will take Singapore through 2025. Details of the concluded consultation were released Tuesday on the Ministry of Communications and Information's (MCI) website.

The MRT train stations for the Hetnet trial have not been disclosed. But the Land Transport Authority had said that 32 MRT stations across the MRT network would offer free Wi-Fi by the end of next year.

HetNet, first mooted in Parliament in March, was met with some resistance during focus group discussions and in online surveys.

Some respondents cited commercial issues. For one, mobile operators will need to build larger networks to cater to subscribers roaming from other networks, resulting in higher operational costs, said MCI. There is also the question of who takes responsibility when quality of service issues arise.

But in general, respondents agreed that user experience would improve with HetNet, which is part of the Government's long-term goal to ensure that scarce wireless spectrum is maximised to meet rising mobile data demands.

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

Computational thinking is also among the 13 ideas proposed in the masterplan, developed by a 14-member committee headed by Mr Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of private equity fund Credence.

Some respondents suggested incorporating computing and coding in the national curriculum like in Britain, which started doing so in September this year for children aged five and above.

The original proposed idea is for coding to be introduced only via enrichment programmes, competitions and infocommunication clubs to teach fundamental programming concepts.