Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Communications and Information

Wireless@SG: 5Mbps speed by year end

Surfing speeds on Singapore's free public Wi-Fi service Wireless@SG will be more than doubled to 5Mbps by the end of this year.
Surfing speeds on Singapore's free public Wi-Fi service Wireless@SG will be more than doubled to 5Mbps by the end of this year.PHOTO: ST FILE

Number of hot spots to be doubled to 20,000 by 2018

Surfing speeds on Singapore's free public Wi-Fi service Wireless@SG will be more than doubled to 5Mbps by the end of this year, as the Government sees the network as a key enabler of Singapore's Smart Nation vision.

The number of Wireless@SG hot spots will also be doubled to 20,000 by 2018 to better complement telcos' 4G networks in meeting consumers' rising demand for mobile broadband.

"We must build first-class infrastructure for pervasive, seamless and high-speed connectivity to benefit citizens and businesses," Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said, in announcing the upgrades in Parliament yesterday.

At 5Mbps, the new Wireless@SG will be slightly faster than the average 3G connection in Singapore. The Infocomm Development Authority found that median 3G download speeds reached 4Mbps from July to December last year.

But median 4G download speeds are four to five times faster, ranging from 16.7 Mbps to 18.6 Mbps.

  • $1.2 billion

    Total bill; same as last year. 5 Surfing speed of Wireless@SG hot spots by the end of the year, in Mbps.

    30,000

    Number of new jobs in software coding, data analytics and cyber security, among others, expected by 2020.

    31.8 million

    Books borrowed from public libraries last year.

Some MPs had asked if there were plans to improve the surfing speeds of Wireless@SG, with Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) saying: "Today's...speeds are slower in performance than what our 4G mobile networks provide."

Addressing this, Dr Janil said that Wireless@SG's current speed is already faster than most public Wi-Fi services around the world. But because demand is increasing, there is a need to boost current speeds.

Singapore will also have the highest hot spot density in the world, calculated by the number of hot spots per inhabitant. Currently, it trails only Tokyo.

"But it is not the connectivity that makes us smart; it is what we do with it," said Dr Janil. "Operators can also use Wireless@SG to offer improved services such as cashless payment and location-based analytics. All this benefits consumers, businesses, and productivity."

One group of beneficiaries is low-income users. The idea is to allow Wireless@SG to complement existing efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Coverage expansion will target congested places such as hospitals, government buildings and community centres so more people can connect to the network without surfing slowdowns, a common bugbear.

More public places such as hawker centres, train stations and retail malls will also be added to the list of Wireless@SG zones.

About half of the existing 10,000 hot spots, at the current 3,000 locations, already allow users to surf at up to 5Mbps, from 2Mbps before. Speeds at the remaining hot spots will be upgraded by the year end.

As at December last year, there were two million frequent users on the network, clocking 10 million hours a month. Every month, they also consume 1.1 petabytes, or 11 per cent of what mobile users consume monthly on 4G and 3G networks.

This has come after the network was last upgraded in April 2014. Specifically, the log-in process was simplified using identification data already stored on users' SIM cards.

After a one-time set-up is done, Wireless@SG users can automatically connect to the network in seconds if Wi-Fi is turned on in their devices. Previously, users need to create and key in their username and password. To date, more than 90 per cent of all Wireless@SG users log in via this simplified method.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Wireless@SG: 5Mbps speed by year end '. Print Edition | Subscribe