Free Wi-Fi network to be piloted on Mindef, SAF premises

Personnel at eight locations will get service that taps Wireless@SGx by first half of 2021

Stagmont Camp (left) is among the eight military sites that will get free Wi-Fi access under the pilot programme which taps the Wireless@SGx network. While Ministry of Defence and Singapore Armed Forces premises are equipped with Wi-Fi networks for i
Stagmont Camp (left) is among the eight military sites that will get free Wi-Fi access under the pilot programme which taps the Wireless@SGx network. While Ministry of Defence and Singapore Armed Forces premises are equipped with Wi-Fi networks for internal use, most of them are currently not equipped with freely accessible Wi-Fi networks. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Servicemen training at eight military sites will soon get free Wi-Fi access under a pilot programme that taps the Wireless @ SGx network, which has thousands of hot spots across Singapore.

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, a Ministry of Defence (Mindef) spokesman said the eight Mindef and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) sites will have access to the network by the first half of next year.

The sites are: Air Force Training Command, Central Manpower Base, Changi Naval Base, Hillview Camp, Jurong Camp II, Kranji Camp II, the Ministry of Defence building and Stagmont Camp.

The service will progressively be rolled out to other premises and camps in the next few years after the pilot trials, added the spokesman.

Wireless @ SGx is the updated version of Wireless @ SG, a free public Wi-Fi programme introduced in 2006 that has most of its hot spots in public areas with high footfalls, including hawker centres, community centres and libraries.

ST reported that there were more than 20,000 such hot spots in 2018, with minimum surfing speeds of 5Mbps, although average surfing speeds were over 30Mbps, depending on user density in a given area.

The Mindef spokesman said that by scaling up wireless broadband access, connectivity will be enhanced and digitalisation initiatives such as Smart Camps and Smart Airbases will be supported.

"Full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen will also be able to access the free wireless network for e-learning and personal administration," he said.

Wireless @ SG will be separated from Mindef and SAF's internal networks for cyber and data security, he added.

While Mindef and SAF premises are equipped with Wi-Fi networks for internal use, most of them are currently not equipped with freely accessible Wi-Fi networks such as Wireless @ SG.

Since 2016, camera-enabled mobile phones, laptops and tablets have been allowed for use in parts of SAF camps, called Green Zones. No camera-enabled devices are allowed in other areas, called Red Zones.

Unauthorised photography and videography remain prohibited in both zones.

Smart Camps, unveiled in 2018, aims to improve operational efficiency and enhance the experience of national servicemen - such as with a mobile app that allows servicemen to have access to camp, unit and training information on the move.

The Smart Airbases concept, also announced in 2018, aims to have the base command post be better networked to all airbase systems. It will utilise more automation and unmanned systems in areas such as aircraft inspection and maintenance.

When asked to comment on this development, cyber-security firm Group-IB's Singapore-based senior threat intelligence analyst Shawn Tay said all wireless networks carry some cyber-security risks.

"The main risk lies in the fact that adversaries may try to get access to the router to initiate man-in-the-middle attacks that can enable hackers to read encrypted data exchanged between users who are connected to the router," he said.

But the updated Wireless @ SGx network rolled out in 2014 has boosted security, he noted.

This network installs a digital certificate on the user device via a certificate call as a security measure.

By early next year, Wireless @ SGx is expected to become the only network available, Mr Tay said.

He said that if the Wireless @ SGx certificate is unique to each user, it is far more secure. This allows a malicious user to be pin-pointed and have its certificate revoked.

"In addition, by having the registration details, the authorities can quickly identify the suspect - as they already have information such as the phone number."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2020, with the headline 'Free Wi-Fi network to be piloted on Mindef, SAF premises'. Subscribe