Philippines gets first city-wide wireless deployment

Aside from housing the former Philippine Army headquarters and the rapidly developing major business hub Fort Bonifacio, the city of Taguig is also looking forward to becoming the first local government unit in the Philippines to transform its whole city into a wireless access zone via Wi-Fi or WiMax technology.

“We’re really striving to make information available and very accessible to the people through technology,” said Taguig mayor Sigfrido Tinga in a press briefing during the COMDDAP 2005 EXPO held at Fort Bonifacio.

The initiative puts the city on a virtual race with Manila, which has also unveiled similar plans to install wireless hotspots throughout the city.

Before entering politics, the tech-savvy Tinga worked as a senior project analyst with Siemens-Nixdorf and was co-founder and former managing director of IT firm K2 Interactive.

Tinga explained that the actual rollout of the project is expected to commence next year. He pointed out that several parts of the city such as The Fort are already Wi-Fi ready.

For the whole city, however, the mayor said he is eyeing to install newer WiMax technology since its wireless connection can range up to 30 miles compared with Wi-Fi, which has a maximum range of 60 kilometres.

“We think we can put up at least five to six WiMax nodes since Taguig is not that big,” said Tinga.

According to Tinga, the effort to transform the city into a big wireless hotspot was an offshoot of the city’s recent effort to equip the students and faculty members of Taguig Science High School with greater information through technology.

The city is currently under negotiations with Apple Computers to provide the notebook computers to be used by the students and faculty.

“The city wants to come up with a wireless system which school children can log on to and they can study online from there. They can go to school only thrice a week and free up more facilities and space in order to accommodate more students,” explained Tinga. “It may seem hypothetical but I know that it can be implemented.”

The project is expected to benefit around 90,000 elementary and high school students, plus some 20,000 play-school students.

While the Taguig city government has allocated an estimated P10 million (US$183,000) for the wireless initiative, Tinga noted that the future operating costs is currently one of their major concerns.

“It’s not the IT infrastructure that’s bothering us but the operating cost. Right now, we’re trying to come up with a plan on how to sustain it once we roll out the project.”

The city is also planning to tap other emerging technologies such as Voice over IP or Internet telephony once it efficiently starts deploying wireless broadband access. When implemented, the wireless projects will be part of Taguig’s 20/20 Vision strategy to bring the local government closer to its people.

“We want our people to be able to leverage on the value of information technology. If they can transact matters or requirements with the government over the Internet, then that would save them a lot of money and effort,” said Tinga.

Tinga has also offered Computer Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Association of the Philippines (COMDDAP), the country’s largest association of IT dealers and distributors, a permanent space to house their exhibit which will serve as its home and venue for annual expos and gatherings.

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