Singapore gets nationwide wireless Internet

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) has launched a broadband wireless Internet service which has access points across the 740 square-kilometre city-state, the company said in a statement Thursday.

The Outdoor Wireless Surf service, which operates on the 802.11b, or WiFi, WLAN (Wireless LAN) standard will offer broadband wireless Internet access at a speed of 512K bps (bits per second) to wireless-capable notebook computers and PDAs (personal digital assistants). There are currently 100 wireless access hotspots across the country and this figure will rise to 150 by the end of the year, SingTel said.

The service is subscription-free to existing customers of the company’s SingNet ISP (Internet service provider) and SingTel Mobile and access time will be charged at S$0.20 (CDN$0.178) per minute, according to the statement.

SingTel said it launched the WLAN service following strong take-up of mobile data services on its GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network. The surf zones cover the central business district and selected locations in city suburbs, SingTel said. Favoured locations are around community centres, cafes and fast food outlets, following the location model adopted in Japan by NTT Communications Corp.

SingTel is not the first company to offer wireless Internet access in Singapore, but is offering the broadest coverage. Rival carrier StarHub Pte. Ltd. has built hotspots around the giant Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Center. Local company Bluengine has 37 outlets in shopping centres around the country, at which it provides unlimited access for S$25 per month.

On Tuesday, the Palette Group launched a WLAN access service with 16 hotspots called Yellowspots in Singapore, at a flat rate of S$49 per month. Palette plans to build a regional Yellowspots network in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia, and exchange roaming agreements with operators in the north Asia countries, Europe and America.

The first WLAN service in Singapore was launched at the country’s Changi Airport in 2001, offering free Internet access, but it is only recently that carriers have decided that WLAN is a commercial proposition countrywide.

SingTel has said it will also offer its wireless LAN infrastructure to other operators and ISPs on a wholesale basis, and will offer inbound and outbound roaming services in future.