Singapore’s Wireless@SG free Wi-Fi service entered operation Friday, one month ahead of schedule, the Infocomm Development of Authority of Singapore said, adding that availability of the service will be extended to three years instead of two.

The free Wireless@SG service, conceived as a way to boost wireless Internet usage in Singapore, will run from January 2007 until December 2009, IDA said in a statement. Plans for the service were first announced in March.

Wireless@SG access is now available in 254 locations across Singapore. A list of the locations is available on the IDA’s Web site.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel), QMax Communications Pte. Ltd., and iCell Network Pte. Ltd. are the three companies selected by IDA to operate the Wireless@SG service. All three companies, which are financing the bulk of the network construction costs themselves, must meet subscriber targets set by IDA.

Once registered with one operator, users can roam between that operator’s network and those built by the other two operators.

The Wireless@SG will be offered as a two-tier service. The basic service, which is free, offers users unlimited Internet access via a 512K bps (bits per second) connection. A premium service will also be available, with operators charging a fee for faster connections.

The service is designed to cover busy urban areas across Singapore, with the total number of Wi-Fi hotspots expected to rise from around 900 today to 5,000 by September of next year, IDA said.