Monday, December 04, 2006

Internet war heats up in Singapore as free Internet access begins

Singapore will extend its plan to provide free wireless high-speed Internet access to three years from two as part of government efforts to raise the city-state's competitiveness and increase technology exports.

Access in areas known as Wi-Fi hotspots will be provided from Dec. 1, one month ahead of schedule, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore said in a statement. Users can connect to the Internet at speeds as fast as 512 kilobits per second at these hotspots, which will number 5,000 by September, from 900 at present, the regulator said.

The Wireless@SG service is part of Singapore's plan to improve its technology infrastructure and boost competitiveness against countries in the region. The government forecasts technology-related exports to rise threefold and 80,000 jobs to be created in that industry within the next 10 years under its Intelligent Nation 2015 plan.

SingTel, Southeast Asia's largest telephone company, iCell and Qmax will invest in and operate the wireless network. They are jointly spending about S$100 million ($65 million), while the government is contributing as much as S$30 million.

SingTel and iCell will also offer Wi-Fi Internet access of as fast as 1 megabit per second for S$9.90 a month. An average song takes about 40 seconds to download at 1 Mbps.

That's cheaper than planned services from MobileOne, the smallest of Singapore's three mobile-phone companies. MobileOne yesterday said it will offer wireless high-speed Internet access for S$22 to S$68 per month from Dec. 6. The company will use high-speed downlink packet access, or HSDPA, to offer the nationwide services, rather than relying on hotspots.

"Our tariff plans for the M1 broadband service are very competitive, given that we provide islandwide coverage, with speeds of up to 3.6 megabits per second," MobileOne spokesman Chua Swee Kiat said in an e-mailed statement.

With 4000 more hotspots expected by September 2007, accessibility to the internet is getting easier. How much of an impact would the Wireless@SG service have on home users? How low will Starhub and MobileOne have to set their internet rates to retain their customers?
What do your think?