Sunday 30 March 2014

Easier, faster Wireless@SG log-in from 1 April 2014

Number of hot spots for free Wi-Fi access will be doubled by next year
By Kenny Chee, The Straits Times, 29 Mar 2014

AN EASIER and faster way to log into Wireless@SG, Singapore's free national Wi-Fi network, will be introduced next Tuesday.

This change is part of the Government's goal to create an overarching network for mobile gadget users to move smoothly among 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks, said the telecoms regulator, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

The free Wi-Fi will also be more widely available as the Government will double the number of hot spots to 10,000 by next year, and 20,000 by 2016.

The enhancements were cheered by users and analysts such as Ms Khin Sandi Lynn.

Having more hot spots and swifter log-in will "reduce network congestion during peak periods and major events as it would be hassle-free to log into the Wi-Fi network", said Ms Lynn, industry analyst for forecasting at market research firm ABI Research.

In short, sending and receiving information would be smoother with fewer slowdown periods.

The improvements were announced yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at an IDA exhibition at Esplanade Xchange.

Calling it timely, he said public Wi-Fi services, including Wire-less@SG, will meet the growing demand for free Wi-Fi in the wake of the pervasive use of mobile devices.

To obtain swift access on Wireless@SG, phone users just have to do a one-time log-in, using identification data already stored on their SIM cards. This can be done in seconds.

Currently, users have to create and key in user names and passwords to sign in, and this could take minutes.

With the SIM log-in method, a user entering a Wireless@SG hot spot can also automatically connect to the network after the one-time set-up is done.

From June, tourists too can enjoy the swifter Wireless@SG log-in method. But there is a slight difference. When they use their foreign phone numbers to log into Wireless@SG, a password will be sent to them via a text message.

Currently, they have to register their foreign mobile numbers, such as at an airport counter, before they can get the password to use Wireless@SG.

New hot spots are set to include train stations and industrial parks, which will bolster the list now that includes fast-food outlets, shopping malls and Changi Airport. This widespread mobile network will further help operators to offer consumers and firms those services that require information on a consumer's location, noted Dr Yaacob.

Possible applications include letting retailers find out the demographics of customers visiting their stores, should they use the new Wireless@SG log-in.

Wireless@SG offers typical Internet access speeds of 1 to 2Mbps. Speeds for 4G mobile services can be faster. SingTel's 150Mbps 4G service has typical speeds of 7.5 to 50Mbps.

Project engineer Calvin Wai, 30, is looking forward to the new log-in.

"Often, I can't remember my Wireless@SG password or the operator I'd signed up with for the network. So I've been stuck using 3G instead," he said.

How to log into the network
By Kenny Chee, The Straits Times, 29 Mar 2014

ONLY mobile devices with SIM cards, such as smartphones and tablets, can enjoy the swift new way of logging into the free national Wi-Fi network: Wireless@SG

How to set up your phone for the new log-in method:
- Go to "Settings" in the mobile device and turn on Wi-Fi.
- Select Wireless@SGx.
- Select options like "connect to network" or "modify network config".
- The final step: Select SIM.
Extra step for iPhone and iPad users:
Download a file that facilitates the log-in process from the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) website.
When connecting at a hot spot, the Wireless@SG portal will also give users the link to the IDA website. Users of laptops, older devices and some lower-end gadgets should refer to the IDA site.

For Windows phone users, an upcoming upgrade will pave the way for them to use the SIM log-in method.

Meanwhile, laptop users have to settle for the slower, existing log-in method: Create a Wireless@SG account, and key in a user name and password into a Web portal, or in the device's Wi-Fi settings.

Trial for network auto-switching to start next year
Infocomm and media masterplan to be released today for public consultation
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 31 Mar 2014

THE Government is launching a pilot project next year to test a new network meant to allow users of mobile devices to surf seamlessly with no fears of disruptions.

It hopes to get proposals by the middle of this year on how to conduct such a trial of the network, called HetNet for heterogeneous network. It will be designed to enable users to hop across 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks during disruptions or when surfing is slow on one network.

The announcement of the pilot project yesterday came three weeks after HetNet was first mooted in Parliament, and is part of the Government's long-term goal to ensure that scarce wireless spectrum is maximised to meet rising mobile data demands.

A 10-year infocommunications and media masterplan, which HetNet is part of, is being released today on the Ministry of Communications and Information's website for public consultation. The pilot scheme will look at what is needed to achieve seamless roaming without slowing down or disrupting mobile data and voice services.

While its details will be released only in the coming months, analysts said a big part of the plan - national roaming across cellular networks - may be hard to pull off as telcos have conflicting commercial interests.

Recognising the challenges, Ms Jacqueline Poh, managing director of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), said national roaming needs to be developed step by step. IDA is in talks with telcos, equipment manufacturers and institutes of higher learning to determine the technology specifications. The public will not be involved as yet.

IDA executive deputy chairman Steve Leonard said switching from network to network without service interruption "is still a major challenge". For instance, will a user in the middle of a call be able to continue the call when network switching is being done at the back end?

But the bigger hurdle is commercial interests, said analysts.

"It is difficult for telcos to justify network investments without the necessary returns. They are already pressured to upgrade their networks to meet rising mobile data demands," said Mr James Ong, principal at telecommunications consultancy Delta Partners.

The idea could work if the penalties for disruptions are increased to force operators to invest in measures, including paid national roaming, he said.

Mr Mike Ang, president of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore, said a big chunk of network resources must be left idle to take on the switching load. "Who is going to bear the cost of such redundancy? The consumer?" he asked.

SingTel and StarHub said they look forward to more information on the pilot, while M1 said it wants to take part in the trial.

StarHub also expressed concern about the commercial and legal issues, as well as those surrounding technical standards, quality of service and the circumstances under which switching should take place.

Meanwhile, cellular to Wi-Fi network hopping is already a reality here with the upgraded Wireless@SG, a free nationwide Wi-Fi network launched in 2006. Revamped last Friday, the network now automatically logs in users by detecting their 3G or 4G SIM cards.

Time credits, smart TV reminders among ideas for future
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 31 Mar 2014

A 14-MEMBER committee headed by Mr Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of private equity fund Credence Partners, is behind Singapore's new 10-year infocommunications and media masterplan.

The "Smart Nation" plan expands on the previous Intelligent Nation 2015 plan - conceived in 2005 - on IT adoption. Here are some of its highlights released for public consultation at

A final report can be expected in mid-2015.

Time banks

Helping your neighbour walk his dog or repair a leaking pipe may soon earn you "time credits", as the Government tests the idea of online time banks or exchanges.

Time banks, common in the United States and Britain, store registered individuals' time credits, earned when one does a good deed for others.

These credits are equivalent to the amount of time spent on a task, which could be things such as maths tuition and baking lessons. The credits can be used to redeem other services on the time exchange that one is part of.

The aim is to rekindle Singapore's "kampung spirit", said the 53-page consultation document. Voluntary welfare and grassroots groups will be key to the launch of such time exchanges, which are expected to have authentication and peer rating mechanisms.

Media service for next-generation seniors

Today's free-to-air TV and radio consumers are largely aged 35 and above. As they become seniors, they will need to be reached in new ways.

This could include speech and motion recognition technologies incorporated in smart TV sets to allow seniors to connect to the Web with, say, a voice command. Personal services such as reminders to take medicine could also be delivered over TV.

Above-ground boxes

Singapore plans to deploy sensors everywhere for controlling and monitoring things from street lights to traffic and surveillance cameras.

But outdoor sensors have been deployed in an ad-hoc manner by different government agencies, causing duplication and long roll-outs.

A common secure platform in the form of above-ground boxes can cut duplication and speed up sensor roll-outs.

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