SINGAPORE: You may no longer have to stay indoors to get access to WiFi. Under a pilot initiative to be launched in Sentosa, Singapore could soon get free WiFi outdoors, powered by solar energy.
The Green WiFi pilot will see Wireless@SG coverage extended to the outdoor area along the Merlion Walk, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) on Tuesday (May 31).
The initiative, which will be launched in June and end in September 2017.
While there are already more than 200 hotspots outdoors in Sentosa, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) decided to explore solar energy to deliver outdoor Wi-Fi in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.
It has partnered Sentosa Development Corp, local telco M1, Hewlett Packard subsidiary Aruba Networks and local technology firm Skylab to introduce the solar-powered hotspot.
Traditionally, installing outdoor hotspots requires extensive digging and laying of cables. In switching to solar power, IDA believes it will cut construction costs as well as speed up implementation.
Said Mr Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of IDA: "We see that deployment has been significantly faster. So we are quite pleased with the speed of deployment."
Dr Yaacob said: "If this pilot is successful, we could potentially expand Wireless@SG to reach more outdoor areas in a sustainable manner, and bring the public WiFi coverage to the next level."
One analyst said it is with technological advancement that such ideas are now feasible. However, he added that the bigger challenge is in maintaining the infrastructure and ensuring a consistent network experience.
Mr Andrew Milroy, senior vice president of ICT Practice (Asia Pacific) at Frost & Sullivan, noted: "The technology is becoming better and the spectrum use is becoming more efficient, so I think that technical issues will be ironed out over time.
"The bigger challenge that we’ll face moving forward will be managing and maintaining this infrastructure because, especially if it’s outdoors, it’s susceptible to physical conditions, the weather conditions and so on."
Skylab said it has a maintenance schedule in place for its Green WiFi, which is equipped with an intelligent monitoring system. This allows users to check on the performance and power levels of the system remotely.
In terms of indoor hotspots, IDA plans to expand coverage from the current 10,000 to 20,000 by 2018.
Meanwhile, IDA is also working with Sentosa Development Corp to integrate the MySentosa app with Wireless@SG accounts so that users can seamlessly connect to Wireless@SG hotspots.