Tuesday, 1 April 2008


I should be a huge fan of wireless@SG, but I'm really not. Not yet anyway. Wireless@SG is the Government sponsored WiFI network that was launched last year. It is not, as is often reported, an island-wide network, but rather a collection of hotzones around MRT stations and shopping centres intended for use while on-the-go. It certainly doesn't reach anywhere near my house. The closest would be the McDonalds either at Khatib or Northpoint.

It provides a free, unlimited use, basic Internet service running at (up to) 512kbps downlink, but you can chip in and pay for a premium service. The free service is subsidised (until 2010 at the moment) by the Government to promote wireless services and devices. They divvied up the contract to 3 operators who each cover about one third of the island. You have to register to use the network but a login account on any of the 3 operators works everywhere. Some locations automatically SMS you the URL when you come in range of a hotzone which is great for tourists and visiting business types.

My first experience was pretty poor. I applied online but used my home phone number. You were supposed to provide your mobile so they could SMS you the password so I needed a frustrating support call to get going. Pretty poor show as mobile numbers begin with "9" and landlines begin with "6" so the software should have caught that one.

In use, my major gripe is that it hardly ever works when / where I need it. Sure, sat in the lobby of SingTel CommCenter you get fantastic signal strength but elsewhere it becomes theoretical. Portable devices like phones & laptops don't have great antennas and may not even run at full transmit power so you really need to be close in to a node.

It's a pity you can't change your password so I have to remember 8 or 9 random letters and numbers. Logging in is done by portal page which captures your first web access. This is very common, but you need a full browser and keyboard. Until you login in, other IP services such as remote login won't work.

The last minor gripe is the incessant marketing. Every time you login, (with SingTel at least) you are asked to answer 2 personal questions. I positively refuse to volunteer information which is going to be used against me so I always get prompted with the questions. They are trying to provide location based services, but still the full list is mind-bogglingly intrusive:

"Imagine you can see promotions based on your preference around you when you log on to SingTel Wireless@SG! Isn't that fantastic?! No pop ups, mass email spamming or SMS alerts! All you need to do is to fill in the following questions so that we can serve you better."

• Name
• Family Name
• ID Type [I/C (pink or blue), FIN, Passport (foreigners only)]
• ID No.
• Date of Birth
• House No/Blk/Tower
• Street Name
• Floor / Unit No
• Building Name
• Postal Code
• Dwelling Type [ HDB | Private Property ]
• Email Address
• Mobile Number
• Home Phone
• Office Phone
• Fax
• Gender [ Male | Female ]
• Marital Status [ Single | Married | Others ]
If married, do you have any children? [ Yes | No ]
• Educational Level [ Below Secondary | Secondary| Post Secondary | University | Post Graduate ]
• Occupation [ Professionals / Managers / Executives | Proprietor / Business Owner / Company Owner | White Collar | Skilled Worker | Semi-skilled Worker | Students | Homemakers | Retired | Others ]
• Industry [ Manufacturing | Construction | Wholesale & Retail | Transport & Storage | Hotels & Restaurants | Information & Communications | Financial Services | Real Estate & Leasing Services | Professional Services | Admin & Support Services | Community, Social & Professional Services ]
• Personal Income [ No income | Less than S$1,500 | S$1,500 – S$2,499 | S$2,500 – S$3,999 | S$4,000 – S$5,999 | S$6,000 – S$9,999 | S$10,000 & above ]
• Household Income
• Which of the following are of interest to you: [ Entertainment |
Sports/Fitness/Health | Dine/Wine/Night Life/Clubs/Pubs | Fashion/Arts/Culture | Travel/Lifestyle | Business/Computers | Movies/Music | Gaming ]

Crikey, bad survey alert! Another major Singaporean organisation too timid to use the word sex and fluffs it with gender and then compounds the error by not using Masculine & Feminine. Who has a marital status of Other? Apparently they are only interested in your children if you are Married. Funny there's no "Do I want to avoid all market research: Yes/No". It's too depressing.

Still, it's free, unlimited, decently quick, increasingly available and when I get an iPhone, I'm hoping for the best but I expect to need 3G cellular data service as well for the majority of time when I'm out of range.