Wireless@SG
Infocomm Media Development Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Before the launch of Wireless@SG in 2006, free Wi-Fi was uncommon in Singapore. People who needed free wireless access outside of their homes and offices could only get it at public libraries, and very few cafes or restaurants provided them. People who desired internet on the go had to pay for wireless services. The Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), then known as the Info-communications Development Authority (IDA), recognised the social and economic benefits that a connected city would bring to its residents and visitors. In December 2006, IMDA launched the Wireless@SG Programme, the first nation-wide Wi-Fi network. It allows everyone (residents and visitors) to have free, open wireless access so as to be digitally connected when they are on the go and out of their homes. Wireless@SG adopts an open policy where everyone in Singapore can have access to. This supports our digital inclusion efforts to ensure that there are no “urban unconnected”. Having a reliable internet connection outside became even more important to many people in Singapore, especially when smartphones grew in popularity in Singapore with the launch of Apple iPhones here in 2008.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
IMDA developed the Wireless@SG programme to build a federated, standardised and secure public Wi-Fi platform. IMDA as the programme owner appoints a number of service providers to operate the public Wi-Fi hotspots, and sets the common login and security standards with local roaming.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
In December 2006, IMDA launched the Wireless@SG programme. The aim was to accelerate the deployment of wireless broadband in public and commercial spaces and catalyse the wireless broadband market in Singapore. The idea is to extend broadband access beyond homes, schools and offices. Wireless@SG is free for everyone – whether they are on the move or in crowded areas. Since its launch, Wireless@SG has offered an additional connectivity platform to meet many Singaporeans’ need to be “always connected”. Singaporeans have also been quick to adopt smartphones, and the country now has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates globally. Its residents, like in many other cities, live a highly digital lifestyle. Providing an adequate and secure connection is key to meeting the demand for connectivity. Free Wi-Fi for everyone enhances the livability of a city. It can help power mainstream and disruptive technologies to enable innovations, makes it conducive for school going children to do their school work at community spaces (e.g. community centers, public libraries), and above all, bridge the digital divide to create opportunities for all.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Wireless@SG uses a unique federated model (i.e. common login and security standards with local roaming). Even though the network is operated by different providers in different areas, the difference is not apparent to the end user, resulting in a seamless and uniform experience. As a result of this federated model, Wireless@SG also offers EAP-SIM login. EAP-SIM login is usually only carried out on a provider-specific basis, but this is the first time it’s been implemented on a nationwide scale. Another key innovation is its business model. The Wireless@SG Programme adopts an industry-partnership approach. All hotspots deployed are sustained through commercial arrangements between the demand (i.e. Government and commercial venue owners) and supply agents (i.e. Wireless@SG appointed service providers). Typically, demand agents leverage the Wi-Fi infrastructure for their own operations and productivity. Service providers can monetise this by providing services over the Wi-Fi infrastructure. This model helps to keep Wireless@SG free for the general public.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Wireless@SG programme was implemented by IMDA. As programme owner, IMDA takes the lead in appointing service providers to operate this federated network of free public Wi-Fi hotspots, it also determines a common set of login and security standards. The Wireless@SG programme has been in place for more than 10 years, and its network has expanded to some 10,000 hotspots across various locations such as train stations, public libraries, community spaces, shopping malls and F&B outlets. With the pervasive coverage, IMDA is seeing high usage of Wireless@SG despite Singapore’s high mobile penetration rate of 148.4%. There are about 1 to 2 million unique users actively accessing Wireless@SG, which is equivalent to about 20 to 30 per cent of Singapore’s resident population of 5.5 million. They consume about 1.1 petabytes of data on a monthly basis, which equates to about nine per cent of Singapore’s overall mobile data usage. The high volume of usage shows that Wireless@SG has become entrenched in people’s lives as a viable connectivity option. This shows that Wireless@SG is a connectivity option that has become entrenched into people’s lives.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
While the commercial viability of Wireless@SG is sustained through a unique business model (outlined above), IMDA also co-funds the service providers. The co-funding support has evolved with the programme. IMDA started with co-funding the deployment and maintenance of hotspots, before moving to co-fund capabilities development of user experience features (i.e. EAP-SIM authentication) and innovative services (in order to turn this into a self-sustainable business model). In the early years of the programme, IMDA adopted a two-prong approach to develop the wireless broadband market. IMDA had to put in co-funding support in order to accelerate deployment of Wireless@SG. With the right infrastructure in place, IMDA was then able to accelerate usage demand by encouraging more Singaporeans to adopt the wireless broadband lifestyle. As Singaporeans’ mobile usage patterns evolved, the demand for better wireless broadband also increased over time. IMDA needed to provide easier access, more hotspots and faster speeds, to meet users’ expectations. With more people using the wireless network, service providers would then be able to develop new innovative services such as data analytics. IMDA’s funding support then evolved to supporting capabilities development for higher access speeds, simpler access and innovative services. Based on the co-funding guidelines, IMDA co-funded infrastructure upgrades (hardware and software), manpower resources and professional services (by outsourcing third party vendors). With everything in place, Wireless@SG service providers are able to market and deliver a commercial off-the-shelf free Wi-Fi service that can be procured by the government and commercial venue owners. One major user of Wireless@SG in the public sector is the Singapore’s Land Transport Authority at various train stations across the island. The public transport agency uses data collected from Wireless@SG hotspots deployed at train stations to analyse passenger flow in order to optimise train operations and improve commuter experience. At the same time, commuters can enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, allowing them to check train schedules and plan their journeys while waiting for their train. For the commercial sector, F&B outlets deploy Wireless@SG hotspots within their premises to connect up their point-of-sales and surveillance cameras for operational use. Similarly, F&B patrons get to enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi. Therefore, the Wireless@SG eco-system is a unique one, with IMDA co-funding service providers to develop capabilities, while the deployment and services are sustained through the commercial arrangements.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Wireless@SG eco-system comprises IMDA, service providers and end users. IMDA sets the direction and standards of the Wireless@SG programme based on feedback on end user experience. It then works with the appointed service providers to design and implement the core network according to these standards, such as local roaming, login and security requirements. The service providers will also need to take into consideration the needs of their commercial services when designing and implementing the access network.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The Wireless@SG programme has been around for more than 10 years and is going strong. More hotspots The current network of 10,000 hotspots span across locations such as train stations, public libraries, community spaces, shopping malls and F&B outlets. Moving forward, IMDA plans to double its network of hotspots to 20,000 by 2018, reaching more locations such as public hospitals, community food centres and Government service centres. More users There are about 1 to 2 million unique users actively accessing Wireless@SG on a monthly basis. Considering Singapore’s resident population is about 5.5 million, this is equivalent to about 20-30 per cent of the population. More usage The volume of data consumed has grown exponentially. Wireless@SG users consume 1.1 petabytes of data on a monthly basis. This is equivalent to nine per cent of Singapore’s overall mobile data usage. These statistics show that Wireless@SG is widely used by many Singapore residents.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacles are platform ownership and sustainability, as IMDA cannot co-fund the programme indefinitely. IMDA was able to design an industry partnership model to ensure infrastructure deployment remains sustainable. It also allows service providers to create a revenue stream through the wireless infrastructure and services deployed. In order to ensure end users enjoy high quality wireless broadband, the network would need to be of adequate speed and easy to access. Several enhancements were introduced over the years to improve user experience. For example, network speeds are 10 times faster today at 5 Mbps, compared with 512kbps when the service was launched in 2006. This speed is good enough not just for email and social media, but also e-learning and HD video streaming. One common feedback is users’ desire for an easy login process. To do that, IMDA set the common login and security standards with local roaming, so that users can login to all Wireless@SG hotspots with a single account, regardless of the service provider they are registered with. In addition, Wireless@SG adopts the widely-used iEEE802.1x authentication standard to ensure the network is secure.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Free country-wide wireless access greatly enhances the livability of the country. Since its launch, Wireless@SG has offered an additional connectivity platform to meet many Singaporeans’ need to be “always connected”. With the pervasive coverage, IMDA is seeing high usage of Wireless@SG despite Singapore’s high mobile penetration rate of 148.4%. There are about 1 to 2 million unique users actively accessing Wireless@SG, which is equivalent to about 20 to 30 per cent of Singapore’s resident population of 5.5 million. They consume about 1.1 petabytes of data on a monthly basis, which equates to about nine per cent of Singapore’s overall mobile data usage. Even though most users have cellular data access, Wireless@SG is still widely used. This also supports our digital inclusion efforts to ensure there are no “urban unconnected”. The high volume of usage also shows that Wireless@SG has become entrenched in people’s lives as a viable connectivity option. This shows that Wireless@SG is a connectivity option that has become entrenched into people’s lives.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The Wireless@SG programme features a secure network with strict identity management standards. The appointed service providers are required to adhere to the security requirements that include regular security audits on their networks. These service providers are also local cellular operators. Since EAP-SIM authentication – which allows users with SIM devices to login automatically – was implemented for Wireless@SG in 2014, cellular operators are also able to identify all users accessing the network. Those who are logging in to Wireless@SG without a SIM device need to request for a One-Time Password, which will be sent to them via SMS. These measures allow operators to manage the identities of all users accessing the network, and they ensure that operators can quickly identify rogue users or people trying to compromise the security of the network.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Wireless@SG is free for all to use. It is not specific to women and girls. The programme adopts an open policy which does not discriminate or confer additional advantage to any community groups or individuals. This supports our digital inclusion efforts to ensure that there are no “urban unconnected”. IMDA will continue to keep the Wireless@SG programme ongoing to ensure that everyone, especially the economically vulnerable, get access to wireless broadband. It will also ensure Wireless@SG remains free of charge and is of good service quality (i.e. good coverage, high access speeds, and secure). In addition, IMDA plans to double the network of hotspots to 20,000 to ensure there is sufficient coverage in more public locations – such as public hospitals, community food centres, and Government service centres.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Infocomm Media Development Authority
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Contact Person:   Keshona Pok
Title:   Assistant Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   keshona_pok@imda.gov.sg  
Address:   3 Fusionopolis Way #16-22 Symbiosis
Postal Code:   138633
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore
Country:  

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