When the Information Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) stopped funding for the nationwide WiFi hotspot program Wireless@SG program two years ago, the number of free public hotspots in Singapore dropped from 7,500 to 5,200 within a year. As a result, several shopping malls who lost their free public Wireless@SG WiFi service had to stop the service completely, losing a potentially captive customer base.
The IDA has since gone on to improving WiFi connectivity by doubling the number of hotspots to 10,000 by the end of this year and to 20,000 by 2016. Together with the wider coverage, a new automatic login feature offers users an 'always-on' WiFi experience by allowing them to automatically connect to any Wireless@SG hotspot with a local SIM card. New users only need to sign up once, and existing users do not to enter any credentials to get WiFi access.
More malls in Singapore today offer the convenience of WiFi login and access. For example, Suntec Shopping Mall provides unlimited free WiFi mall-wide. At Ion Orchard, shoppers can request and enjoy 30 minutes of free WiFi. Shopping malls run by CapitaLand Malls Asia offer public shoppers free WiFi for an hour while members of their shopping club will enjoy unlimited access.
Growing WiFi usage in Singapore is expected to increase awareness and mirror consumer buying trends in developed countries. WiFi marketing can easily become another avenue for marketers to expose their brands to consumers. For example, marketers can take the opportunity to present their promotional messages as users wait to get connected to public WiFi during login. With the Asia Pacific region being heralded for its robust adoption of rich media and smartphone penetration rates, operators are looking to WiFi capabilities as an alternative wireless platform to deliver commercial services.
Public WiFi (not home or office) can act as a companion to mobile networks. To date, few countries have high levels of public WiFi offloading and whilst operators can exert control over public WiFi use with pricing and data quota strategies, they also depend on good WiFi availability as well. With mobile data usage expected to increase exponentially and put a strain on 3/4G networks, WiFi can play a key role in ensuring a more blanket coverage to consumers. WiFi also does not face the quality degradation faced by 3G as it runs at a smaller cost.
Operators in Singapore like Singtel, for example, last year started offering WiFi as network service for subscribers in crowded locations, underground MRT stations and bus interchanges.
The potential for the growth of public WiFi is enormous as the volume of traffic offloaded onto public WiFi is low even in developed markets with high volumes of mobile traffic and strong WiFi coverage.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.