Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Taipei mulling upgrades to free wireless network

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Taipei is considering upgrades to the city’s wireless Internet infrastructure, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.

“While previously the focus has been on coverage area, what residents are concerned about is the speed at which they can connect,” Ko said, adding that the head of the Taipei Computer Union had previously told him that Wi-Fi was as much of a requirement for a civilized city as running water and bathrooms.

The city’s “Taipei Free” Wi-Fi network blankets most public areas of the city, including administrative centers, MRT stations and major roads. Taipei residents can use their mobile phones to register for free access, while tourists and other visitors can register for accounts through the Department of Information and Tourism’s visitor information centers.

There have been complaints about the poor quality of the service’s coverage, Taipei Department of Information Technology Commissioner Lee Wei-bin (李維斌) said, adding that extensive use of service often leads to “traffic jams,” which prevent additional users from getting online.

He said the city is currently considering a set of upgrades to the service, including replacing outdated equipment and reconsidering the positioning of hotspots to ensure more reliable coverage.

The city is also considering upgrading the service’s management system, he said.

“We need to have an automatic management system so that we know where ‘traffic jams’ are forming and what to do about them,” he said, adding that the outdated technology currently used to manage the system meant that the department only learns of traffic jams from complaints.

Li also said that the city would hold discussions with telecommunications firms on extending 4G service availability in the MRT system, which is currently only available on the Songshan Line. As Wi-Fi hotspots can only provide coverage to a very limited area, 4G service is the best choice to allow residents to get online while in transit.

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