Mon, Jul 01, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Firm ends free Wi-Fi on MRT

PRICE COMPETITION:The Taipei City Government activated 158 new hotspots for its TPE-Free Wi-Fi service after Hoveringsys said it ended its Free AD WiFi service

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Passengers wait on the platform of a Taipei MRT station on March 7.

Photo: Huang Chien-hao, Taipei Times

Hoveringsys Corp has stopped offering its Free AD WiFi service within the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system due to price competition from the nation’s major telecoms, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.

The free Wi-Fi service was launched in July 2017 through a partnership between the Taipei-based company and Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC).

Users needed to tap on an advertisement page to access the service and did not need to set up an account.

Each user could access the service for free for 30 minutes. They could re-access the network should they be disconnected, and there were no limits on the number of times they could access the service.

The company sustained its operations through advertising revenue.

Last year, the company and TRTC announced that the service could be accessed on carriages and at MRT stations.

The service’s download and upload speeds were also raised to 6 and 2 megabits per second respectively.

However, the company on Monday last week informed TRTC that it would stop offering the service, starting at 3pm the next day.

“Last year, all major telecoms offered unlimited data services for NT$499 per month or cheaper, which have greatly reduced the number of times that MRT users accessed the Free AD WiFi service,” company president Lin Chuan-chi (林全馳) said in a statement.

“We communicated with TRTC and the Taipei City Government about this problem in the past six months and in the meantime tried to provide the service, but the discussions have failed to lead to any agreement. As such, the free Wi-Fi service business worsened each day, rendering us unable to continue offering free Wi-Fi to MRT passengers,” he added.

About 70,000 passengers, or about 3.3 percent of average daily MRT passengers, accessed the service daily, TRTC statistics showed.

NCC acting spokesperson Hsiao Chi-hung (蕭祈宏) said that Hoveringsys is a Tier-II telecom operator, which developed the service by leasing the network from major telecoms.

“It is a matter of free-market mechanism if [Hoveringsys] cannot survive the low-price competition for Internet services. The company has the right to decide whether the service should continue,” he said.

Due to Hoveringsys canceling the service, the city government activated 158 new hotspots to offer the TPE-Free Wi-Fi service, although users need to set up an account with their mobile phone numbers and choose a password to access the service.

They cannot use the service on carriages and would be logged out if they remain inactive for 15 minutes.

However, an article published on Kocpc.com.tw, an online technology forum, said that the nation did not see an explosive growth in 4G service usage after telecoms offered unlimited data plans for NT$499 per month in May last year.

Service usage volume for 4G has been stable, it said, citing NCC statistics, adding that any sudden surge in usage were likely to be caused by special events like the FIFA World Cup.

As for Hoveringsys’ reasons for canceling its Free AD WiFi service, the article said that 4G subscribers, whether they subscribe to unlimited or limited data services, would be given a certain amount of free mobile Internet data transmission.

This has lowered the need to access the free service, it said.

Foreign visitors to the nation can access mobile Internet using locally purchased prepaid 4G cards, Wi-Fi hotspots scattered nationwide and international roaming services they have subscribed to in their own countries.

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