Singapore Beginning Free Wireless Broadband Service

Tech-savvy Singapore will offer free wireless broadband service in public areas from next year, the government said.

The program will increase the number of wireless hotspots from 900 currently to 5,000 over two years, allowing Singaporeans wireless connectivity beyond homes, offices and schools where the service is currently available, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore said in a statement late Tuesday.

The hotspots will be located in strategic areas including the central business district, the Orchard Road shopping and tourist belt, and community centres, the statement said.

It will offer free wireless connection for Internet surfing at speeds of up to 512 Kbps. Those who want faster speeds and more sophisticated services including video conferencing will have to pay a premium.

Three telecommunications firms, including Southeast Asia's biggest telecom operator Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, have agreed to participate in the project and will invest about 100 million dollars (63 million US).

Singapore is Southeast Asia's most advanced economy and is among the most wired countries in Asia.

"As we move forward in the digital age, we must broaden the opportunities for all segments of the population to access and benefit from technology. We must create digital opportunities for Singaporeans and never allow a digital divide in our society," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said late Tuesday.

The wireless project is part of a 10-year masterplan to develop Singapore's next-generation national information and communication infrastructure, the government said.

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse.

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