In just half a year, free wireless Internet could be on tap at an MRT station near you.
Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority released more details of its plan to give commuters Wi-Fi access, including a list of stations where it will first be available.
Commuters will be able to connect to the Wireless@SG network at station platforms all along the North East Line (NEL), as well as 12 other major stops with plenty of commuter traffic.
They are: City Hall, Raffles Place, Orchard, Bishan, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong East, Paya Lebar, Serangoon, Buona Vista, Outram Park, Dhoby Ghaut and HarbourFront. The last three are also on the NEL.
The LTA said it is currently calling for tenders to implement the wireless network at station platforms. Wi-Fi access will be progressively available at the selected station platforms starting from the middle of this year.
The trial will be monitored for two years before the LTA decides if the service could be extended to other MRT stations.
The move was first announced in LTA's Land Transport Master Plan last October. Other plans include, for instance, improving its smartphone app by adding real-time updates on congestion.
Commuters said the move to offer free Wi-Fi would take Singapore a notch closer to wired cities like Taipei and Hong Kong.
Mr Clement Lim, 23, who often travels to the city to visit relatives, said: "At some stations in Singapore the 3G connection is often bad, especially underground. Whereas in Taipei, there's better connectivity and free Wi-Fi hot spots are more common."
Tech blogger Alfred Siew said it would be better if the Wi-Fi network could be expanded to include MRT tunnels as well.
"As a commuter, you spend most of your time in the train rather than in the station, so it would be very good if there's a way to provide access in the train," he said, while acknowledging it is "not an easy thing to do because the train is moving".
Wireless@SG was rolled out in 2006 by the Infocomm Development Authority to accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband. The Straits Times reported last October that the number of hot spots had fallen after one provider pulled out of the programme. However, IDA said it expects the number of hot spots to increase as new operators take over.
Forrester telco analyst Clement Teo said having Wi-Fi access at MRT station platforms would "help take pressure off the phone network", as many people now access the Internet through their mobile data plans. "The demand for a quality connection is on the rise, not just in Singapore but in developed countries like Japan and Australia," he said. "People are already used to their 3G and 4G networks, with high speeds and adequate amounts of bandwidth."