Taipei's citywide Wifi brings converged phones and free calls

, posted: 15-Apr-2006 12:28

As I mentioned earlier, Taipei's municipal authorities have decided to blanket the city with Wifi, a project that was almost completed end of last year. It seems to be part of the "Cyber Citizen" project which aims to promote Taipei as a technologically advanced city. The project also has as its aim to reduce congestion, by providing an increasing number of services over the Internet so that people don't have to travel so much - not a bad idea, as Taipei is already quite busy, and further growth would be hard to fit in.

It's not very easy to work out from the rather chaotic Taiwanese websites but the city government speaks of the project here and the service itself is called WiFly (very broken site the last one).

The Taipei City Government posted these IT related statistics on its site:
  • Taipei's Population – 2,625,445
  • Percentage of Taipei households with computers – 88%
  • Percentage of Taipei households with Internet access – 84%
  • Percentage of Taipei households with a broadband Internet connection – 64%
  • Percentage of Taipei residents with mobile phones – 87%
  • Percentage of Taipei residents using PWLN connections – 13%

Check out that broadband penetration percentage. Pretty amazing really. The mobile phone uptake is less than I expected though - could be because people have only one cellphone instead of two like in some other countries.

For now, it looks like WiFly is free. The trial period has been extended (but they don't tell you until when) so lucky Taipeians... the signal strength in various parts of the centre of the town was pretty good I found and you always had at least two access points to choose from.

The city government intends to provide a whole range of service over the WiFly network, but it looks like it'll be used for making free VoIP calls as well. Ennyah will make Wifi as well as converged Wifi/GSM handsets that will work over the WiFly network, providing free calling for a flat-rate US$33 a month (Wifi+GSM) or US$16 (Wifi) - the cost includes unlimited international calling as well!

I've heard some people say that the Asian countries have great domestic connectivity, but not much international bandwidth because they're not interested in overseas content. Well, this graph from Chunghwa Telecom's ISP arm HiNet certainly shows that that their domestic backbone network is rather impressive: 317.3 gigabit/s aggregate bandwidth.

However, HiNet's international bandwidth isn't to be spat at either. See this graph. Almost 40 gigabit/s in total. The connectivity to Australia via Reach is a mere 45Mbit/s though, and I suspect New Zealand hangs off that too. When I tried connecting to servers in NZ while in Taipei, I noted that traffic went via the US and thus had large roundtrip times, over 400ms in most cases. In comparison, the roundtrip time for Taiwan-US traffic was around 120-130ms.

From what I can tell, HiNet is the biggest provider in Taiwan, but not the only one to have extensive domestic and international networks.

Clearly, the Taiwanese prefer an active role on the Internet rather than a do-nothing strategy, as seen in New Zealand.

Other related posts:
Wannabe wifi jacker pwned
Woosh upgrades to 1Mbit/s
Taipei IDF part 2: 802.16 WiMAX and 802.11 Wifi on one chip - Ofer

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