Seoul signals free subway Wi-Fi on way

ASEAN+ August 29, 2017 01:00


SOUTH Korea will this week kickstart procedures to install a free, ultra-fast public Wi-Fi system within Seoul’s subways by 2019, resuming the state-led project that had been pushed back over procedural transparency issues.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Metro Corp, which operates the city’s subway lines 1-8, is set to start accepting bids this week from companies for Seoul’s metro system telecom service improvement project.

The government had initially sought to complete the project this year, but had to delay it following controversy over the fairness of the bidding process.

The public network improvement project aims to offer public Wi-Fi with a transmission speed of at least 360 megabytes per second within Seoul’s subway system. This is close to the speed of the current Long Term Evolution, or LTE, networks that sits at around 400-500 mbps.

Now, local carriers including SK Telecom and KT offer free Wi-Fi services inside subway stations and train carriages. However, the connection quality is often poor, with the data transmission speed falling to below 10 mbps in a packed subway car, rendering the networks unusable.

One reason is that local mobile carriers have publicised only a part of their wireless access points, which affects the quality of a given Wi-Fi network connection, citing their obligation to preserve the quality of their paid LTE network by regulating data traffic.

This is why the government has decided to step in, viewing the public Wi-Fi issue as a public project to be spearheaded by the state rather than private telecom firms.

The company that wins the bid to carry out Seoul’s metro system telecom service improvement project is scheduled to begin testing the free ultra-fast Wi-Fi system on subway line 8 from March 2018.

According to the Seoul Metro Corp., line 8 is the shortest subway route in Seoul and also operates with just six cars, making it a suitable testing candidate.