Wireless@SG or Clueless@SG?

Singapore has this new initiative with an objective of bridging the digital divide. In a cose parallel to the free-Wifi initiative in Mountain View, Singapore will launch a nationwide Wifi network that provides wireless online access for free over a two-year period. For more, read this GigaOm post or this..

This post was supposed to be a review of my first usage of this service. It was first launched on December 1st but well, I have wireless at home and free wireless in my NUS campus, so I didn’t caretill now.

So i tried signing up for it today, under the iCell network cos I heard icell and QMax have simpler signup procedures than Singtel based on media reports. So i tried doing what anyone else will do for a newbie.

I search for “icell singapore” with Google. No relevant result. Strange..

So i tried “wireless@sg singapore” instead, half-expecting it to direct me to a main site that will offer me direct access to all three providers and a list of locations where I can find the limited locations offering this service. No relevant result too. I reached an IDA web page, which was broken, and referred me to another site before i had to click on another button to reach the proper-signup page i was looking for.

Its not easy so far, I thought.. I didn’t imagine that the providers and the man Wireless@SG program had no dedicated Google presence in our world today. Just how will someone who is less web-savvy than me use this service? And I am not even a computer science student.. I wonder how my dad, mum, or uncle will use this. They will probably start off with a search engine too..

But its fine, I found the highly embedded Wireless@SG site, i thought, so i can finally sign up for my freebies.. But heck no..

Icell requires you to provide compuksory information such as your NRIC no, a personal identification number and your full name, your cell phone number and that totally put me off signing up. Last thing I want is icell spamming my cell phone with SMSes when Singtel, a proper telco, already does so. And why the hell do they always want NRICs? I hate giving that info out and it seems all Singapore websites love doing that. Dun they realise that is a conscious mental barrier for web users when we dun have to provide our NRICs when we sign up for foreign-based services like email, blog account, etc? It makes me ever more conscious that some governmetn agency will track my personal information and tracking habits. This “walled-garden”aproach of differentiating Singapore-based internet services from foreign ones is a needless hassle.

I went over to Singtel’s wireless@SG site. Since I was a Singtel customer, i could sign up easily by just text-messaging them. But i remembered all the personal privacy concerns and red flags from my icell experience and decided not to support this initiative that seemed to be founded on the wrong service development premises. I was also miffed that you cannot find the locations easily that provide the limited version of Wireless@SG services now.

Granted that its only been two weeks since the limited launch, these teething problems may come to pass, but as an early adopter, I am rather put off by my experience thus far. And i hear from my friends that you have to download a program before you can use the Wireless@SG service, that is dumb. I rather use the plug and play free wireless from McDonalds’ anytime over this.

This is another poor example of customer service in Singapore that threatens to derail this wonderful initiative at first. I would think you need to be rather savvy with the computer to use Wireless@SG services, so isn’t this service widening the digital divide ever more?


13 thoughts on “Wireless@SG or Clueless@SG?

  1. McDonald’s SG has free wifi?!

  2. I totally agree about the hassle of signing up the wireless@SG steps. When I was in town waiting for friends, I was thinking of just surfing to check my mails, then as i started to register and stuff…giving all my private info and stuff…at the end of the day I still couldn’t use the net!!

    Wasted almost an hr wasting my time and even though I registered, my login couldn’t be used to surf…

    Definitely needs to fine-tune to be more user-friendly.

  3. prashant, yup, u will find it much more user-friendly than the multi-million dollar initiative of Wireless@SG. =)

    justin, cool that you agree too, i was at a Web 2.0 event yesterday and found more fellow Wireless@SG sufferers. bad idea for a govt agency like IDA to spearhead what was once a promising and cool initiative… they are gonna botch it up again…

  4. Amen Bjorn.

    I am a Singnet Outdoor Wireless surf customer who have been regularly using the Singtel wireless network at my neighbourhood library.

    Since the launch, the old Singtel wireless network seems to have been integrated into the Wireless@SG network and I experience very slow connection speeds, probably due to the high traffic.

    It appears that we PAYING customers are now lumped together with the rest of the Wireless@SG crowd. It makes me boil just reading all the glowing stories on the stellar take-up rate in the newspapers 😦

  5. come to http://wirelessSG.mobi or http://wirelessSG.net (not ready yet) if you are using PDA to enjoy the Wireless@SG program. it can let you view normal website easily on you PDA by using the mobilize!! function. It also provide many many usefull website for PDA surfing, including news, weather, lottery, food, transit, movie info, stock, map, yellow page in Singapore and other website such as many famous singapore forums enter point for PDA user, famous Blog readable version on PDA, hardwarezone latest tech news, photo site for PDA, community and portal website for PDA, free IDD and local call website for incoming free handphone users and other many many useful links and stuffs. just come to enjoy it!!!!!

  6. The reason why the registration is required is ‘cos of security consideration, just like why we need to register the prepaid mobile phone users. Malaysian government used to embrace hand-off approach but with incidents happened they have start to follow Singapore approach now. Security is something that one it had happened, it would be too late! In fact, I did not face any problem in registration and login.
    In fact, though it is still available in the limited area, the speed is adequte for me to read some cnn new and check my hotmail.

  7. I google for icell singapore and came to your website!! 😉

  8. Yeah, I’m currently surfing through wireless @ SG, and the connection is damn poor … strange … i don’t mean the signal is poor, signal is very good here, full bar. But something is preventing me to load the page i’m browsing. I need to press my browser’s refresh button for 5-10x before the page could load properly …. i agree with seraphim, the glowing stories (read. propaganda) in newspapers make me sick.

  9. So far, iCell seems not to be on google since 6 months ago. Well, I am here…!

  10. Oh, by the way… you can call Singtel to tell them to stop the spamming. I think 1626 has an option number as well. Yeah, and I just can’t figure why IC numbers need to be given out? I hate doing that over the net.

  11. Free wireless? Pah! They can keep the damn thing! Throw it in the sea!

    Its not wireless but useless and hopeless! They are not clueless, they know what they are doing. As usual they have to put chains on anyone who use it, cos they wanna keep tabs on everyone. They think that just becos they condescend to give us citizens who pay their big fat salaries, FREE wireless, then that give them the right to own us. #@%*!!

    Sign up with QMax in January. Was a breeze, went without a hitch. Was ask for NRIC but what the heck, its a SG company and we can only use ‘free wireless’ in SG. After that, could login to W@SG through QMax easy as pie many many times. Speed was soso but no worries, you have to expect lots of ppl will be using it cos its free, mah.

    Then what happen? Early May 2007, suddenly couldnt even login. Was wif client in middle of discussion. Kept getting redirected to Singtel page which says you have to sign up in order to use the service! WTF? But already did! Months ago! And been using it okay since then!

    So like a good cowed Singaporean, spent half hour to sign up AGAIN! This time with Singtel! Asking for even more data than the first sign up! Client had another appointment….poor me, lost business. Was quite piss off, no, started boiling also, cos I then realize what their game is. #@%*!!

    And then? No connection! For half hour, the screen only say i will be connected on that same day. Hello, who say you get instant? Eh, they giv free one, ok! Of cos have to queue, lah! Ya lah, that is correct, in Singapore nothing is free, everthing you must pay and pay. If not wif money, then wif blood, sweat and tears.

    One hour after try to login first time that day, then got the connection. #@%*!!

    Even after that, every 5 or 10 mins, get cut off and have to login again and again. #@%*!!

    And we want to be world class in this and that? #@%*!!

  12. Looking for iCELL wifi sign up page on July 25, 2008 and this is the first page that google came up with.
    Guess the problems are still there 2 years later!

  13. looking for icell on 23 apr 2009 and found this site instead…no icell anywhere…how to go icell website anyway?

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