Shanghai to introduce free city-wide Wi-Fi

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The eternal hunt for free Wi-Fi is about to get a lot easier for residents of Chinese mega-city Shanghai.

According to the Oriental Daily, the city’s municipal government is embarking on a massive push to make Wi-Fi freely available to all its citizens.

The programme, called i-Shanghai (a pun on the word love) will see a test batch of Wi-Fi hotspots going live in the next few days.

According to the Oriental Morning Post (translation via Sina Tech), authorities are hoping that the pilot programme will be enough of a success to expand the number of hotspots to 300 by the end of the year.

If you add in paid-for Wi-Fi services, then Shanghai should have 22 000 hotspots by 2013.

Although impressive in scale, the service is limited. Shanghai residents will only be able to access the Wi-Fi for two hours a day, so they shouldn’t expect to able to use the service for marathon online gaming sessions.

In order to use the service, people will have to input their mobile phone numbers, triggering an SMS with their log in details. That should keep away the privacy nuts then.

This isn’t Shanghai’s first go at free Wi-Fi, having introduced Wi-Fi phone booths last year. Those were fee for Android users and CNY1.8 ($0.28) for people using other operating systems.

Even with the limited time allocated to each user, it is a massive undertaking. When South African university town Stellenbosch launched its free Wi-Fi service, it had to pull in the services of Mxit, Africa’s largest social network. Even then, the speed of the network is incredibly limited.

Image: kristinmarshall

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