BUSINESS

Seoul restarts procedures to offer free, ultrafast Wi-fi in subway stations, cars

By Sohn Ji-young
  • Published : Aug 27, 2017 - 15:37
  • Updated : Aug 27, 2017 - 16:01
South Korea will kickstart procedures to install a free, ultrafast public Wi-Fi system within Seoul’s subways by 2019 this week, 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 from companies for Seoul’s metro system telecom service improvement project from Monday.

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.

Passengers ride inside a Seoul subway car (123RF)

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.

Right now, local carriers including SK Telecom and KT offer free Wi-Fi services inside subway stations and subway cars. 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 publicized 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 ultrafast 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, totaling around 125 meters, making it a suitable testing candidate.

Following the limited deployment, the ultrafast free public Wi-Fi system will be installed across Seoul’s entire subway system, including lines 1-9.

Korea’s public internet project was reinitiated by the newly-elected Moon Jae-in administration, which has pledged to expand and improve the quality of the public Wi-Fi system to ease citizens’ telecommunication costs.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)