Taiwan is really going for it in the WLAN stakes: Taipei WLAN Wifly Takes off reports that: WiFly, a WLAN (wireless local area network) that will cover all of the main populated areas in Taipei City in its first phase, began operations on February 1. Qware Systems & Services is the builder and operator of the network under a BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract signed in September, 2004, with the Taipei city government.
The plan, the Digitimes says, involves setting up 10,000 access points around the city. The first phase covers about 20% of the population of the city, and the second phase, covering another 30%, will be done by June. By the end of the year, 90% will be covered. For now it’s free, and 10,000 people have already registered.
This figure, according to the Taipei Times, is not overly impressive: Taipei’s cyber city project is one of the largest in the world in terms of areas of coverage and the capital spent. Yet Wifly does not seem to have built a large customer base as statistics compiled by the city suggests since Wifly began its trial run in December, an average of 250 people use the service daily, and each user spends 48 minutes.
Still, the project, called the Mobile City Project, or M-City, is thinking big: The paper quotes Mayor Ma Ying-jeou as saying “Taipei will be the world’s first and largest mobile city, where users can access the Internet wherever they go”.
Taiwan has launched what it’s calling the “world’s first dual-network application service”, according to today’s Taipei Times (which charmingly, and perhaps accurately, calls it a Duel Network in its headline).
The network combines wireless local area networks (WLANs) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). In a demo set up in Taipei’s Nankang Science Park, workers have access to “various functions, including access to personal e-mails and instant messages or connection to any printer in the park through wireless transmission. Other services allow parents to view their children in the park’s daycare center through a surveillance system.” From what I can understand in the piece, the government plans to spend NT$7 billion to build the same thing across the whole country over seven years. Taiwan Cellular, the paper says, will roll out dual-network service packages after the Lunar New Year (early next month).
It’s not clear, and I’m not clear, about how exactly this works, and what it’s for. The point of dual-network devices makes sense — you can use them for VoIP on WLAN hotspots, and switch to cellular in cellular-only areas, but why have both technologies in the same place? I guess, as it implies above, the idea is to offer more options and services atop the existing structure. So you might prefer to have one data connection via GPRS, but print locally via Wi-Fi. Or is there more to it that I’m missing?