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August 1, 2012

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Problems plaguing city's free Wi-Fi service

A free Wi-Fi program financed by the city government has been just launched downtown but is currently troubled by weak, unstable signals, unready support facilities and small user numbers due to low publicity.

The program, called i-Shanghai, offers everyone two hours of free wireless Internet service on their mobile phones or laptops while they are at certain public venues.

But a Shanghai Daily investigation showed the service was far from satisfactory at many localities it covers during its trial operation.

The reporters yesterday tried the service with smartphones at the Shanghai Railway Station and the Shanghai South Railway Station and discovered its Wi-Fi signal was unstable and users frequently faced sign-in failures.

Several passengers at the stations tried logging onto the network but they repeatedly failed to receive an effective password that is supposed to be automatically sent to their mobile phones to open the free Internet service.

Also, the program signal was strong in certain areas but impossible to track in places such as corridors by the waiting lounge, the reporters found.

And users would need to stand still when using the program as the signal would suddenly disappear or turn very weak when the users walked around.


"I give a thumb-up for such service ... But I really hope the service could be stable and more user-friendly," said a passenger surnamed Li at the Shanghai South Railway Station.

Some other named localities such as the sightseeing Binjiang Avenue, the Bund and Tianzifang were also experiencing very weak or unstable signals, making smooth Internet surfing barely possible, the reporters found.

"The program currently couldn't ensure stability and it's not convenient to log in. So I would rather opt for the free Wi-Fi provided by the exhibition facility," said a woman surnamed Huang, a visitor to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum yesterday.


Apart from the unstable signal, the reporters also found the service was barely available at some localities announced to be covered.

The service was still unavailable at People's Park by yesterday afternoon though it's officially claimed to be ready for the program.

A park worker confirmed technicians had not finished installing the support facilities inside the park yet.

Besides, the reporters visited about half of the 30 named public localities and found most of the people there didn't know about the government-financed Wi-Fi program.

They urged authorities to set up signboards bearing the i-Shanghai logo with some brief service instructions on them inside public venues to boost the program's publicity.

Authorities, however, said the i-Shanghai program will improve technically and expand quickly.

The service provider said in response to the complaints that the program is still in trial operation and will soon be technically reinforced to ensure better stability.

The city government said yesterday that 78 local hospitals will join the program before the end of this year.

By the end of this year, the free Wi-Fi service will cover about 300 places, and the number is expected to reach 450 by the end of next year.


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