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Doubts over future of city's free Wi-Fi

By Yin Yeping (Global Times)

14:17, August 30, 2012

A man attempts to access the free Wi-Fi through a laptop at The Place in Chaoyang district Wednesday. (Global Times/Guo Yingguang)

Beijing plans to add more areas to its existing free public Wi-Fi service, the city's economic commission announced Tuesday.

The commission claimed that so far, popular spots like Xidan, Wangfujing, Sanlitun and Zhongguancun are covered by the service, the Beijing Evening News reported Wednesday.

However, a telecom expert told the Global Times that in the long term, sustaining a large-scale free Wi-Fi project will be difficult because of high maintenance costs.

A female media officer surnamed Gao, from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology, told the Global times Wednesday that in addition to the areas already covered, they are planning to include the Shichahai and Nanluoguxiang areas in Dongcheng district later this year.

"We now have 118,000 wireless access points scattered across town," she said.

The commission's free public Wi-Fi project is called My Beijing, which is the name to search for to log into the service. The installation and operation is shared by the Beijing branches of China's main telecom operators, China Unicom and China Mobile.

Zhao Da, the section director of Beijing Radio Administration Bureau, a government organization that approves applications for public outdoor Wi-Fi installation, said the telecom companies still need to apply to install public Wi-Fi access points, although he would not specify what that entails.

"They still need to get our approval, whether the Wi-Fi services are free to the public or not," he said.

Zhao also noted that they would not be responsible for any operational issues once the installations are approved.

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