Sabah to emulate Penang’s Free WiFi

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is keen to emulate Penang’s Free WiFi project that provides free wireless broadband service to the public at selected hotspots in the state.

Redtone, the largest Malaysian telecommunication service provider and the force behind the Penang Free WiFi project, said the Sabah Resource Development and Information Technology Ministry indicated strong interest in implementing the scheme in the state capital.

Group Chief Executive Zainal Amanshah said such project is highly likely and Redtone is willing to work with the state government in implementing it, providing the cost for installing the service can be significantly reduced.

He said the Penang state government made the Free WiFi project viable by having building owners charge only minimal rent for the installation of the broadband service at their premises.

“If this can be done here, then the project can be implemented as the cost for providing the free broadband service would be significantly reduced,” said Zainal to reporters after a media briefing to introduce Redtone WiMax packages, a high speed wireless Internet access here yesterday.

Penang became the first state in the country to offer free wireless internet service with broadband speed to the public when the project was officially launched on March 26.

The project will take between 18 to 24 months to complete and provide 350 wireless access points at selected shopping malls, residential and commercial areas by the end of this year.

By December 2010, a total of 750 wireless hotspots will provide free internet access at an average speed of 10Mbs, depending on the specifications of the wireless tool.

So far people in Penang are able to surf the Internet at 26 hotspots for free. They only need to register online at any of the hotspots to immediately enjoy the free services.

The free wireless broadband is now available around Komtar, Penang Road, Chulia Street, Bukit Jambul and Mayang Mall on the island and Permatang Pauh on the mainland.

The effort is a 100 per cent private sector driven initiative with nearly no or minimal cost put in by the state government.

Meanwhile, the Redtone WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) packages, which was launched here in August last year is now fully functional and available for installation at special promotional prices.

Tailored for the corporate sector, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and SoHos (small office/home office), the WiMax Packages consist of three schemes offering downlink speed of up to 2Mbps.

Zainal said Redtone targeted to sign up a few hundred customers for the WiMax packages in Kota Kinabalu in the next few months and hoped to secure over a thousand subscribers by the end of the year as it continues to expand coverage.

Currently the WiMax service is available at 20 locations located within a five-kilometer radius from the existing four Redtone base stations at the Kota Kinabalu Post Office building, Radiant Tower, Bukit Tiga and Donggongon.

Within the next six months, Zainal said Redtone would be opening six more base stations in Kota Kinabalu to further expand the coverage of its WiMax services.

In the long-term, the company plans to bring its services to the rural areas in line with its commitment to exceed the 25 percent coverage as required by the government.

Redtone is looking at expanding its services to other major towns in the state within the next two years.

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