Asian Wi-Fi players look for regional tie-ups

As Singaporean public Wi-Fi companies look to set up roaming agreements across Asia, one of Australia's leading Wi-Fi operators has moved into the city-state with a project to build the country's largest public wireless access network.

SkyNetGlobal has signed an agreement with the McDonald's fast food chain to offer wireless access through McDonald's 140 restaurants, with another 60 hotspots to be set up in business and industrial parks not yet covered by Wi-Fi, SkyNetGlobal said in a statement Wednesday.

SkyNetGlobal will offer voice and video services -- including gaming -- through Wi-Fi phones as well as high-speed Internet access aimed at consumers with PDAs (personal digital assistants), the company said.

Singapore is an attractive location for Wi-Fi operators because of its dense population of tech-savvy citizens and a high take-up of PDAs and mobile phones. SkyNetGlobal hopes to grab a 50 percent market share for public wireless Internet access, the company said.

The market is already covered by several operators, including the full-service telecommunications providers Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) and StarHub.

Smaller players have decided that regional roaming alliances represent their best chance of prospering. Malaysian company Palette Multimedia Sdn. Bhd., which runs the Yellowspots Wi-Fi service in Singapore, has a roaming agreement with Australian company Air Portal, and hopes to add agreements in Thailand, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

StarHub and three smaller operators Bluengine, PC Connect and Nautilus recently announced that their subscribers can now roam to each others hot spots without additional charge.

Singapore's Wi-Fi market will grow at 40 percent per year to be worth US$42.1 million by 2008, SkyNetGlobal said, citing research from Frost & Sullivan.

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