Wire[less]ing China

Guangzhou is one the latest municipality announcing the deployment of more than 1,000 wireless broadband access points around the city - the number is expected to hit 2,500 by the end of 2008. By 2010 the wireless coverage should be extended to all urban areas and part of the rural areas of Guangzhou with 10,000 hot spots!

Besides Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Nanjing are also building up their city-wide wireless broadband networks – 25 large and medium-sized cities have signed up for similar development plans. They all tend to follow a 3-phases approach: inner city, outer city and rural areas so as to eventually cover an entire municipal area. Depending on the operators, hotspots are located in hospitals, government office areas, street lights or traffic lights and use Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Mesh and Wi-MAX technologies

Even if the companies do not need a license when building the Wi-Fi networks, the government agencies are never far away: content is regulated by the Ministry of Culture while access is regulated by the Ministry of Information Industry. The municipalities are also reaching profit-sharing agreement with the network builders for value-added services: some of the early experiments included webpage browsing, video surveillance, video on demand and voice communication while Baidu, China’s largest search engine, is developing a wireless search services.