PCCW brings free Wi-Fi to Chek Lap Kok

04 Dec 2006

Three years after launching Wi-Fi access in Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport in a handful of locations at premium prices, PCCW has extended its Wi-Fi coverage across the entire airport terminal - and for free.

The free Wi-Fi service - offered by PCCW in conjunction with the Hong Kong Airport Authority - will be available in all areas of the terminal, including the arrival hall and the pre- and post-security departure areas, which purportedly represents the largest wireless broadband footprint of any major international airport.

PCCW Consumer Group managing director Tom Chan said at a press event launching the service on Friday that the carrier decided to switch to a free model after becoming convinced that the demand justified it.

'The latest research [from AC Nielsen] shows that over 50% of airport users carry a laptop, and more and more handheld devices like PDAs and even mobile phones have Wi-Fi,' he said. 'We've looked at the whole Wi-Fi market, and we've found that the more convenient the users find it, the more demand for it grows.'

HKAA commercial director Hans Bakker added that over 70% of airport users said they are likely to use a free Wi-Fi service, according to AC Nielsen.

Indeed, the free service is likely to be a welcome switch from the previous Wi-Fi service at Chek Lap Kok, which was only available at hotspots like Starbucks and Pacific Coffee outlets, where PCCW charged a premium price much higher than the HK$18 an hour ($2.30) (or HK$3.00 for ten minutes) it charges for the same service in city locations.

The free service isn't likely to be cheap to run, with every access point being assigned a dedicated backhaul connection, which the company says was necessary to ensure the access point could handle heavy traffic like video and VoIP.

However, Chan told the Show Daily, 'The costs had been factored into our overall Wi-Fi strategy.'

That said, Chan added, PCCW won't go so far as to follow the example of Singapore, which also launched [email protected] - its national free Wi-Fi service - on Friday, a month ahead of schedule.

'We're not really planning that at the moment,' he said.

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