South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has outlined plans to extend its free public Wi-Fi service nationwide, according to the JoongAng Daily. It is understood that that ministry is now aiming to provide the free wireless broadband services in around 12,000 locations by 2017, up significantly from the 2,000 public access points that it currently has in operation. To that end, the ministry has confirmed that it will now begin deploying Wi-Fi infrastructure at 6,000 public health centres, community centres and welfare institutes from now until 2015. Construction will initially get underway in 1,020 remote areas including Ulleung Island and Cheolwon, Gangwon. Meanwhile, around 4,000 locations where private Wi-Fi services are provided by mobile carriers – including places such as public libraries, museums, police stations and hospitals – are to be opened to the public.
In announcing its plans, the ministry is said to have claimed that Wi-Fi usage is increasing, in part as customers look to reduce mobile phone bills. However, it has noted that around 53% of the country’s Wi-Fi hotspots are located in the capital Seoul and other nearby areas. With the government hoping to change this situation with the rollout of new Wi-Fi networks, ministry official Park Yoon-hyun was cited as saying: ‘Expansion of Wi-Fi areas will ease financial burdens on consumers and help narrow the information gap between people in Seoul and other cities.’