South Korea Blankets Country With Free WiFi On All Public Transit

Wrapping up a multi-year project to provide free WiFi on all public transportation, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology (MSIT) announced that a total of 35,006 buses had been equipped nationwide.

Previously, subscriber-based WiFi had been installed on subways and in subway stations. It was provided privately by two phone carriers and free only for their subscribers. The coverage was spotty and slow, and in 2017 the government took over and implemented a better system. With this announcement, the whole public transportation system is now covered with stable and free WiFi.

We also noticed that the government has released the details of the 220,000 WiFi access points to the public. This includes the location, IP address, and RSSI data for use by people and companies wanting to develop location-based services. What is the state of free WiFi access points in your region, and does it extend to public transportation? Do you find it reliable, or do you use your data plan when out and about?

20 thoughts on “South Korea Blankets Country With Free WiFi On All Public Transit

    1. Yep COVID contact tracking, no other way of having public transport workable in the current situation, if you don’t implement other more sophisticated measures…

  1. In the Netherlands, most concessions require free wifi nowadays so I suppose any but the oldest concessions and city buses have wifi.

    All trains built new or refitted the last 10 years have wifi.

    I don’t think trams or subway have wifi. But 4G will always be faster ( and is available troughout the subway, even underground)

    1. Because now they can also track all the other devices AND know what they’re doing online. Think about all those gameboy like toys for the kids; laptops; tablets; cars; smartwatches; everything and everywhere

    1. I suspect one reason this is being done (free WiFi vs free LTE) is that cell phone data plans are a big revenue stream for the carriers. Sure, data service is good and reliable, but it isn’t free. Most plans have caps, and even so-called “unlimited” plans have some restrictions. I know a lot of people don’t even subscribe to LTE data, because WiFi is so readily available. There’s also the fact that by definition, LTE data requires a cell data enabled device. Many people will get the WiFi-only versions of tablets, smart watches, etc., and avoid the hassle and expense of additional SIM cards the associated monthly fees. If only free LTE was offered, a bunch of devices wouldn’t work suddenly.

      Also, if free LTE data were available, people might cut back or drop this from their paid subscriptions, thus cutting into the bread and butter of the carriers. I’m speculating from the financial point of view. Technically speaking, I don’t know if the data route (LTE or WiFi) makes a big difference or not to the telecoms – at some point, it all merges into the same big internet “pipe”. Just how real is this perceived wall between WiFi and LTE data service, I don’t know.

  2. When I was riding subways around Seoul in 2014 there were a few stations where I couldn’t find the rail map. Koreans all have cell phones and used travel apps. So making sure every station has route maps posted around the station easy to find isn’t important for Koreans. For foreigners passing through who don’t have a cell phone and aren’t familiar with the area having maps posted big enough to easily read without a magnifier is important.

    1. Yeah, every once in a while the maps can be difficult to find, or you are looking at the route map but want the station neighborhood map, or vise versa. Personally, I find these subway station maps extremely helpful. Using a service such as Google Maps doesn’t replace the need nor utility of these special purpose maps.

  3. When I was a student at Southampton, all the buses had a free wifi network. But it was a bit cumbersome to use:

    1. It was unreliable. And since commutes tended to be short, when you regained connectivity, it was about time to hop off the bus.
    2. You had to browse a captive portal before entering the newtork

  4. “Oh no! Socialism delivering!! Donโ€™t tell the Americans, theyโ€™ll invade!โ€ฆthemselves, by โ€œaccidentโ€.”

    Uh no, I have never visited a more capitalistic and technically-savvy country. Their society, unlike the U.S., is largely homogeneous and old and well informed. Korean use of technology is more efficient and effective, and they have been careful to encourage retention of manufacturing capabilities.

    But I would never live in Korea – their winter sucks and their driving can be just as ‘competitive’ as the Russians.

    1. Brian, I feel you about the Korean winters. But the extremes have certainly tempered since those old Korean War documentaries you see. I have to believe all the concrete, steel, and asphalt comprising the Seoul Metropolitan region has created its own micro-climate. I haven’t been to nor driven in Russia, but I can’t argue that driving in Seoul is stressful. A moved to the countryside a few years back, and am no longer subject to harsh winter weather nor jam-packed roadways.

      Here’s one example where the Korean IT technology has been both leading-edge and trailing-edge: They must have been one of the first countries using online banking. But they specified the detailed encryption technology in their legislation and regulations, which in recent years has meant an antiquated user verification system based on deprecated software like ActiveX and old versions of Internet Explorer. It’s slowly getting sorted out, the advent of smartphone banking, not to mention irate citizens, has been forcing a modernization.

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