Nine out of 10 Koreans use smartphones.
But at the same time, Koreans pay comparatively a large amount of money to use the internet on their mobile phones.
Recent reports show that one gigabyte of data costs around 15 U.S. dollars in Korea,which is the most expensive price tag among countries with high smartphone penetration rate.
This costly mobile price has created digital inequality among Koreans, leading to so-called ‘wifi refugees’ who move around places to find wifi.
“Data is always not enough. I sometimes pay extra for overusing data. So when I am out, I only use my smartphone where wifi is provided.”
Free public wifi now is concentrated in subways, buses and main streets. To expand the range of public wifi, Seoul has announced its plan to build a ‘data-free city’, establishing more than 4 thousand kilometers of municipal broadband networks.
“Currently Seoul's network covers 30 percent of the city and is mostly limited to administration business uses. We plan to install more than 16 thousand public wifi application processors around the city by 2022, extending the coverage area to 100 percent."
The administration says the 12 million foreigners who visit Seoul every year will also benefit from the plan as everyone can access the free wifi.
“You can save a lot of money. Otherwise you have to pay your provider and it’s very expensive if you are out of your country if you use your cell phone."
“The Kenyan government does not provide free wifi to tourists so most of the times tourists who are there for even a short visit are forced to use the sim-card so that they are able to use the internet on their phones.”
This marks a first for any city in the world. Building a municipal broadband network that covers its entire metropolitan area. Once complete, citizens and tourists alike will have access to free public wifi, even in small backstreets like this.
Seoul expects this project to save around 40 U.S dollars per user, leading to around 30 billion dollars of total benefits.
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.