Ships that call on Singapore can now use WiMax instead of satellite to connect to the Internet.
Already 70 percent complete, Singapore's maritime WiMax network will eventually extend 15 kilometers offshore, covering its southern coastline and port - one of the world's busiest with 140,000 ship calls every year. The government-led project, called WisePort, is run by local operator QMax Communications and uses the same version of WiMax found in South Korea, called WiBro, that uses the 2.3GHz spectrum band.
As part of the Singapore launch of Intel's Centrino 2 laptop platform, the chip maker chartered a boat - actually a 56-foot pleasure cruiser called Sardinia - to take out local technology reporters, analysts and a few bloggers, giving them a chance to try out the WisePort network. You couldn't ask for a better day to be out on the water, with a bright blue sky and a gentle breeze.
A few of the reporters even gave the WiMax network a shot, sitting down to use one of several Centrino 2-based laptops set up by Intel on the boat's flybridge for that purpose.
The WisePort demonstration didn't offer a chance to try Intel's WiMax chipset, which will be available with a limited number of Centrino 2 laptops sold in the U.S. later this year. Called Echo Peak, that chipset only supports the 2.5GHz version of WiMax and not the 2.3GHz flavor that WisePort uses. As a result, each of the Centrino 2 laptops was equipped with a Flyvo WiMax dongle.
I managed to corner a Toshiba laptop with one of these dongles and fired up Internet Explorer, thinking I'd first try watching a video or two. But the laptop, apparently fresh out of the box, didn't yet have Flash installed. So instead of watching a video, my first test of the network was to download and install the Flash plug-in. That was smooth enough, even if I wasn't blown away with the download speed. The short wait gave me a few minutes to enjoy the view as the Sardinia made its way across the approaches to Singapore's Keppel Harbor, headed toward the eastern anchorages, where dozens of ships lay at anchor.