Free wifi now available along EDSA

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 12) — Free Wi-Fi is now available in all stations of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) as part of the Duterte administration's promise to swiftly improve internet access for Filipinos.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), along with Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc., launched the project on Monday, and they plan to expand its coverage all across EDSA in the coming months.

The MRT-3 will have three Wi-Fi networks available for commuters: the government's Juan Connect network, as well as those run by Globe and Smart.

Juan Connect will have a daily data cap of 100 megabits for every user. Globe and Smart, meanwhile, promise high-speed internet — each one has a total capacity of 1 gigabit per second — but users will only be able to get 30 minutes free each day. Additional use will come at a charge.

"It's not just about providing internet, but making sure that internet is fast and reliable as well. The goal was to ensure access to the internet was readily available along EDSA, thereby allowing our commuting public to experience a more comfortable ride by staying connected to the service," National Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said during the launch.

On its first day, the free Wi-Fi registered speeds of as much as 200-300 megabits per second, DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima said.

He noted, though, that speeds would likely drop after the holiday as workers and students go back on the road.

Still, the Wi-Fi networks can accommodate as much as 3,000 users at a time. Salalima assured speeds should not go below "double digits" or 10 mbps. The average internet speed in the country was 5.5 mbps as of the first quarter of 2017.

The free Wi-Fi was also extended to the street-level of EDSA, running from Cubao to Guadalupe. Next month, it will cover from North Avenue to Taft Avenue. By August, the government aims to have free Wi-Fi available from Balintawak in the north until Mall of Asia in the south.

At its full rollout, the project should benefit up to 1 million travelers that pass through the country's main thoroughfare every day.

Both Globe and Smart officials declined to give an estimate of how much they invested for the government's EDSA Wi-Fi project.

Globe General Counsel Froilan Castelo simply said, "It's a public service."

Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs at Smart, added that the industry strategy anyway is to let more people experience high-speed internet, in the hopes it will convince them to take broadband subscriptions later on.

In the last year, both Globe and Smart have worked to provide free Wi-Fi in many high-traffic locations across the Philippines, such as airports, hospitals, malls and city halls.

This was partly in response to President Rodrigo Duterte's threats to improve the quality of internet in the country. But also, this was prompted by the shift of telco users away from traditional call and text services and onto data use instead.