Just Wi-fi sent in this comment, outlining concerns about the free wi-fi project in Penang – this time largely unrelated to health risks – which give us some food for thought:
I work as an engineer with a tech company; installing wi-fi networks is part of my job. To be honest, most of us do discuss how the devices are affecting us. Some of us feel dizziness and some us experience headaches, especially in areas near signal-boosted wi-fi antennas (amplifiers). But again, these powerful devices are to transmit data within building to building and should be ‘away’ from offices, residential areas.
What concerns me is that the installation plan and study have been carried out. There are many challenges for this project.
A well-covered wi-fi zone needs more than one Access Point (AP) and careful planning. Normally, network engineers need to get a detailed analysis and studies over the area: how many estimated users per AP for now and in the future. Poor wi-fi designs will cause users to experience slow or intermittent connection (due to overloaded APs). Have they done the evaluation? What is the maintenance contract between the State and provider like?
Unless the backbone is using cable. Throughput (actual speed) of point to point/multi point is not very high and stable (due to interference from trees, buildings and even human bodies). If using wi-fi/Wimax as backbone… which buildings/location are they gonna mount the antennas? How many outdoor nodes? How many antenna towers will they build near residential buildings? Will you allow them to mount powerful wi-fi dishes on your rooftop?
What about security? Wi-fi’s security is no way compatible to cable. Remember, this is an open network; anyone can sniff your data packet. Does the company have social responsibility over public security? Can we sue the service provider for not taking enough security precautions? Are they willing to upgrade all their infrastructure if new vulnerabilities are found to hack wi-fi and Wimax? (Read further on old technology WEP. Any script kiddy can hack your WEP-key router in less than 20mins (search youtube). This is an old encryption method, but scan around the wi-fi signals now: I would say more than 90 per cent around Penang are still using WEP.)
Every technology has its good and bad; it’s just how we implement it. For this project, I strongly feel uncomfortable because everything is merely announcements, press statements.
Where is CAT value for the project?
Any company other than P1 tendering for this project?
Lastly, we need a place – both virtual (internet) and physical (office) – where we can obtain information on future mega projects.
These sound like fair questions and concerns, which should be addressed.
I would just like to add that private companies are not in the business of doing charity work. Their over-riding objective is profit maximisation. So what are the business models for these companies? If the wi-fi service is free, how does the company hope to raise revenue (and profit) to recover its RM10 or RM20 million investment cost? One of the ways is probably through advertisements on the wi-fi access website. Is that the only source of revenue? More details are needed. Let’s be completely transparent about the whole thing in line with CAT.