June 8, 2005

Wireless in Shanghai

Seattle has just been named America’s #1 “unwired” city by Intel Corporation, barely squeaking past last year’s winner, San Francisco. A per capita measure of wireless access, broadband availability, wireless networks, and email devices determined the crown.

Nearly half a world away is Shanghai, the city where 36% of adults had used the internet in 2004, in the country that will soon overtake the U.S. in having more internet users than anywhere else on the globe. But the wireless stories from Shanghai – despite the anticipation of that coming distinction – still sound surprisingly homespun.

Jian Shuo Wang wrote in his blog, which is subtitled “Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others)” about the wireless picture of Shanghai in January, 2004:

“LeiFeng reported many public hot spots along the way from Xujiahui to Hongkou (A district in north east Shanghai.) “So many I couldn’t even believe myself,” said LeiFeng.

I know almost all Starbucks are covered by China Mobile Network (CMC). Users with TianYiTong Account can directly access login. The bad news is, they are changing 0.1 RMB (about 1.2 US cents) per minute for all users.

Pudong Airport (Shanghai’s international airport) offers wireless access in the CNC network.

I’d like to have Internet access in a park or on the road. I will have a try from Xujiahui to Caobao Road today to see if there is any this way. I have WiFi Hot Spot in my home at 77 Cao Bao Road. It is not public now but I’d like to share it out – there is no harm for me. Others may not be able to use it since I am on the eleventh floor and the signal will be very low down at the ground.”

A bare 3 hours later, a blog reader named Lee commented on Wang’s post:

“Hmm. You should be careful to share your wifi access. Never know when people will abuse your internet access for their own purposes! (In the US, people warn about those sharings (for potential abuse.).”

At the end of the same day, Wang, reflecting the worries Chinese internet users have, replied:

“Lee, you are right. By opening the Wifi spot, some may send out spam via the IP address, others may post sensitive messages and cause the IP owner to have trouble. Is there any solution for this?”

And Lee answers about 4 hours later:

“Hmm. I have no idea how you would keep track of the MAC addresses of those who use your WiFi spot. But my guess… ”

And they go on and on, trying to sort through the technological and political issues. Today, I wonder if Wang is still encouraging others to share his wireless access, and I wonder if he has found a way to keep track of those who do, lest they get him in trouble. Wireless can certainly make for Sleepless in Shanghai.