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After a few speed bumps, Beijing city buses finally get fast free Wi-fi

Bus passengers in downtown Beijing can now surf the web using free Wi-fi, local media reported.

Some 12,000 buses, or 95 cent of buses operating within the Fifth Ring Road, now offer free internet access after the programme was launched in July, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. The remaining buses are slated to be retired.

The project is backed by 16WiFi, a company that provides internet connectivity on buses. Founder Qiu Zhaomin was quoted by the Daily as saying 6,000 buses running in the suburbs would also be equipped with the service within a month.

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Users need only download an app from 16WiFi and register with their real identity when they log in for the first time, the company said. The device would remember the network later and connect when it is in range.

The company’s first attempt to provide free Wi-fi on Beijing buses three years ago was unsuccessful, as users found it too slow. But the teething problems appear to have been worked out.

The bandwidth allows about 50 passengers to connect at one time at a maximum speed of 400 kilobits per second.

“There is no problem surfing the internet. Seven or eight passengers can watch videos at the same time,” Lin Feng, the chief executive of 16 WiFi was quoted as saying. Lin said passengers could use the service to track the distance to their stop and know how many seats were empty.

Qiu said the company had no plans to install Wi-fi at bus stops for now due to “complications” in ensuring a supply of electricity for the equipment.

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The company intends to install free Wi-fi on the metro Line 2 in Changsha in Hunan province. The service for subway patrons would be more robust and able to handle a greater number of users. The service was due to be expanded to subways in Beijing in the future, the report said.

Additional reporting by Jun Mai