If you’re looking for a modern mall that has managed to pull off the rather difficult feat of providing fast, free mall-wide Wi-Fi, look no further than SM Marikina.
Well okay, SM Marikina is pretty far for a lot of people, but it’s pretty close to the Katipunan/Loyola Heights/La Vista area in Quezon City where I used to live. It’s off the beaten path from our usual routes (you need to drive down Marcos Highway towards Antipolo to get there) so it comes to a surprise to many first time visitors that a modern “mega” mall actually exists in the area.
I got a tip from SM Prime’s Kelsey Hartigan-Go that they were looking for 1,000 “Wi-Fi Road warriors” to test out the system. Kelsey posted his invitation on my mailing list PH-Cyberview. The message went like so:
Hi..Any Wifi Road Warriors out there? I’m trying to conduct an experiment on how much load a typical mesh network can accommodate. If there are anyone who likes Free HIgh Speed Wifi, let me know if you want to join in the experimental load testing. Hopefully we’re looking at 1,000 users online simultaneously and we want to study the load patterns. The testing will hopefully happen this Saturday, although it isn’t firm yet.
The road test actually pushed through on February 28, 2009. I had to give up a trip to Tagaytay to be there, but it was pretty interesting experiment so I guess it was worthwhile.
SM Marikina put out the word through the blogosphere and invited 300 bloggers over to test it out, do some live blogging, and even win an Asus laptop. (Not sure what the selection criteria was, but I guess the more the merrier).
I got a chance to quiz SM Marikina’s mall manager Bob Fernando about the setup. This was conducted at the Cyberzone area of the mall.
How was it? Pretty fast – speeds of 384kbps to about 1mbps in various nooks and crannies of the mall, from the interior of restaurants, to the top floor food court right next to the theaters. Could be faster, but hey, it was free.
Here’s some sample Speedtest.Net benchmarks:
The broadband provider is the disturbingly cheerfully named Happy Communications. As Bob Fernando said in his interview, SM hopes to be officially launching the free service fairly soon. And if it clicks in Marikina, expect it to be a feature in other SM Malls as well.