Smart Communications will be providing free wireless internet to all seven constituent universities of the University of the Philippines (UP) system nationwide.
The rollout is ongoing, initially installing 120 hotspots in various UP campuses. The project also involves an additional eight new base stations to an existing six that are already in operation.
However, students should not expect to be spoiled with endless YouTube access or downloads. Smart will whitelist websites that can be accessed by free over WiFi inside UP campuses, allowing only 30 minutes access per day to sites not on the list. Data usage beyond that will be charged the usual rates.
“This is more than just a simple triumph of technology. The hotspots will be a catalyst in unifying the seven constituent universities and one constituent college of the UP System and will signal the start of greater collaboration between UP and Smart in bringing Philippine education into the 21st century,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual.
Pascual is referring to a campus-wide computerization program called eUP, a tech overhaul aiming to make the country’s national university more competitive globally.
Smart’s sister-firm, PLDT, has also won the competitive bidding for the core programs needed for the project, using software from Oracle to run the University’s information management systems.
“We have to start somewhere, right now — as they say in UP — kung hindi tayo, sino; kung di ngayon, kailan? This MOA signing is a good way to help make the eUP project a reality. We’re in this together,” said Smart chief wireless advisor Orlando Vea, who is a UP alumnus.
“This fosters more collaborative learning within the UP community, and allows every Isko and Iska to access online learning resources for free. For us at Smart, this is part of our vision for digital inclusion, of making the Internet more accessible so that more Filipinos get to enjoy its benefits,” he adds.
The deal could also present a golden opportunity for Smart to tap into a potential audience of well over 50,000 UP students, based on 2011-2012 campus. population numbers. Wifi hotspot ads, often seen in public access wifi in local malls in the country, is a popular means to monetize such projects, though Smart did not elaborate on this.
The seven UP campuses include the University of the Philippines Baguio, University of the Philippines Diliman, University of the Philippines Los Baños, University of the Philippines Manila, University of the Philippines Visayas, University of the Philippines Mindanao and the University of the Philippines Open University.