News & Events Stage Bus

WiFi on the bus?

TRANSIT has been following the implementation of WiFi service on Penang buses and took note of the article below:

Thursday May 14, 2009
Now surf and ride with Rapid Penang

On the go: Rapid Penang staff members surfing the Net at the launch of WiFi services onboard a bus during a trial run for the media - image courtesy of the Star
On the go: Rapid Penang staff members surfing the Net at the launch of WiFi services onboard a bus during a trial run for the media - image courtesy of the Star

GEORGE TOWN: Rapid Penang is believed to be the first bus company in the country to roll out a high-speed WiFi service which will be useful to passengers, especially during a traffic congestion.


It sounds like a nice idea in theory – a new technology that is relatively cheap and will add an amenity that might get some people to use public transport.

Some cities have trains and buses with laptop power points, and even tables. Other cities have quiet cars or coffee cars for their trains. Google Transit has quiet buses and working buses for their employees.

But, while we understand that changing perceptions about public transport is important – the question must be asked – where did those perceptions come from?

The service is not password protected. Now, our passengers can surf the Net, check e-mail, Facebook or watch videos on YouTube with their laptops or handphones while on board.

“A lot of people think that public transport is only for the lower income group, but we’re offering services that private car owners don’t have – hands-free and Internet access at 3.5G speeds to entertain you in traffic jams,” he said while taking press members on a bus ride around town to try out the new service.


No one says that “buses are for the lower-income group” just for the fun of it. What they do say is based on what they see – that buses are unreliable, slow, uncomfortable, not so safe, convenient or enjoyable.

In other words, people are saying that their time and comfort is valuable and they are going to use their income to pay for more comfort and to save time. That could mean “I’ll pay more for better public transport” and that is why the market for luxury express coaches (Aeroline, Odyssey, AeroBus, TransStar Express etc) is growing so fast. But in general, because the state of public transport is so poor, what it really means is that people will buy a car.

So, we have to ask: Does putting WiFi on a bus make it more comfortable? Will it make the trip shorter or more convenient?

The answer is no … and so this will remain as a nice, feel-good exercise that will benefit few and hopefully cost very little.

Finally, TRANSIT would like to point out – the service is NOT password protected – hence your personal data and information IS AT RISK just as it would be in any wireless system.

Happy Surfing

4 replies on “WiFi on the bus?”

I agree with the TRANSIT’s view with regards of implementation of WiFi service in a public bus. Public buses are not meant only for the lower income.

The reason such perception arise are because of the low fare they impose. This does not mean that public transport has to be expensive. What the public are looking for are reliable, efficient, comfortable, safe, convenient or enjoyable mean of transport under an affordable cost.

Although WiFi on a bus would mean an added value facilities in a bus but I doubt this added feature would attract more passenger especially laptop user.

Few cons they might have mis-look by introducing such facilities with such prediction:

1. Unless the public busses are only limiting their passerger according to the number of seat in the bus, who would be carrying a laptop to surf the internet if they have to stand in the bus along the journey? As a frequent public bus user in KL, finding a seat in a RapidKL bus during peak hours is rare. Consider it lucky if you do not need to squeeze like a sardin in a tin during peak hours.

2. Given a choice would you choose to take a bus with WiFi or save one hour journey by driving a car or taking private transport to your destination? With the one hour saved I could probably do more (which I prefer to do) than having an entertainment from internet access during the journey. The so called TV media currently available in the RapidKL or other public buses in KL could have fare better than the WiFi service as a mean of traveling entertainment.

3. Other than personal data and information risk of using wireless system as pointed out by TRANSIT, one could have forgotton the point of privacy in this case. There are lesser things you could do by having a laptop with WiFi available minus the privacy you could have. In a public bus you do not have privacy as your surrounding are packed with stranger. You could not comfortably do your personnal work let alone accessing/reading some private and confidential information.

Although WiFi on a bus is a good initiative introduced but obviously the bus operator has targeted on the wrong group (non lower income group as reported).

If I am not from a lower income group, carrying an additional bag with laptop and afford to own a car would I forego the benefit below for the sake of getting this extra free WiFi service including few ringgit saving:

a) convinience – travel from anywhere and anytime I wish without the need to abide with the frequency and wait for the bus,

b) comfortability – do not need to stand all along the journey or force myself among the crowd in a packed buses,

c) reliability – reach my destination early without worry of delayed and according to my planned time. Instead do whatever I wish with the extra time which I have allocate for the travel.

my oh my…
have you guys ever heard of surfing internet with cellphone instead of laptops?
there are still silver linings, i guess…


Thanks for your comment.

You are correct about using mobile phones, but the number of people with WiFi on their mobile phones is still relatively low in Malaysia.


Moaz for TRANSIT

Recently I went to work by ETS train but the wifi in ETS is password protected so the unprotected wifi is not true. If anyone know the password please tell me ok. Thanks

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