Berlin’s public transport provider BVG is currently testing free internet access in Wedding’s subway station Osloer Strasse (U8 / U9). Until the end of October everybody on that station can simply login into BVG’s hotspot “BVG Wi-Fi” and use their internet connection free of charge.
BVG is hoping to gather information about the practicability of such free WiFi hotspot in subway stations. How will the network react, when a train enters the station and literally hundreds of users login to the same hotspot? Will people even use the free service – or are people too suspicious about the network’s security? Will the subway station be more frequented / will more people be using the U-Bahn because of the free WiFi hotspot?
Of course BVG could also do a research on how other European cities and other public transport operators are handling free WiFi hotspots – probably they have already. Here’s just a quick look at three other European capitals:
- London’s tube is offering free Wifi in about 150 stations in cooperation with other major partners. So you have to be a (registered) of one of those partners to access one of the hotspots.
- Finland’s capital Helsinki basically offers free all across the city: “The city of Helsinki offers a free WLAN-service for residents and travelers alike. No passwords or registration required. Just look for “Helsinki City Open WLAN” from the available networks.” (visithelsinki.fi) As far as I know WLAN is also accessible in various buses, trams and at tram- and bus stops. And it’s fast.
- Also Estonia’s capital Tallin offers free internet access to residents and visitors – and has been offering for about ten years now: “Tallinn city provides free wifi to its citizens and visitors in 30 different hotspots around the city (not including city libraries and schools). It is free to use and has been so since it started in 2005.” (www.visitestonia.com)
My honest opinion: I would strongly suggest it’s about time that Berlin also offers free internet access to residents and visitors. The BVG-Test is a step in the right direction – but instead of testing free WiFi hotspots in just one station, BVG staff and the City Council should probably take a weekend trip to some other European capital and then finally start installing hotspots across the city.