Free Wi-Fi in Bern for the 2008 European football championships

Free Wi-Fi in Bern for the 2008 European football championships 

People who are visiting Bern, Switzerland this summer for the European 2008 football championships will have free Wi-Fi access to the entire network of TheNet, thanks to a partnership with Energy Water Bern and the Espace Media Group. There’s already free Wi-Fi in Bern wherever TheNet has its coverage. In addition to the existing locations (Bern main station, Bärenplatz, Waisenhausplatz parts of the Länggasse), there’s Wi-Fi access at the Bubenbergplatz, Helvetiaplatz, Münstergasse, parts of Wylerring, the Kirchenfeld Quartier and Sandrainstrasse.

Click here to see the Bern HotSpot coverage map (beta version) during Euro 2008. The map’s coverage will be enhanced in the near future.

Who are the partners in this project? TheNet has been an ISP for more than 15 years and claims to be the first and largest provider of municipal Wi-Fi networks in Switzerland. Espace Media Group is the publisher of Bern’s main newspaper (Berner Zeitung). Energie Wasser Bern is Bern’s utility company providing water, electricity, gas and telecommunications (citywide fibre-optic links) services.

There are two interesting aspects to this Wi-Fi project.

First, providing free Wi-Fi to visitors for special events is a subject that has not been addressed well enough, but it is desperately needed and much appreciated. Visitors are not going to spend hours online; they just want to check their email quickly, find restaurants, cafes and shops, and look up Google maps. So, charging a lot of money (typically in Europe, 30 EUR per day) is only going to deter people from using the service, or make them really mad if they feel they have to pay that outrageous price. Not good PR for the city of Bern. But, if I could access my email, maps, and find interesting places via Wi-Fi for free, I will have a much better experience overall and say good things not just about the city but about Euro 08 as well.

To those of you who say visitors should use their cellular connection, stop right now: since most visitors are coming from outside Switzerland, they will have to pay very high data roaming rates for checking email, web browsing, etc. In addition, most younger people have prepaid cards that allow only voice, not data, communications so they can’t even check email or browse the web. Someday, if Viviane Reding gets her way, high data roaming rates in the EU will be a distant memory. In the meantime, they burn a hole in everyone’s pocket and in this belt-tightening, recession-fearing environment, massive phone bills are something Europeans are keen to avoid.

Second interesting thing: the ISPs’ partners are the local newspaper and the energy company. Think about that - the paper can put interesting, relevant, local content everyday on the landing page, when you log in. Such content may consist of a list of best football cafes in Bern, where to go for dinner (for families, singles), where to hang out during the day, museum and gallery exhibits, etc. There are so many ways to make the visitor experience in Bern unforgettable and here is the local media’s chance to do that. As for the the energy company, it’s supplying the backhaul for the service via their fiber network, so they are also a good partner for the ISP.

Now if more people could think this way - cities, ISPs, publishers - maybe we can have good wireless communications during special events in cities around the world and provide visitors with wonderful experiences.


Esme Vos | April 28, 2008 at 1:14 pm