Free or complimentary Internet access via WLAN hotspots has become widely available in cafés, hotels, shops, postal buses and long-distance bus lines across Switzerland. However, the SBB/CFF has not, up until now, made complimentary Internet access available to its customers.
That is about to change. The SBB/CFF has announced that it will be providing complimentary Internet access to passengers of its IC 5 (St. Gallen to Geneva via Zurich and Biel) and IC 51 (Basel to Biel) lines starting 2019.
Internet access over mobile networks
It is important to note that the complimentary Internet offered by the SBB/CFF is not provided via WLAN, but via mobile networks. In order to use the service, SBB/CFF customers must log in using the SBB Freesurf app after boarding a train.
After successfully logging in, SBB/CFF passengers can use the Internet via their mobile data connection without being billed for mobile data use by their mobile service provider. The SBB/CFF will locate passengers using Bluetooth beacons installed in its trains.
Complimentary Internet access is not available to Swisscom customers
Starting 2019, Sunrise, Salt, Coopmobile and Das Abo customers can access the Internet on a complimentary basis via the SBB/CFF service. Swisscom users cannot benefit from this offer, which is also unavailable to Yallo, Ortel, Lebara and Aldi Suisse Mobile users. The SBB/CFF aims to provide complimentary Internet access on all its long-distance lines from 2020.
Verdict by moneyland.ch telecom expert Ralf Beyeler
It has been a long time in coming. “At long last, SBB/CFF passengers will be able to benefit from complimentary Internet access on trains,” says Ralf Beyeler of online comparison service moneyland.ch. The majority of Swiss mobile customers do not have flat fee mobile plans with unlimited mobile data, and thus have had to be mindful of their mobile data use.
What is difficult to understand is why Swisscom has – at least initially – chosen not to participate so that its customers can take advantage of the SBB/CFF service. This is particularly disadvantageous for numerous users of Swisscom’s budget services like M-Budget, Wingo and SimplyMobile which have limited mobile data allowances.
The SBB/CFF Internet access is also inaccessible for the majority of tourists visiting Switzerland. The SBB has stated that it is working on a solution for tourists.
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