Ten thousand people per week are now using 150 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Vienna to access the internet with their mobile devices – and by the end of the year there will be 400 access points.
The free Wi-Fi (known as WLAN in Austria) is particularly popular with tourists who use it for sending text messages, uploading photos and accessing online street maps.
Each Wi-Fi access point in Vienna gives users information about where they are – for example what events are going on if they are at the Rathausplatz.
Latest statistics show that the free Wi-Fi is also being used by young, tech-savvy Viennese, who find that it offers a faster data connection than their mobile provider does. This is an obvious advantage when downloading large amounts of data. The Wi-Fi spots are also being used to view videos on various platforms.
The MA 33 office responsible for installing the access points said that not everyone can afford expensive, unlimited data phone contracts. The free Wi-Fi is aimed at enabling “everyone in the city to have access to the internet”, deputy mayor Maria Vassilakou said.
The access points are being installed on lamp posts and traffic lights. 220 have been installed so far and 150 are in operation. By the end of the year the city should have 400. Each access point costs around €2,000.
The access points are installed at tourist hotspots such as the Kärntnerstrasse shopping street, as well as places which offer seating and tables on which laptops can be placed.
Previously users had to register to use the free Wi-Fi but the process has now been simplified – you just need to select ‘wien.at Public WLAN‘, confirm that you have read the terms and conditions, and you’re online.
Data protection experts urge those who use free public networks to be cautious and bear in mind that nothing is private and that it’s very easy for others on the network to look at what you’re doing with just a few simple software tools. It’s also easy for anyone spying on you to find out your passwords and log-ins for sites like Facebook and email accounts.
It’s not recommended to use online banking apps or sites when using free Wi-Fi. To encrypt all of the data you send, it’s recommended to use a VPN service, which means that anyone trying to steal your data will see only encrypted data that they can’t get into.
Certain websites, such as pornographic and right-wing sites, are blocked by Vienna council and cannot be accessed.