1. GA-English
  2. News

Digital City Centre off the table: Bonn won’t get free WiFi

Digital City Centre off the table : Bonn won’t get free WiFi

The city council has given up its efforts for a free WiFi in Bonn's district centres. It argues that this is a transitional technology.

Free WiFi in Bonn's city centres would be something special, especially for people without a mobile phone contract. You could quickly send files from a laptop, tourists could pull up a city map or tell people back home that they have arrived in the modern federal city. But as far as wireless and free internet access is concerned, other cities and countries are more modern, criticises the SPD. The administration’s reply to a request by a large cohort of the parliamentary group to this topic it emerges that there will be no free WiFi in Bonn for the time being.

The SPD had asked whether the council had applied for EU subsidies for the institution, which the latter denied. Since the city is well covered with Telekom hotspots and WiFi offers in restaurants and shops, conditions toapply for money from the "Wifi4EU" pot do not exist. The trade associations had expressed interest, but the attempt to install public WiFi in the district centres had failed due to house owners who were not prepared to install fiber optic cables and small cell antennas at their houses – although they would not have to pay for them.

This is confirmed by the trade associations, which would have liked to see the public WiFi coming. Maike Reinhardt of City Marketing Bonn says that there was a great deal of support for this, "because we consider this to be particularly important for the trade". However, it failed because Telekom had "far too complex contracts". "Most homeowners were suspicious of that.“

Range too small

The Bad Godesberg Stadtmarketing association has offered Deutsche Telekom the opportunity to erect a transmitter mast on its pavilion, says Chairman Jürgen Bruder. But its range was too small. On Monday evening, Angelika Esch, leader of the SPD parliamentary group, accused the city administration in the council of "always only saying what is not possible". Other municipalities were much further along in this matter.

The city refers to NRW funding for private voluntary networks without making a profit, so-called free radio networks such as that of the KBU community, which is also active in Bonn. In addition, WiFi is a transitional technology in public space, and in future data communication will be handled via LTE and 5G.

In the future, what does that mean? The 5G licences were recently sold, but they cannot yet be used. According to deputy director Martin Ragg, the university's data center assumes that the new standard will not be an alternative to the universally available WiFi in the next three to five years. "Then a cut-throat competition will probably begin," he says. But those who cannot afford a 5G mobile phone contract will continue to depend on alternatives. Ragg would be in favour of a public WiFi network. That would also do justice to Bonn as a UN city. Meanwhile one must be content with what is available. Students have no problem in Bonn anyway, they have access to the Eduroam network with their student ID.

The Telekom hotspots work, you can surf for one hour for free – within a radius of about 20 meters. To find the hotspots, you need the Internet or download the Connect app, which logs in automatically as soon as a hotspot is available.

There is also Bonn.Net at the Stadthaus, the Alter Rathaus, in the district administration offices, the Bonn-Information, in the Haus der Bildung as well as in the district libraries. Since the beginning of 2019, there has been no time limit. In shops like Galeria Kaufhof you can log in for one hour and in some bars like McDonald's. So there is a WiFi cover, you just have to know where. And then go online there. It's still cosy in the café, not on the street in front of the hotspot.

(Original text: Stefan Knopp / Translation: Mareike Graepel)