Free WiFi citywide is something many talk about doing but never follow through, but the German city of Karlsruhe wasn’t just talking up a vision when they announced that unlimited free WiFi would be available throughout the entire city; their 100,000 euro year-long trial is now open to all residents and visitors.
WiFi antennas have been installed throughout the city, including some hidden away inside the famous belltower of the 18th century Karlsruhe palace. “The palace is heritage listed so we had to mount them on the inside where they would be invisible,” explained IT expert Bernd Strehhuber.
While Karlsruhe isn’t the first city in Germany to offer a form of citywide WiFi, it is the first to do so without the typical time or data restrictions.
Cities like Cologne and Munich offer public WiFi, but cut off the connection after one hour of use, even though users can sign back in immediately. Berlin and Hamburg contract out the public WiFi to commercial providers who limit the free use to only 30 or 60 minutes per day before requiring paid plans.
The first large German city to offer free WiFi without a time limit was Pforzheim in 2013, but users have a 500MB monthly restriction. After that data allotment is used up, connectivity speeds are significantly reduced.
What Karlsruhe is doing is offering true free and unlimited connections. There are no time limits and no data caps.
To connect to the KA-WLAN network, as it is being called, new users must first register with their name and an email address or German cell number. A unique code is then assigned to the user to not only make it easy to sign in on multiple devices, but also allows for the city to identify a user who may be using the free connection to engage in illegal activities online.
Average speeds will vary depending on how many users are simultaneously using the public network, but for most people, the Karlsruhe KA-WLAN network will provide more than enough speed to perform their online tasks.