Public WiFi: where can I find an affordable network?

Free WiFi is becoming available in more and more restaurants. Source: iStock

Whether your plan is monthly or prepaid, mobile data is expensive and gets used up quickly. For that reason, it is worth using public WiFi networks when you are out and about. An overview of what’s available.

You have run out of data and it is still so long until the end of the month – a familiar problem to many mobile phone users with a data subscription that includes a certain volume of data. With the cheaper mobile service providers, the allowance is quickly used up. On the other hand, contracts with unlimited Internet usage are very expensive. Yet disconnecting your tablet or smartphone from the Internet while out and about makes little sense as almost all applications use data from the Internet.

When you are on the go, therefore, the only alternative to accessing the Internet via your mobile network is public WiFi. WiFi networks that can be used either free of charge or for a fee are becoming increasingly prevalent in Switzerland. Here is an overview of what’s available:

Swisscom: a large free network for customers

Swisscom offers a large network of public WiFi access points throughout Switzerland. Customers with infinity, Vivo and My SME Office plans can use this network free of charge. Everyone else pays 5 francs a day. If you would like to connect multiple devices to a Swisscom wireless network, you can do so for 10 francs a day for up to three devices. You can find your nearest WiFi hot spot here.

UPC: free WiFi via a separate channel

Customers with a cable connection from UPC (formerly Cablecom) can activate the Wi-Free service. On signing up for this service, they are given a separate WiFi channel at home for other users. In return, they can use their login details to access all other Wi-Free-activated WiFi networks of UPC customers. This service is free and is protected via UPC login, restricting access to UPC customers only. Click here for more information.

SBB: 60 free minutes for everyone

SBB has now equipped around 80 train stations with their own WiFi infrastructure. After completing the required registration process, users can surf for free for up to 60 minutes per day in each train station. So travellers from Bern to Zurich, for example, can access the Internet via SBB WiFi for 60 minutes in Bern and for a further 60 minutes on arrival in Zurich.

Monzoon: expensive connection

The company Monzoon is another big provider of public WiFi. Monzoon hot spots can mainly be found in the larger Swiss cities and municipalities. Use of the hot spots is always subject to a charge and, depending on the duration, can be quite expensive. An hour, for example, costs 6.90 francs. However, Monzoon also offers the option of paying by the minute. Further information and prices are available here.

Alternative providers

If you do not want to use any of the large WiFi providers or cannot find a hot spot, you can also try restaurants, hotels and other providers. Branches of the coffee house chain Starbucks offer free WiFi, for example. You can then invest the money you save in a caramel macchiato and get your work done in a more relaxed frame of mind.

Rural areas catching up

In contrast to cities, the availability of public WiFi is often very limited in rural areas as they do not have the required infrastructure. But things are improving there, as well: the Rigi and Saas-Fee mountain railways offer free WiFi access in some of their stations, for example. And in Zermatt and Davos, you can surf the Internet for free throughout the ski resort.