Public Wireless LAN /PWLAN

Tourism with a future: a network for Grindelwald

The digital pioneer among Swiss tourist spots is Grindelwald. Since April 2017, guests have been able to surf seamlessly, and free of charge, in the village centre via outdoor public wireless LAN. And this is only the beginning.

Text: Diana Busch, 

It all began with the 2002 European Curling Championships when journalists were reporting to the whole world from the Grindelwald Sports Centre. This gave Grindelwald its first hint that freely available Internet could become important for visitors. Swisscom was awarded the contract to install the first access points, followed by free WLAN for the guests inside the Sports Centre. And now, 15 years later, the entire village centre has outdoor public wireless LAN (PWLAN).

Simply a good experience

“In the past, when guests were checking into the hotel the first thing they asked was whether they had a balcony with a mountain view. Now they ask for the Internet code,” says Bruno Hauswirth, CEO of Grindelwald Tourism. “We realised that our service concept needed to go further than merely offering PWLAN at various hotspots. Our aim is to offer the guest a consistent experience.”

So anyone arriving at Grindelwald train station can log in to the PWLAN network on their smartphone and surf seamlessly and free of charge throughout the whole village centre. And this isn’t the end of the road: the plan is to have a continuous network that also includes hotels, restaurants and other businesses. The guest will be unaware of the fact that there are different access points.

This integrated service is based on strategic considerations. It improves the quality of the guest’s stay, and they can send photos and videos to family and friends at home very easily and upload them to social media channels. “It’s all about having a lovely holiday while also letting others join in. There is a huge desire to share,” Bruno Hauswirth explains. “This gives our marketing a boost, because there is no more genuine communication than when guests share their holiday experiences online.” Security is also an important matter for Grindelwald, because public networks are particularly difficult to control.

High security level for guests and Grindelwald

Swisscom not only takes care of the operation, access and maintenance of the public WLAN, but also its legal security. Markus Zangger, Swisscom Specialised Sales, explains: “In Grindelwald, all PWLAN users receive a free SMS with a confirmation code. In the process, Swisscom enters into a contract with the end user. If a user does something online that is against the law, we can identify them via their mobile phone number. All data is transferred via our network, which is very well protected from the outside. This makes life hard for would-be hackers.”

These arguments seem to be convincing more and more hotels. The Eiger, Sunstar, Parkhotel Schoenegg and Caprice hotels are already on board. Bruno Hauswirth has received a lot of positive feedback: “The new service is convenient for guests and the management is happy with the all-round service package. Of course, this comes at a price, but costs will fall as the number of participants increases.” The project is still ongoing. We are on the lookout for new hotels, restaurants and businesses that want to take part. 

Digital platform in development

For Bruno Hauswirth, PWLAN is an important basic service on which he is setting up an integrated digital platform with the tweebie app. At present, tweebie is playing the role of tourist guide in Grindelwald, giving guests information on timetables and the weather, as well as tips on what to do in the village. This basic information is only the first step. A year or two from now there will be an integrated visitor’s ticket with which tourists can take the bus from one district to the next. Hotels will also have their place in the app – they can integrate a booking tool and use the message board to communicate with their guests.

Bruno Hauswirth, CEO of Grindelwald Tourism

“However, the main attraction in Grindelwald is still its wonderful natural surroundings. Without WLAN. But wherever it makes sense we want to offer our guests the best possible service.” With this integrated solution, the village at the foot of the Eiger is taking on the role of digital pioneer among Swiss tourist locations.

PWLAN Outdoor offers a public wireless hotspot outdoors. This service is suitable for large areas such as outdoor swimming pools, camping sites and public spaces.

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Grindelwald is a digital pioneer, offering guests outdoor public wireless LAN for seamless surfing throughout the entire village centre.

In March 2017, there was a parliamentary decision to tighten the rules for providers of public WLAN. One requirement is that it must be possible to evaluate the communication via hotspots, and for this the Internet users must be identifiable. Swisscom already guarantees this.

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