Going Venice, Italy this summer? Don’t forget to check out the new citywide Wi-Fi service. The city claims to have the largest Wi-Fi network in Europe and one of the fastest, too. Access is free to residents of the city, but tourists will have to pay 5 EUR per day through the Venice Connect website. The city also plans to use the network for government applications, for example, traffic management and public safety. At present, the network covers 7 kilometers along the Grand Canal and many piazzas where tourists congregate, but there are plans to provide Wi-Fi access at Marco Polo International Airport as well.
In an interesting twist to Wi-Fi launch ceremonies, the city’s “ribbon cutting” event was held on a boat moving through the Grand Canal to show that users can connect to the Internet while cruising around the city in a vaporetto. I am sure visitors will appreciate the existence of Wi-Fi everywhere when they’re lost and need to find their hotel or a restaurant on their iPhones. The 5 EUR charge is far less than what many European providers charge per day in other cities (see my article: Travelers shocked by high Wi-Fi prices in Europe).
Although the European Union has forced mobile operators to lower their SMS and voice roaming rates starting 1 July 2009, data roaming rates remain high. Anyone who travels a lot knows the horrors of using a cellular connection to browse web pages or download email. The cry of anguish when one finds a mobile phone bill the size of a monthly mortgage payment upon returning home from holiday is one of the few universal experiences shared by travelers around the world. That’s why people love Wi-Fi and look for it wherever they go. It’s faster, too despite the endless optimistic press releases pumped out by the HSPA+ crowd (this is assuming your city even has HSPA).
Finally, to make things fun, Venice held an interactive digital Wi-Fi treasure hunt called “Whaiwhai”, where participants used mobile Wi-Fi devices to look for clues that guided them to various locations. On 3 July 2009, 2,679 users connected to the network, downloaded 20 gigabytes and uploaded 6 gigabytes of information (data from Tropos Networks, which provided equipment for the network).
Vitrociset, a Rome-based systems integrator, designed and installed the network; Venis Spa, a local ICT management and development company, will operate and maintain network operations on behalf of the City.
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