In 2018, SBB FreeSurf was developed as an alternative to WiFi due to high costs and a long time to market in order to meet customer demand for free internet on trains. With this project, SBB is building on the tried-and-tested mobile network strategy to offer a solution that is highly stable and free of charge, in contrast to services offered by railways elsewhere.
The solution is based on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacon technology and a mobile app. About 2,500 long-distance vehicles are equipped with Beacon Pros from Kontakt.io to support it.
Thanks to the two to five beacons installed in each coach, passenger mobile phones can be localized. The duration of time that the customer surfs the internet is recorded by means of an app that communicates with the Beacon Pro via Bluetooth. SBB will then bear the costs of the data volume for this time period. Customers from five Swiss mobile network providers can benefit from the solution, which provides coverage for over 90% of the mobile network market in Switzerland. Given its novelty, SBB has initiated a patent application for the project.
Thanks to beacon technology, additional customer services can be launched, providing added value for passengers and enabling SBB to optimise quality on several levels.