Wi-Fi in the sta­ti­ons and vehi­cles of the BVG

Sin­ce 2019, BVG has equip­ped its bus fleet with this ser­vice in addi­ti­on to its under­ground sta­ti­ons, and is con­ti­nuous­ly expan­ding its over­all range.

Every day and every night, the yel­low vehi­cles of Ber­li­ner Ver­kehrs­be­trie­be (BVG) are out on the streets of Ber­lin. In the capi­tal, around 1 bil­li­on pas­sen­gers a year take advan­ta­ge of the wide ran­ge of ser­vices offe­red by Ger­many’s lar­gest public trans­port ope­ra­tor. Every year, about 580 mil­li­on pas­sen­gers board or chan­ge BVG trains at the city’s 173 under­ground stations.

In 2015 and 2016, the under­ground sta­ti­ons were suc­ces­si­ve­ly equip­ped with free WiFi hot­spots for com­mu­ters and visi­tors to the city. Sin­ce then, the num­ber of users of BVG WiFi at under­ground sta­ti­ons has risen steadi­ly and is cur­r­ent­ly in the dou­ble-digit mil­li­ons every mon­th. The WiFi is also very popu­lar wit­hin the vehi­cles. BVG has been equip­ping its bus fleet with this ser­vice sin­ce 2019 and is con­ti­nuous­ly expan­ding its over­all ran­ge in the latest offers such as the ride sharing opti­on “Berl­Kö­nig” or mobi­li­ty hub “Jel­bi”. BVG’s WiFi, which com­mu­ters and tra­vel­lers can log on to seam­less­ly and free of char­ge, is on the rise in Berlin.

Why WiFi?

In 2015, at a time when WiFi was still con­si­de­red rather unusu­al by public trans­port com­pa­nies, BVG bro­ke new ground for pas­sen­gers with the Euro­pe-wide invi­ta­ti­on to ten­der for its public WiFi. Its sta­ted aim was not only to offer pas­sen­gers addi­tio­nal con­ve­ni­en­ce with the WiFi ser­vice, but also to inte­gra­te the WiFi into the incre­a­singly diver­se digi­tal ser­vice offe­rings of Ber­lin’s public trans­port aut­ho­ri­ties. The­se inclu­de the BVG smart­pho­ne apps with real-time dri­ving infor­ma­ti­on, mobi­li­ty offers for the urban area and the pos­si­bi­li­ty to purcha­se digi­tal tickets as well as the con­ti­nuous rene­wal of the fleet.

The requi­re­ments for the WiFi offer were the­re­fo­re desi­gned from the out­set to accom­mo­da­te pos­si­ble exten­si­ons. The demand for roa­ming bet­ween under­ground sta­ti­ons and the auto­ma­tic con­nec­tion of pas­sen­gers to the net­work offe­red were two important buil­ding blocks for cur­rent and future pas­sen­ger comfort.

It was necessa­ry to acti­va­te a youth pro­tec­tion fil­ter at the public hot­spots, and the avail­ab­le band­widths had to be dis­tri­bu­t­ed sim­ply and fair­ly among all users. From the out­set, BVG saw not only the advan­ta­ges for users, but also the pos­si­bi­li­ty of making important pro­ducts, such as its own ticket app, pro­mi­nent for pas­sen­gers through self-pro­mo­ti­on on the log­in pages of the hotspots.

Simp­le, safe and flexible

Fol­lowing the invi­ta­ti­on to ten­der, BVG deci­ded to equip the under­ground sta­ti­ons with the WiFi ser­vice from HOTSPLOTS, a Ber­lin-based WiFi ser­vice pro­vi­der. Today, HOTSPLOTS ope­ra­tes more than 17,000 hot­spot loca­ti­ons throughout Euro­pe, inclu­ding sta­tio­na­ry loca­ti­ons such as BVG under­ground sta­ti­ons, but also an incre­a­sing num­ber of mobi­le hot­spots in buses and trains (public transport).

The WiFi ser­vices of HOTSPLOTS ful­ly meet the requi­re­ments of the BVG. Pas­sen­gers can easi­ly use BVG WiFi without having to regis­ter any per­so­nal data: Via a log­in but­ton, the pas­sen­gers con­firm the terms of use and log direct­ly into the WiFi hot­spot with just one click. The peri­od of use or the data volu­me is not limi­ted in the case of the BVG offer.

Once a ter­mi­nal device is con­nec­ted to the hot­spot, it auto­ma­ti­cal­ly recon­nects to the return jour­ney at the nea­rest under­ground sta­ti­on, when chan­ging trains or when wai­t­ing for the train. This auto­ma­tic log­in is set up for seven days for BVG pas­sen­gers. In con­cre­te terms, this means that if a com­mu­ter uses the WiFi ser­vice every day or several times a week, the log­in page with the terms of use will actual­ly only be dis­play­ed again after seven days without any con­nec­tion to the BVG hot­spots. This con­ve­ni­ent func­tion in com­bi­na­ti­on with Ber­lin-wide roa­ming via all BVG under­ground sta­ti­ons, buses and mobi­li­ty hubs enab­les sur­fing in BVG WiFi without restrictions.

The user data of the public WiFi hot­spot is rou­t­ed via high­ly avail­ab­le, red­un­dant HOTSPLOTS App­li­an­ce XL as gate­ways from the under­ground sta­ti­ons to the Inter­net. By means of the VPN pro­to­col deve­lo­ped by HOTSPLOTS, the avail­ab­le band­width of the WiFi is dis­tri­bu­t­ed fair­ly in the vehi­cles and the uti­liz­a­ti­on of the LTE data volu­me is optimized.

As a WiFi ser­vice pro­vi­der for the BVG, HOTSPLOTS is the ser­vice pro­vi­der through which infor­ma­ti­on is pro­vi­ded to the aut­ho­ri­ties, for examp­le legal enqui­ries regar­ding the misu­se of hot­spots. Even after the aboli­ti­on of ‘lia­bi­li­ty for inter­fe­rence’ in Ger­ma­ny, the legal pro­tec­tion of public hot­spots con­ti­nues to be an important issue. Thus, misu­se of a WiFi hot­spot in the cri­mi­nal sen­se (e.g. dis­se­mi­na­ti­on of hate­ful comments) is not a case that would fall under the pur­view of ‘lia­bi­li­ty for inter­fe­rence’. With the enact­ment of the Euro­pean Gene­ral Data Pro­tec­tion Regu­la­ti­on (GDPR), the pro­tec­tion of public WiFi under data pro­tec­tion law has also come to the fore­front. In terms of its ser­vices, HOTSPLOTS is an advo­ca­te for both data eco­no­my when it comes to sto­rage as well as adhe­rence to dele­ti­on peri­ods. The pro­ces­sing of infor­ma­ti­on requests from end users is also hand­led by the ser­vice provider.

From the sta­ti­on into the vehicles

HOTSPLOTS’ all-round ser­vice, with its wide ran­ge of tech­ni­cal opti­ons and fle­xi­ble offer for pas­sen­gers, was a com­ple­te suc­cess in the under­ground sta­ti­ons. At the end of 2018, the com­pa­ny the­re­fo­re began to extend its ser­vices to BVG buses.

After the start-up pha­se with 30 buses, around 300 buses will be run­ning on the high­ly fre­quen­ted rou­tes in Ber­lin’s city cent­re with WiFi ser­vice on board by mid-2019. It goes without say­ing that the same requi­re­ments as tho­se for sta­tio­na­ry WiFi app­ly. All mobi­le hot­spots are cor­re­spon­din­gly part of the BVG roa­ming and the auto-log­in acces­ses the end devices, regard­less of whe­ther a pas­sen­ger is tra­vel­ling in one of the buses or wai­t­ing for the sub­way at a station.

Mobi­li­ty is chan­ging. This is why the BVG is incre­a­singly tes­ting out new offers. The ridesha­ring ser­vice “Berl­Kö­nig” and the mobi­li­ty hub “Jel­bi” are worthy of men­ti­on in this con­text. In the lat­ter case, it is pos­si­ble to switch bet­ween the sharing vehi­cles of dif­fe­rent pro­vi­ders. In addi­ti­on to ren­tal bicy­cles or car-sharing vehi­cles, chan­ging to the bus, tram and under­ground is also quick and easy. All mobi­li­ty offers are clo­se­ly inter­lin­ked. Mobi­li­ty ser­vice pro­vi­ders are acti­ve via apps and the tar­get group is very online. The fur­ther expan­si­on of the free hot­spots from train sta­ti­ons and buses to trams and ridesha­ring as a ser­vice for BVG pas­sen­gers is a logi­cal consequence.

Com­ple­te arti­cle in the PDF. (Cour­te­sy of the Ger­man maga­zi­ne “Regio­nal­ver­kehr”. This text was first publis­hed in issue 06/2019.)