Devicescape’s Curated Spot Check team recently visited Prague to perform an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment in the Czech Republic. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become a premier tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is it one of Europe’s most beautiful cities with a preserved historic town center and splendid architecture, but it hosts a diverse set of music venues, museums, monuments, and other cultural attractions. It also features no shortage of accessible amenity Wi-Fi.
Our team assessed Wi-Fi availability, attitudes, and quality throughout the city—at large hospitality chains, and at small independent businesses. We also spot-checked an overwhelming number of tourist attractions such as the Prague Castle, the Municipal House, and the Old Town Square, which features the 1410-installed Astronomical Clock. Here are some of the highlights from our assessment:
- The Prague Wi-Fi environment is extremely dense and fragmented. The density appears to be driven by the high number of tourists that increasingly expect Wi-Fi to be simple, free, and everywhere. The fragmentation stems from the fact that each venue owner chooses their own strategy and is not necessarily driven by a large third-party Wi-Fi provider.
- Major international food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbuck’s are well represented in Prague and throughout the Czech Republic. And, as in other places, they’re the typical Wi-Fi trendsetters offering open Wi-Fi with simple click-through portals—and no requirements for the entry of personal information or passwords.
- The local chains and independent shops observe what happens at these big chains and adopt similar strategies. For instance, local businesses Paneria and Bageterie Boulevard are already following a similar consumer-friendly, open-Wi-Fi strategy.
- In interviews, owners of small cafés indicated they had chosen an open Wi-Fi model without passwords in order to create a destination for locals to have business meetings and tourists to socialize over a meal. The simple access model not only increased their repeat customer visits, but also decreased their costs, because they didn’t have to “manage” password distribution, nor did they need to help customers get connected. They believe that Prague is a competitive market and that open Wi-Fi gives local business owners a competitive edge.
- Agip, an Italian gas station chain, has deployed open Wi-Fi as a customer amenity across their petrol stations throughout the country.
- Although pioneering in many Wi-Fi ways, Prague’s retail market appears to lag behind other European cities. For example, just south of the City Center, the large, and relatively new Arkady Pankrac shopping mall does not offer any over-arching Wi-Fi network to the busy shoppers inside. Rather, it relies on chains inside to fill the food courts and the rest of the mall.
- The city of Prague seems to lack a centralized outdoor Wi-Fi system, which causes greater competition amongst the various venues without the ability to latch on to a central system.
- Local mobile operators Telefonica/O2, T-Mobile, and Vodafone offer Wi-Fi services primarily to their own subscribers.
- Interestingly, all of the concert halls seem to have solid Wi-Fi, including the popular Smetana Hall in the Municipal House, which once housed the former Bohemian Capital. During intermission, while some folks enjoy the Alfons Mucha artwork, a few others (probably the ones that had their fill of Mucha over at the National Gallery’s monumental display of his Slave Epic series) pull out their smartphones and start tapping away. There’s a wildfire effect, and soon lots of patrons, heads down and fingers poised, can be seen doing the same.
While lagging in the retail sector, Prague’s Wi-Fi environment abounds with simple and easy to access public Wi-fi, which makes it a more advanced and consumer friendly capital than its European tourist-heavy peers London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, and Berlin.
See you at the next Curated Spot Check.