Curated Spot Check: Paris, France

Posted on October 28, 2013

This Curated Spot Check takes us to Paris, one of the most stylish, celebrated, and influential capitals in the world. It features beauty, tradition, and lots of Parisians, business travelers, and tourists. It’s also a city with the most complex Wi-Fi environment we’ve encountered so far.

Voilà. Some of our findings.

  • Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and FreeWiFi have a lock on most of the Wi-Fi in Paris. If you are one of their customers—as many of the locals are—you are in relatively good shape. If you’re a tourist, you are in for a disappointing experience relative to other world-class capitals. It seems that Paris is stuck in an earlier decade when Internet access was only for those with a business affiliation.
  • For tourists, the one saving grace is the large municipal network called Paris Wi-Fi. The Ville de Paris and the Île-de-France region offer this free Internet service in more than 250 public places. (We accessed this network while shooting the above video in front of the Eiffel Tower. During the shoot, we observed lots of people taking and uploading photos via their smartphones.) As long as it’s free of congestion, tourists can connect to Paris Wi-Fi and get online.
  • A trio of popular Wi-Fi operators—Adael, HotCafe, and Wistro—represent the “micro” side of city’s Wi-Fi presence. They have deals in place to provide coverage to just about every café that dots every Parisian corner and street. HotCafe and Wistro require mobile users to get passwords from the restaurant staff; Adael Gratuit is simply a one-click access portal. This difference in access is intriguing and plays a factor in many restaurants’ decision making when it comes to Wi-Fi for their customers. In fact, Subway, the largest fast food chain in the world, has dozens of Paris locations, many offering free Wi-Fi. One Subway manager informed us that they chose Adael Gratuit because it’s more convenient for their customers and staff.
  • At Les Quatre Temps, a large shopping center and commercial area near the Arc de Triumph, we learned that the mall has been carrying free Wi-Fi with immediate access for more than four years. A large factor in forgoing portal/password protection involves French mall ratings. Free Wi-Fi access is usually a crucial step towards acquiring the highly sought after four-star rating.
  • The well-known Le Bon Marché has evolved its Wi-Fi access process. When originally deployed, patrons would have to get passwords on slips of paper handed out by clerks in the food court. Today, full Wi-Fi access only requires the entry of an email address. Shoppers benefit, as do staff. One employee reported they were pleased to have such convenient Wi-Fi access “because there is no cellular coverage inside the mall.”
  • Although Paris has an abundance of open Wi-Fi throughout its streets, many locals aren’t connecting to it. In most cases they either have a large data plan, or they don’t see the benefit of outdoor Wi-Fi connections. Many we spoke with disdain the poor signal quality offered by their cellular providers. This seems like a great application for Curator QoE to control the quality and keep people connected to the best network at the best time.
  • A surprising discovery centered around Wi-Fi in the cultural setting of a museum. In New York, the Met has Wi-Fi. In London, the British Museum has Wi-Fi. In Paris, at the Louvre? No Wi-Fi. I understand that the biggest reason to deploy Wi-Fi in museums is to provide access to further information beyond what’s presented in the exhibits. It causes people to stay longer, to better enjoy what they are seeing. It also causes repeat visits.

More to come in our next city.