The project to create a free Wi-Fi network in Moscow was launched in 2012. Initially it only extended to leisure areas, such as parks, pedestrian areas and cultural sites. Now users can access the internet on the metro and surface transport and in student dormitories. Moscow has the world’s second largest number of Wi-Fi hotspots. Last year, Moscow’s wireless internet access network won the Project of the Year prize as the best infrastructure project.
There are several free hotspot systems in Moscow, including City Wi-Fi, the Moscow Transport Wi-Fi network (MT_FREE) and a Wi-Fi network in city parks. Taken together, they constitute one of the world’s largest Wi-Fi wireless access zones, which continue to expand.
Free Wi-Fi coverage
Free Wi-Fi access points are available on 200 streets inside the Garden Ring and in 24 parks. The number of hotspots in parks doubled last year. City Wi-Fi provides coverage at the student dormitories of 30 universities. All these networks are accessible via a unified authorisation system. If you login in a park, you will be able to access the internet on streets in the free Wi-Fi access zone without authentication.
City Wi-Fi has over 8,000 Wi-Fi access points, or hotspots, including over 1,000 on streets, and they have a range of up to 50 metres.
Information boards will be installed near street hotspots soon making use friendlier.
The second large and constantly expanding Wi-Fi network, Moscow Transport, is accessible on the metro, buses, trolleybuses and trams. It includes 450 access points at surface transit and several metro stations, including Delovoi Tsentr, Ulitsa Starokachalovskaya and Bulvar Dmitriya Donskogo, as well as on all Aeroexpress trains. In all, 1.2 million people connect to this Wi-Fi network up to three million times every day. Last year, over 30 million unique users connected to the Moscow Transport Wi-Fi network. Over half of them, or 53 percent, used iOS devices and 47 percent Android operating systems.
All urban Wi-Fi access networks, including MosMetro_Free, Mosgortrans_Free and Aeroexpress_Free, will complete the transition to a unified system, МT_FREE, in spring 2017. At this point, the system unites metro trains running on the Zamoskvoretskaya, Serpukhovsko-Timiryazevskaya and Circle lines. The transition to a unified system will allow new users to log in only once – on the metro or MCC train, a bus, trolleybus or tram- and then use the MT_FREE system on all public transit vehicles without additional authorisation via a text message. Commuter trains will join the MT_FREE system eventually.
How to get access
According to federal law, access to free Wi-Fi service requires authentication. Users must confirm their mobile phone number to receive a text message with the code to gain access to the home page of the city Wi-Fi website. According to statistics, only 5 percent of users use this form of authorisation.
Users can also receive authorisation on the mos.ru website by entering the login and password of one of the city Wi-Fi elements at the user’s choice.
The login and password is the same for accessing the W-Fi system in Moscow streets, parks and student dormitories. Users must receive separate authorisation to access the system on transport.
The main goal of the free Wi-Fi networks is to provide city residents and visitors access to the internet. It is recommended that security procedures be used to prevent fraudulent use of personal data because the public networks do not encrypt data entered from tablets or smartphones. On the other hand, most sites and online services encrypt their traffic.
Users need not worry about the security of personal data, such as usernames, passwords and other information they submit to city websites. They are safely protected, are not provided to third parties and are stored in an encrypted form on the unified mobile platform, according to experts from the Moscow Department of Information Technology.
Plans for the future
Experts are analysing the possibilities of various wireless technologies, such as Li-Fi, LoraWAN and NB-IoT, to determine if the city should use them.
These technologies can be used in the internet of things (IoT) system for automatic information exchange between various devices. For example, a water supply system can automatically request information from water meters and smart urban transport will automatically receive data about traffic congestion and changes in traffic signal operation.
Data transfer technology and reliable efficient devices are needed for effective interaction between these devices. For example, information transmitters must run on the same battery for 10 years. This is what the city is working on now.
IoT elements might be used in the new Lyublino Smart Neighbourhood project, under which residential building entrances will have equipment that will automatically turn off lights when there are no people in the staircase. The city is preparing a competition for the best project, which should be launched in the first quarter of 2017.
City Wi-Fi will be further expanded. The immediate plans provide for increasing the number of hotpoints within the Garden Ring to expand the seamless network. As a result, users will be able to move around the area of seamless Wi-Fi coverage in central Moscow without having to repeatedly connect to the system.
City Wi-Fi users will also receive special offers and discounts, will be the first to learn about interesting events in the city and will be able to participate in contests and quizzes. Experts are considering several options for this programme, for example, through city apps.
The free Wi-Fi system on the transit system will be expanded to commuter trains, which will make Moscow’s free wireless Wi-Fi system the largest in Europe.