On Tuesday, the SBB started the test phase of its app-based “FreeSurf” service. Initially the service will only be available on Switzerland’s 44 ICN tilting trains which operate mainly on the Zurich–Geneva, St Gallen–Lausanne and Basel–Biel/Bienne lines.
The test service is also currently only available to Salt and Sunrise customers.
Swisscom customers will not be able to participate, although a spokesperson for the telco told Swiss news agency SDA the company was watching the test phase with interest and was in talks with SBB about future cooperation.
To benefit from the trial, Salt and Sunrise customers will have to download the SBB FreeSurf app and register using their phone number.
When customers board a train where the service is offered, they will receive an SMS saying their internet service is now free. When they alight, they will receive a second message saying the service is no longer available, SBB said in a statement.
The FreeSurf test is expected to last several months. SBB will then look at rolling out the free internet service on the rest of its long-distance network. A possible third stage could see the service extended to the regional train network.
The Swiss rail operator is also looking at ways to make the service available to passengers without Swiss SIM cards – a group that includes foreign tourists in the country.
The trial service is being offered over the Swiss mobile phone network because this is a faster option than on board WLAN, according to the SBB.
If the trial is a success, the FreeSurf service will be integrated into the SBB app.