Tel Aviv’s Free Wi-Fi: You Get What You Pay For

Spotty access, missing access points and slow downloads take the shine off the glowing press releases, but Tel-Net is a step in the right direction.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality recently rolled out, with great fanfare, a free Wi-Fi network throughout the city, but a review of the network's performance shows that it does not meet expectations.

Tel-Net, which cost NIS 6 million and was implemented by Motorola Solutions, went live just weeks before the municipal election. On paper, there are 60 wireless access points throughout the city, with plans to add 20 more.

TheMarker checked the performance of the Wi-Fi network on several different dates, with a smartphone and an iPad, and found four major problems:

Not all the access points are operational. According to the press release there are Wi-Fi spots on the western part of Nordau Boulevard, along the length of Ibn Gabirol Street and Rothschild Boulevard and at the corners of Jabotinsky, Arlosoroff , Shaul Hamelech and Dizengoff streets. All of these access points are not yet active.

The network's range is disappointing. One would expect a public network to have broader coverage. But at two of the city's major hangout spots, Meir Park and Dizengoff Square, if one strays just a bit from the wireless signal source the connection fails.

Surfing is slow, as well. The network uses Bezeq's VDSL infrastructure, and every router has 20MB of bandwidth that is supposed to be shared by those connected to the router. In practice, every time we logged on to the network the download speed was just short of 1 Mbps.

Some of the access points are faulty. We could not find the network at the intersection of Rothschild and Allenby. At Habima Square we were able to connect to the network but could not surf the web. All we got was an error page.

The municipality said in a response that a download speed above 500 Kbps was considered satisfactory, that the other issues were being addressed and that additional Wi-Fi antennas would be added in places where users were unable to access the Internet.

On the bright side, Tel-Net is contributing to making Tel Aviv user friendly, especially for tourists. Even if the network is not still is not a glowing success, the municipality deserves credit for making the effort. Many European and North America cities have little or no public Wi-Fi access.

David Bachar
Ofer Waknin
Motti Milrod