Discussion Papers

No. 423: Relevance and perspectives of public WiFi networks in Germany

(Full version only available in German)

Autoren: Fabian Queder, Nicole Angenendt, Christian Wernick


The topic of public WiFi networks has gained relevance recently in the political discourse, as public subsidy programmes as well as changes of the legal framework have been launched in order to expand the availability of WiFi networks. The WiFi4EU funding programme provides €120 million from European funds to set up freely accessible WLAN networks. Furthermore the build-out of these networks has been set as an requirement for the German broadband subsidy programme in industrial areas. In addition, the recently adopted amendment of the Telemedia Act aims to provide legal certainty for public WiFi owners in respect to copyright infringements committed by third-party WiFi users.

The coverage of public WiFi networks differs widely within the member states of the European Union. With just under 2 hotspots per 10,000 inhabitants, Germany lags behind most European countries. This is to be regarded as critical, since WiFi networks have positive welfare economic effects in both producer and consumer welfare.

The aim of this discussion paper is to examine the impact of legal changes and techno-logical developments on the availability and use of public WiFi networks. This is based on a market analysis that examines the current market structure for WiFi hotspots in Germany. Three groups of providers – IT service providers, telecommunications providers and WiFi networks operated by the owner – as well as several demand groups are identified.

This structuring makes it possible to analyse granular causal relationships. The discussion paper finds that an increase in the number of WiFis in cafés, pubs and so on being operated by the owner can be expected as a result of the legal changes. On the other hand, the impact on complex WiFi networks is expected to be minor, as the legal risk in these cases only plays a minor role. It can also be shown that the technological developments in respect to heterogeneous networks increase the attractiveness of hotspots, especially for MNOs, and thus will presumably drive the availability of public hotspots.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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