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Residents and visitors to the Brussels-Capital Region remain connected online thanks to the free wifi.brussels network. IRISnet relies on Orange's Enterprise Messaging for user authentication via text message.
The free wifi.brussels network, which was launched in 2014 as Urbizone, was given a makeover at the end of last year. Upgrades were made both at the technical level and in terms of network coverage. From the Grand-Place to libraries and metro stations: there are currently 221 locations across the Brussels-Capital Region with a total of 860 unique access points where users can connect to wifi.brussels.
“We are turning Brussels into a smart region, one step at a time.”
Reducing the digital divide
The philosophy behind the project is to reduce the digital divide for residents and visitors to the capital as well as to give them access to new e-services. "We are turning Brussels into a smart region, one step at a time," explains Philippe Camps, Chief Information Officer at IRISnet. For the roll-out and optimisation of wifi.brussels, IRISnet collaborated with Orange. "Our network currently has 250,000 unique users a year, but we are aiming for 300,000. One in six visitors to Brussels already connects to wifi.brussels. We can be very proud of these numbers."
"Currently, one in six visitors to Brussels connects to wifi.brussels."
From email to text message
Operators are legally required to keep track of everyone who visits their free network. Previously, if you wanted to use the network, a link was sent to you via email. This system turned out to be less than foolproof, as false email addresses can easily be created. IRISnet and Orange therefore recently implemented an important innovation within the network. Because it is impossible to register a mobile phone number anonymously, Orange suggested that user authentication should be done via text message. Enterprise Messaging seemed to be a perfect fit.
"So far in 2021, an average of 2,540 text messages have been sent each day."
"The user logs in to the network by providing their telephone number. They then receive an authentication text message. The next time the same user wishes to connect, they don't need to register again. The telephone number is the only information we collect, and we only keep it for one year, in accordance with the rules on the protection of personal data," stresses Philippe Camps.
"So far in 2021, an average of 2,540 text messages have been sent each day. This is a significant number. It is a very stable system, and we never have to deal with any technical issues. That means we can continue to build a reliable network."