You will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about SBB FreeSurf here.
Information about the service.
With SBB FreeSurf, customers of participating mobile network providers can browse the web for free. SBB takes on the connection costs during journeys on long-distance services within Switzerland. All information is available online: sbb.ch/en/freesurf.
WiFi on trains cannot be compared to WiFi at home. On trains, data is transmitted via the mobile phone network, while a fibre optic network is used at home, which significantly increases the speed.
SBB FreeSurf is built upon the excellent mobile phone coverage in Switzerland and offers customers a faster and smoother internet connection with more bandwidth compared to WiFi on a train.
Installing WiFi on a train acts like an additional bottleneck because the signals of many users have to be combined and transmitted to the mobile network using just a few connections.
SBB FreeSurf is the more powerful, technology-independent and cost-effective solution compared to WiFi.
In contrast to Switzerland, railways abroad often operate on routes that travel through areas with poor coverage. Using WiFi makes sense in this situation because a router pools the existing mobile networks of different providers. The internet connection therefore improves and any gaps in the coverage of individual providers can be balanced out.
Despite the high and continually increasing number of passengers with an unlimited flat-rate contract, some customers still need free internet access on the train. In collaboration with the mobile phone providers, SBB is covering the needs of this group of customers.
A good quality, stable mobile phone connection has become a basic requirement for train passengers. This also has an increasingly strong influence on passengers’ choice of transport modes.
SBB is operating on the assumption that SBB FreeSurf is an interim solution. The proportion of customers with an unlimited flat-rate contract is constantly increasing, which is gradually reducing the need for free internet access.
Customers of digitec connect, Quickline, Salt (Das Abo, GoMo, Lidl Connect are included), Sunrise and Swisscom can use the service.
All Swiss mobile providers had the opportunity to register their interest in participating in SBB FreeSurf as part of the call for tenders held in spring 2020. All providers who submitted an offer were taken into account for the award. It is possible – though not currently planned – that other providers could be added at a later date.
Although UPC customers make calls on the Sunrise network, they are on the UPC virtual mobile network and therefore have no access to SBB FreeSurf from Sunrise. Unfortunately, this will remain the case for the foreseeable future. An alternative is to switch (while retaining your number) to a Sunrise mobile subscription, which will give you unrestricted use of SBB FreeSurf. If you have any further questions, please contact Sunrise directly: 0800 707 707.
Passengers from abroad can browse the web for free using a SIM card from a participating provider. This is relatively easy thanks to eSIM and DUAL-SIM.
There are also various offers for mobile internet in Switzerland. One of these offers is SBB FreeWiFi, available at over 80 Swiss stations.
SBB FreeSurf is offered on all IC and IR connections within Switzerland operated by SBB, and on the SOB lines from Basel and Zurich – Lugano, as well as Bern–Burgdorf–Olten–Zurich–Chur.
The RE lines Aarau–Zurich, Erstfeld–Lugano and Annemasse–St-Maurice are not included in the service.
FreeSurf cannot be used on routes where regional rolling stock is sometimes used (e.g. Zurich - Chur).
Access and registration.
If you have an unlimited subscription, SBB FreeSurf does not offer you any benefit (as would be the case with a WLAN connection). You will already receive the best connection quality via your mobile phone.
You need a current smartphone with an Apple (iOS) or Google (Android) operating system.
The SBB FreeSurf app can be downloaded via the App Store or the Play Store.
After a one-time registration, you’ll be able to surf the web for free on SBB long-distance services.
It is necessary to accept the General Terms and Conditions (GTCs) during the initial registration. SBB uses the phone number provided to check whether the mobile phone contract can be used for SBB FreeSurf. If this is the case, the customer will receive an text message with a code to complete their registration.
You can start up the SBB FreeSurf app when you board the train. You must have Bluetooth and mobile date activated on your phone.
After successfully starting the app, the user will receive confirmation by text from their mobile network provider that they can now browse the web for free.
When leaving the train or terminating the connection in the SBB FreeSurf app, the user receives a notification that the free service is no longer active.
SBB FreeSurf is available on iOS and Android.
All iPhones from the iPhone 5 onwards (an operating system update may be necessary). iOS 11.13 as a minimum must be installed. The same applies for iPads (with SIM).
We recommend that you automatically update the app so that you always benefit from the latest features and improvements.
To use SBB FreeSurf on your smartphone, the Android 4.8 operating system must be installed as a minimum. The same applies to tablets (with SIM).
We recommend that you automatically update the app to always benefit from all the features. Adjust this setting in the Play Store.
Laptops with a SIM card cannot be used (as opposed to tablets and iPads). It is possible to set up a hotspot via your mobile phone to secure internet access on your laptop.
If a customer is charged according to data usage or has a limited data contract, and would like to avoid automatic generation of mobile data:
iOS: in settings, deactivate “Background App Refresh” for all apps to ensure no unwanted data volumes are used in the background before the FreeSurf app is active.
Android: in settings, deactivate “Data Saving” for all apps so that no data volumes are used in the background. If you have a prepaid subscription, an amount may be deducted from the credit balance as soon as mobile services are activated in line with the conditions of the pre-paid subscription. Those registered for FreeSurf can use the app even if they have no credit on their account.
Stop the FreeSurf connection before leaving the train and do not wait for the text from the mobile network provider informing you that the free service has been terminated.
If you have a pre-paid subscription, an amount may be deducted from the credit balance as soon as mobile services are activated in line with the conditions of the pre-paid subscription. Those registered for FreeSurf can use the app even if they have no credit on their account.
There are different solutions available for Salt and Sunrise subscriptions in order to prevent the daily rate from being charged when the SBB FreeSurf is launched. Since digitec connect and Quickline do not offer pre-paid subscriptions, their customers are not affected.
Salt: the customer is charged the daily rate directly. Salt checks in the background whether the SBB FreeSurf app was launched at the same time. If this is the case, the customer receives a remuneration for the daily rate in real time.
Sunrise: to stop Sunrise subscribers from being charged before using FreeSurf, the use of paid mobile data must be blocked before switching mobile data on. The customer can do this using the USSD code *170# and the call button on the keyboard. The customer enters the USSD code #170# to re-enable the use of paid mobile data outside of FreeSurf. Activation and deactivation are confirmed via a text message.
Swisscom: For prepaid and postpaid customers, communication between the SBB app and the SBB server is free of charge. Customers who communicate using VPN services (company VPN, Apple Privacy Services, etc.) can only benefit from the free internet usage once they have activated the SBB FreeSurf app. Prepaid customers who are automatically charged the basic tariff can deactivate this at cockpit.swisscom.ch.
The SBB FreeSurf service is not offered on cross-border Swiss trains providing long-distance services after the mobile network provider’s network has been exited. It is possible that this may occur without the mobile network provider sending a message to that effect. If the SBB FreeSurf app is nonetheless used abroad, SBB AG will not cover the costs of data traffic. In order to ensure that no charges are incurred: turn off roaming in settings under data options.
Bluetooth is one of the weakest electromagnetic sources. The technology SBB uses functions in “low energy mode”. At maximum transmission power, these devices cause about one percent of the radiation exposure of a conventional WLAN router. This means that exposure in close range (right beside the source of radiation) amounts to about 0.5% of the maximum exposure from a mobile phone. The fields can barely be measured more than 2m distance from these devices.
Error messages/problem solving.
Please check with your new provider to see if the number has been transferred yet.
The wrong number was entered during registration.
The text message registration service may be down temporarily. Registration requests will be processed when the system is restored (SMS messages will be sent later than usual).
The activation of new SIM cards has a small delay. However, you will have use of SBB FreeSurf 24 hours after purchase of the SIM card at the latest.
You are not a customer of digitec connect, Quickline, Salt, Sunrise or Swisscom.
The registration server is currently offline.
There is currently no data connection available.
There is an unknown problem with the system.
Tip: please try the registration at a later time (this does not have to be on the train).
You are not a customer of digitec connect, Quickline, Salt, Sunrise or Swisscom.
The SBB FreeSurf server is currently offline.
There is no mobile service available at the moment.
Bluetooth connection is not activated.
The device used is no longer supported.
The mobile service provider has refused to activate the connection.
There is a problem with the network provider.
There is an unknown problem with the system.
Tip: please try the connection again at a later time. If it still does not work, please write to us at sbb.ch/en/freesurf, so that we can analyse your situation on an individual basis.
All customers have access to the fastest possible connection along the route with SBB FreeSurf (as per the contract with the provider).
However, this depends on the network coverage along the route and the number of people who are accessing the same antenna. The rate of data transfer is therefore better on an empty train than a fully occupied one.
However, SBB FreeSurf certainly provides better quality than WiFi on the train would.
The system is constantly monitored. If there is a system failure, the experts will do everything they can to make it available again as quickly as possible.
Mobile network subscriptions, rates and bills.
Refer all queries about subscriptions and bills to the mobile network provider’s hotline:
digitec connect: 044 575 95 00
Quickline: 0800 841 020
Salt 0800 700 700
Sunrise: 0800 707 707
Swisscom: 0800 800 800
SBB FreeSurf gives customers access to the internet with the best possible speed of data transmission along train routes (depending on the availability and capacity of the mobile networks and the individual’s contract with their provider).
Customers must direct their queries regarding billing to their mobile network provider. SBB only provides the triage system and the notification for activating the data volume during the journey on the train using SBB FreeSurf.
Yes. SBB complies with the data protection regulations. The service has been approved by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner.
SBB guarantees that they are not tracking your movements and that the location data is deleted straight away. This data is used solely to determine the duration of data use for billing.
Customers expressly agree to the use of data for analysing errors before they use the free internet access (same approach as for FreeWiFi).
The telecoms providers do not receive any location data for passengers on the train.
Data is deleted in accordance with federal regulations.
Setting battery optimisation for reliable use of FreeSurf.
System Settings > Apps & notifications > Special app access > Battery optimisation > Select FreeSurf > Change to »Don't optimise».
Phone settings > Battery > App launch and then set your FreeSurf to «Manage manually» and make sure everything is turned on.
Setting > Apps > top right menu > Special access > Optimise battery usage > click on «Apps not optimised» > select «All» > deactivate FreeSurf.
Settings > manage apps > SBB FreeSurf > power saving mode > activate No Restrictions.