“For many, Internet is more important than water.”
So says the “computer doctor” František Zeman about clients that come to him for help getting online. The Computer Doctor is an all-in-one computer assistance shop, offering repairs, Internet connections, building networks, computer lessons, and more. Expats.cz went to him for some suggestions and advice on Internet options in Prague.
Location, location, location seems to be the biggest factor on the type and speed of Internet access that will be available to you. Zeman says if you live in the city of Prague, for example there will be different choices available to you, but the farther from a city you go, the more the options dwindle. The historic center of Prague however can be a problem as old buildings and infrastructure is still struggling to catch up with technology. He explained the three different types of Internet most readily available in Prague.
“The best is the cable TV option; broadcast providers offer TV with high speed Internet, UPC for example. At the moment, their speed can be up to 100 megabits,” he said. “One of the most widespread ways is with ADSL which works via a telephone line, for example, O2 or T-Mobile. They have speeds up to 16 megabits.” Zeman cautions that these numbers are all theoretical maximums. For all services, the speed and quality depends on your distance from an exchange. Your connection options will depend on if a provider has invested in the necessary technology. For cost effectiveness in their minds, those locations tend to be where they can equip a lot of people, i.e. city centers, housing complexes, etc. In the suburbs and villages, your speed and quality can drop significantly. Zeman´s an optimist though and adds that there are always new things coming and technology companies are trying to get higher speeds.
The third and least optimal in Zeman’s mind is mobile Internet. Here mobile providers offer a wireless modem that plugs into your computer. It´s advertised as giving you the freedom to connect anywhere, but Zeman says the speed is not very fast, sometimes as slow as dial-up, and the connection can be instable. “If I was going to recommend one, it would be CDMA from O2,” he said. “Their CDMA network was built on the basis of the first analogue mobile phone network in the Czech Republic, so it is more reliable and has better reach.” The other options can be Vodafone, T-Mobile or a wireless internet provider Airwaynet .
Zeman mentions a few other things to consider. If you need a good signal throughout your home, be sure to think about distribution. He believes the best is through cables, rather than Wi-Fi. Too much Wi-Fi in an area can lead to what he calls “wireless pollution” – too many Wi-Fi connections in one area can affect quality. Zeman says he often has clients who are having trouble getting their Wi-Fi signal through their entire flat or home, especially if it´s a large one. Old buildings aren´t often technologically upgraded and frequently have thick walls. He cautions potential buyers or renters to check out the cabling situation in a flat or home they are considering. Renters should check with owners, as some are wary of computer guys messing with their wiring system. If you are doing a reconstruction, Zeman advises wiring the whole house saying it is cheaper to do now then after the project has been completed.
If you´ve recently moved in and discovered you magically have free Wi-Fi you are picking up an unsecured signal, perhaps from your neighbor or a nearby restaurant or café. Zeman warns to be very careful using unsecured connections as it is quite easy for people to catch passwords and other sensitive data. Always be sure to have the Internet in your name, don´t just takeover an existing account from your landlord or previous tenant. If there´s a problem, there´s nothing you can do if the service is not in your name. Have it put in your rental contract that you will arrange Internet service yourself to prevent potential headaches in the future. Most of the fixed land lines in the Czech Republic are owned by O2 so even if you are with a different provider you´ll still be using the same lines as everyone else. If you have additional or more specific questions, it´s always better to ask an unbiased expert. Helping people get connected to the Internet is one of the Computer Doctor´s services, and one that is often requested.
When it comes to a speed vs. cost ratio, Zeman says often, you pay nothing, you get nothing. He´s referring to some smaller companies offering seemingly cheap connections but without the technology to back it up. On the flip side, if you live in the woods with no infrastructure, you´ll have to pay to get any sort of connection at all. But basically, in the city, people will have all the same options, and the speed will depend on where they live.
Airwaynet – http://airwaynet.cz/
O2 – http://www.cz.o2.com/
T-Mobile – http://www.t-mobile.cz/web/en/internet
UPC – http://www.upc.cz/internet/
Vodafone – http://www.vodafone.cz/live_en/index.htm