Feature Article

January 27, 2016

One Third of Home Wi-Fi Routers Will Support Public Access by 2017, Study Finds

A recent study from Juniper Research has found that dual use routers (routers that provide both a private signal for personal use as well as an open one for public access) are becoming more and more prevalent. Just how widespread are these types of routers? Juniper predicts that by next year, one out every three private routers will double as a public hotspot. By 2020, there will be an estimated 366 million of these types of routers in use.

This practice is currently most common in Europe, though Comcast and Cablevision have also begun to employ it stateside. This allows them to dramatically increase their public Wi-Fi presence by leveraging connections from people’s homes, especially in big cities. Wireless broadband providers use personal routers to broadcast an additional signal that can be publicly accessed. The public network is separated from the private one by a firewall.

However, there is some backlash around this practice. Currently, providers that use the “homespot” routers automatically include paying customers in the service, and often do not inform them that this is the case. Some customer’s concerns over their security and privacy led to providers adding an option to opt-out of the public hotspot service, but even this does not solve the problem, says researcher Gareth Owen.

"While most operators now allow consumers to opt-out, if they so wish, most consumers simply have no idea that their routers are being used in this way. Given the current concerns around privacy and data security, the realization that home routers can be accessed by complete strangers is unlikely to be viewed in a positive light."

Despite the trepidation, there are also tangible benefits to consumers who participate in this homespot program. Using preexisting routers for public WiFi access results in savings on infrastructure costs, which in turn could result in reduced fees for cable and wireless internet subscribers. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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