Research: By 2017, a third of home Wi-Fi routers will power passers-by

Telcos pimp out your bandwidth and profit

Companies are going to be selling a lot more public Wi-Fi plans over the next few years and it's going to be home Wi-Fi users who'll be the backbone of the network, according to analysts from Juniper Research.

In a new report (registration necessary), Juniper estimates that one in three home Wi-Fi routers will be used as broadcasting signals by 2017, with firms like Comcast, BT (British Telecom), and Virgin leading the way. By 2020, it predicts that 336 million homes will be fitted with dual-use routers, dramatically increasing the reach of commercial Wi-Fi networks.

The telcos may decide not to run these networks themselves, but instead punt the bandwidth off to a third-party player like iPass. This allows a new royalty stream for the telcos, but some users might be less than happy at having to power the network for free while someone else profits from it.

And therein lies a problem. At the moment, most telcos make the dual use of modems an option that consumers can opt out from, and this rollout could be seriously hampered if enough people do so.

"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," said research author Gareth Owen.

"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."

That's putting it mildly. In a market like the US, with its slow speeds and expensive service, many consumers won't be happy handing over part of their bandwidth to strangers for free. ®

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