Wi-Fi researchAt least 1 in 3 home routers will be used as public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2017 as the global installed base of such dual-use routers grows to reach 366 million by year-end 2020, according to a Juniper Research dual-use public-private Wi-Fi forecast.

Dual-use routers can be used to create two wireless networks separated by a firewall: one for private use and the other serving as a public Wi-Fi hotspot, Juniper explains in a press release.

Dual-Use Public-Private Wi-Fi Forecast
Cable companies such as Comcast and Cablevision, as well as broadband service providers BT, UPC and Virgin Media in Europe, have taken to dual-use routers as a low-cost means of rapidly expanding their domestic Wi-Fi coverage, the market research provider points out. That, in turn, is giving rise to global Wi-Fi aggregators, such as iPass, which leases its network to telcos, cablecos and corporations on a wholesale basis.

Security is an issue in this emerging market segment, Juniper highlights in ¨Wi-Fi Hotspots: Deployment Strategies & Forecasts: 2016-2020.¨ Broadband service providers don’t always make it clear to dual-use home router customers that they were supporting public Wi-Fi initiatives, potentially leaving themselves open to consumer backlash as consumers begin to understand how the routers work, researchers note.

“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,” research author Gareth Owen was quoted as saying. “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.”

On the other hand, dual-use home router customers who opt-in and permit their home Wi-Fi network to double as a public hotspot benefit from lower fees, or even free access to the operator’s ¨homespot¨ network, Juniper notes.

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