August 1, 2018 by Greg Owens

Take a Walk on the Wireless Side with Community Wi-Fi


You’ve probably noticed, when walking through your neighborhood, that your smart phone has visibility of multiple Wi-Fi networks. This is because modern residential service delivery platforms are becoming more powerful than ever. The Calix GigaCenter, for example, can broadcast a signal that covers several thousand square feet.

You cannot usually access these other networks, however, because they are almost always locked. Why is access restricted? Largely, it is because the owner of that home network is concerned about:

  • data privacy: the risk of others gaining access to data from the residential platform itself or from the consumer devices that are connected to the home network;
  • bandwidth caps: exceeding their monthly data usage allowance if other users’ devices are connected on a regular basis; or
  • connection speeds: sharing the Wi-Fi signal with other users, which might slow down their home broadband connection speeds.

Share the Wealth

What if there was a way for multiple subscribers to get Wi-Fi connectivity from shared residential platforms in a way that addresses these concerns?

The newest software for the GigaCenter — Release, which was recently made available on the Calix Software Center — allows subscribers to share Wi-Fi data, with no impact on the performance of the home network, while maintaining their privacy. 

In North America, the majority of households do not have bandwidth restrictions. And, as more and more consumers are served by fiber-optic networks, sharing this extra capacity is a great way for service providers to leverage their network investments.

What is Community Wi-Fi?

Community Wi-Fi networks allow unused Wi-Fi capacity to be leveraged to offer access to other subscribers; even if they are not the owner of the residential platform being accessed.

This excess capacity can also be offered to retail establishments, to subscribers of roaming-partner companies, or to generate additional revenue by offering paid access to non-subscribers.

The residential subscribers accessing the network from inside their homes always have prioritized access to the Wi-Fi network resources. The residential Wi-Fi infrastructure is configured in a way that allows for a secure and independent access channel to retain service quality, safety, and privacy for both residential and visitor customers. Roaming users are only allowed to use the Wi-Fi network capacity that is not currently used by the subscriber at home.

In a Community Wi-Fi set-up, the residential platform in the home broadcasts two SSIDs: a private one for the home owner/subscriber and a community network for on-the-go subscribers passing through the neighborhood.

Community Wi-Fi = Ubiquitous Wi-Fi

The next time you’re walking through your neighborhood, imagine having ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity, by connecting to your neighbors’ home networks. Instead of all Wi-Fi networks being locked, subscribers using the same service provider could connect seamlessly. This concept is a reality and it is called ‘Community Wi-Fi’.