Share Wi-Fi: With your neighbor on the Web


A wireless network for surfing the Internet – this is probably one of the basic standards in almost every household today. But does every apartment have to have its own separate network and pay for it? Share the Wi-Fi – it’s technically possible.

Jürg Zulliger

Sharing private Wi-Fi: It saves money and is simply practical. Maybe you have regular guests anyway? Or is part of the house often sublet to friends or other persons?

If you search for all W-Lans with your tablet or smartphone, you will notice that in many buildings there are as many separate networks as there are apartments. Sharing Wi-Fi with other people or friends in the house not only lowers the cost, but also simplifies the whole installation and often complex configuration.

Many Internet and telephone providers today offer almost only combined subscriptions. The technical all-rounders - the modems and routers - supply the whole household with W-Lan, connections by cable, TV transmitters and telephone connections. That's not all so inexpensive. Sharing the W-Lan: Thus, there are some valid pro-arguments to deal with here.

Share Wi-Fi: With your neighbor on the Web
Whether private apartment, hotel, office or in stores: W-Lan simply belongs there. Just ask yourself: who is allowed to share and surf the Wi-Fi?

Sharing W-Lan: The range

Optimal supply depends on a suitable location. It is best to place the device in the middle of your apartment. Keep a certain distance from furniture or other objects that could shield the signals (especially metallic objects). Ideal is a slightly elevated position, for example, standing free on a piece of furniture.

Most devices from major providers such as Swisscom, Sunrise, UPC etc. cover the area of ​​an average 4-room apartment well. The range of the radio network depends greatly on building conditions. Wood, aluminum or glass allow signals to pass practically unhindered. Of course, this also applies to free, open spaces. A wall made of bricks or concrete as well as metal house parts or walls are a major obstacle. After more than one or two partitions, the signal strength and thus transmission speed decrease rapidly. Above all, plaster walls form strong shields.

Sharing W-Lan: Tips on equipment

Is it a bigger apartment or house? Do you live in a household or with a subtenant? If you want to share the W-Lan, you have to adapt the infrastructure:

  • LAN cable: A stable and secure connection is still provided by conventional network cables, even over longer distances. Structurally, however, it is often expensive if you subsequently lay cables.
  • Access point: An access point is usually connected to the router via a cable and provides additional rooms with a wireless network.
  • W-Lan repeater: This allows a higher W-Lan range.
  • LAN power adapter: You already use existing power cables in the house for data transmission.
Share Wi-Fi: With your neighbor on the Web
Sharing the Wi-Fi: no problem for purely private use. Business uses must be regulated separately. (Photo: fotolia)

Sharing W-Lan: What is written in the «small print»?

Sharing Wi-Fi is also linked to a few specific questions: What if unauthorized third parties use your connection for illegal activity (cheating, hacking, phishing, etc.)? Of course, you do not want anyone on your network who injects any viruses and Trojans.

Relevant to this are the general terms and conditions (GTC) of your provider. A random sample shows: As a customer you are usually obliged to use your W-Lan privately and purely for personal use. You will probably be allowed to communicate the access code to your own guests in the apartment or temporarily to a neighbor. A spokesman for Swisscom says: "The use of a connection beyond one‘s own requirements is not compatible with Swisscom‘s terms and conditions." Legally speaking, customers are in a certain gray area. Just how should the terms "private" and "own use" be interpreted? After all, use in a private apartment is not quite the same as a public "hotspot" - such as at a public train station or an airport.

If the use is actually not purely "private,“ but rather business, you still have the following options:

  • Most routers offer the possibility to set up a separate Wi-Fi for guests. Ask your provider or consult the manual.
  • Ask your provider for „Public Wireless LAN“ solutions. Such networks are specially designed for public use; they also meet the legal requirements, such as the prior registration of all useres.

The customer is liable

Sharing Wi-Fi - what do lawyers say about that? We asked David Rosenthal from the renowned Zurich law firm Homburger, who specializes in communication law. The fundamental problem is the liability of each customer: «The operator of a connection must expect that any illegal use reverts back to him or can cause him problems.»

He considers it important that ultimately the circle of people who share the Wi-Fi must be limited. "I would not open my private hotspot to third parties. But when I visit, everyone likes to use the hotspot», explains the lawyer. So the circle of users is limited, and he knows who is involved.

Share Wi-Fi: With your neighbor on the Web
Modern routers are technical marvels: connections for Internet and telephone as well as antennas for Wi-Fi. (Photo: sunrise)