What Is Source WiFi?

By Derek Lakin
HighYa Staff Published on: Jun 28, 2017

Currently in beta testing, Source WiFi is on a mission to cover the world in cheap, reliable Internet access. How?

First, you can sign up as a Host, which allows you to share your Wi-Fi connection with other users and earn tokens based on time. As a Guest, after downloading the app, you’ll be able to access any other Source’s connection around the globe, without having to worry about authentication or data security.

And when you connect, you’ll only have to pay for the time you use, which the company claims is three times cheaper than cell phone mobile data plans.

How, exactly, does all of this work? And ultimately, is Source WiFi worth your time and money? Let’s briefly delve into the details to make sure we’re all on the same page.

How Does Source WiFi Use Blockchain Technology & Ethereum?

Note: The topics of blockchains and cryptocurrency can be complex and involve a lot of technical jargon. The goal here is to quickly unpack some key terms and foundational concepts in a step-by-step manner, as well as discuss how they relate to Source WiFi. And all of this without boring you to sleep in the process.

With this in mind, if you’re looking for more in-depth material, a quick online search will reveal dozens of authoritative sources.

Blockchain & Ethereum Basics

Blockchain technology was originally developed for Bitcoin, which allowed the cryptocurrency to be transferred securely online between two parties, without involving an intermediary (such as a bank, payment processor, etc.).

But the tech world quickly realized that—independent of Bitcoin—this blockchain technology could represent a massive shift in how we used the Internet.

The problem was that each blockchain could only perform a limited set of operations—think of it like a computer program that could only execute a certain number of functions. And creating a new blockchain from scratch was a time- and- resource-intensive process.

Enter Ethereum, which BlockGeeks defines as “an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications.” In layman’s terms, it provides the ability to create new blockchain applications quickly and efficiently, which has resulted in the development of hundreds of related applications.

How Has Source Incentivized Wi-Fi Sharing With Ethereum?

Remember the intermediaries we just talked about? By automatically validating transactions between parties, writing for Medium, Collin Thompson notes:

“Blockchain will profoundly disrupt hundreds of industries that rely on intermediaries, including banking, finance, academia, real estate, insurance, legal, health care and the public sector — amongst many others. This will result in job losses and the complete transformation of entire industries.”

But Ethereum—and the blockchain technology on which it’s based—also seems to be on a trajectory to disrupt how we pay for certain must-have services, such as Wi-Fi access. How so?

Currently, most of us are relegated to accessing the Internet in one the following ways:

  • At-home Wi-Fi, which requires a monthly contract based on a certain speed and amount of data.
  • Wireless data plans, which allow you to access the Internet away from a Wi-Fi connection, but can be expensive.
  • Public Wi-Fi, which is shared with other users and isn’t exactly secure.

With the micropayments made available through Ethereum, though, if you connect to the Internet for 3.5 minutes (for example), you only have to pay for the specific amount of data you consume during this time.

Additionally, if you decide to purchase your own Source router (or download and install their software package onto your own Linux router) and become a host, your Wi-Fi connection will be available to other Source users, thereby earning you “tokens” every time your signal is used. These tokens can then be applied toward your own usage, or transferred into cash (more about this shortly).

Source WiFi RouterSource WiFi’s Ethereum-based model allows guests to access a secure connection anywhere there’s a Source, and Sources (who can use the router pictured above) to earn tokens that can translate into real money. Image credit: Source Networks Inc.

Finally, Source will automatically connect you to the best available Host when you’re on the go, regardless of where you are in the world. You won’t need to purchase a local SIM card or hand your credit card details over to strangers.

As a host, you’ll be able to control the websites your users can visit and what they’re able to download via an easy-to-use dashboard. As a guest, all of your payment, personal, and browsing information remains stored on your own device and can’t be accessed by anyone else.

What Are the Technical Specifications For Source’s Router & App?

Each Source router runs on an OpenWRT operating system that provides up to 17,000 square feet of coverage, can stream up to 300 MB/S, and broadcasts using 802.11n 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz protocols.

The Source app on your smartphone will automatically recognize and pair with a Source router when in range, which is also where you’ll be able to manage data and remotely control your router. Friends who use the Source app will be able to utilize your hotspot for free, without passwords.

Now, the ever-important question: What will you pay for this technology and access?

How Much Does Source WiFi Cost & How Many Tokens Will You Earn?

While it might make sense based on the company’s beta-only status, Source’s website was relatively light on important details as of this writing. In fact, the only concrete information provided was that it involves a pay-as-you-go model, is priced at $4 per GB, and the router will cost you $59.99.

However, it doesn’t appear that you can pay for access directly using traditional money.

Instead, the wireless access commodity provided by the company is represented in Source Network Tokens, which must be purchased. Based on some of the wording on their site, it appears you can add time whenever you like, which is stored in your account until used.

As a Host, you’ll also be able to earn tokens whenever a guest accesses your signal (up to $500 per month), which can be cashed in and out and withdrawn or deposited whenever you like from directly within the app. Source also integrates with Coinbase and any other wallet host.

This is all we’re told on the website, which leaves some important questions up in the air. Here are just a few:

  • When is the expected full release date?
  • Does the $4 per GB price represent all situations? Are there times when customers could pay more or less than this?
  • How do customers purchase tokens? Is there a minimum/maximum purchase amount? Will accounts automatically close once credits reach zero?
  • Are tokens transferred to a Host’s account in real time? Or, do transfers only occur at regular intervals?
  • What’s the Ethereum and real-world value of each token? Is the exchange rate set in stone, or can it change? If it can change, how often?
  • Are there any associated fees when purchasing, withdrawing, or transferring to cash, whether through Source or a third-party wallet host?
  • To date, how many Hosts are there? After all, if no hosts are available, you’ll be forced to use your data plan, which could increase costs.

We reached out to Source Networks Inc. via their online contact form for some insight, and will be sure to update this article as soon as a response is received.

What Do We Know About the Individuals Behind Source WiFi?

Source Networks Inc. was co-founded by CEO Dillon Chen, CTO Drew Stone, and CPO Joe Farned.

Previously, Dillon worked as a researcher at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management and an investment analyst for Rothenburg Ventures, while Drew is currently studying computer science and mathematics at UPENN. According to his bio on the Source website, Joe has extensive experience working with hardware and software systems.

Because the company was in beta, we didn’t find any listings for the Source WiFi app on iTunes or Google Play, or any details on third-party websites. Again, we’ll keep tabs on the situation and update this article as soon as we know more.

Are there any other apps or hardware that use blockchain technology to deliver—and incentivize—Wi-Fi access?

Does Source WiFi Have Any Competition?

By connecting many different individual Host routers (known as “nodes”), Source is essentially looking to create a global Wi-Fi mesh network. And while there are an increasing number of at-home plug-and-play mesh networks available, such as Luma and eero, we didn’t encounter any other products currently on the market that combined a large-scale mesh network with cryptocurrency incentivization.

It looks like a similar product called the Nodio Blockchain Router was under development back in 2016. Even before that, BitMesh and WIFI Metropolis made news in 2015 by announcing they were developing concepts around the idea, although in all instances, no news has since been released.

In other words, if you’re looking for something exactly like this, Source is currently your only option. Where does all of this leave you?

Our Final Thoughts About Source WiFi

Similar to how streaming services allow consumers to view (and pay for) content ala carte, while giving them the opportunity to break free from expensive cable contracts, it seems like blockchain technology could disrupt the Wi-Fi industry by using cryptocurrency tokens to deliver pay-as-you-go access.

What’s more, based on the model in place by Source, it seems like it could even incentivize the process and help Hosts earn a small-to-moderate passive income.

With this in mind, the industry is currently in its infancy, and Source (in beta mode) is the only game in town, so—like any new technological platform—it will take some time to find out if their concept has staying power. After all, it appears that other companies who have attempted to implement blockchain-based router technology have fallen by the wayside before achieving market success.

Finally, the FAQ section and whitepaper on Source’s website weren’t available at the time of our research. In addition to the questions posed in the Pricing section above, we requested this information from the company and will update this article as soon as a response is received.

In the meantime, are you a Source WiFi beta tester? If so, talk about your experience by writing a review below.

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