Share WiFi with your neighbors

Legal situation: can you share your internet with neighbors?

Peter Stelzel-Morawietz

A fast internet connection is seldom used: it's actually perfect to share the access with the residents next door. PC-WELT shows the savings potential, explains the possibilities for technical implementation and names the legal framework.

EnlargeShare the internet connection with your neighbor - that's how it works.
© Photo: © stadtratte -

The fast 100 Mbit VDSL connection for less than 20 euros a month only exists in advertising. Because if you take a closer look, this price for the double flat rate for unlimited surfing and calls to the German landline network only applies to new customers and for them only in the first few months. For the remaining term of the two-year contract, you then pay significantly more, at Deutsche Telekom, for example, € 44.95 per month for the 100 Mbit line. Thereafter, the higher prices always apply, in the example around 540 euros per year. Other providers or a slow 16,000 DSL are a bit cheaper, but the order of magnitude is roughly the same. Important: A tariff comparison is almost always worthwhile!

Savings potential: costs for shared Internet access

Now you can change your provider every 24 months in order to benefit from the new customer bonus again and again. But this is time-consuming, and there is always the risk that something does not work when switching over and that you are temporarily without internet and without a telephone.

But you can also save if you share the online access with your neighbors: specifically the costs for the second connection. In contrast to "provider hopping" - once the technology has been set up - you don't have to do anything else and still benefit from the bonus of sharing.

In view of this very clever idea, some people may wonder why others didn't think of it beforehand. Yes, they definitely are: Every flat share works like this, because here the residents usually share a central connection in an uncomplicated manner.

EnlargeThe small print shows how expensive the double flat rate for internet and telephone really is in the long run.

Beyond this very pragmatic approach, however, the question arises whether the abolition of so-called interference liability for operators of WLAN hotspots has also changed the risk of copyright-relevant warnings in the private sector. Why shouldn't you make your WLAN available to your friendly neighbor if it doesn't pose any legal risk?

But it's not that simple, as the Berlin lawyer Professor Niko Härting explains. Because the exemption from liability for interference only applies to commercial hotspot operators, but not to legal violations in private WLAN. What is usually not a problem in your own household, with parents or in-laws and long-term, well-known neighbors, should also be carefully considered. Furthermore, the liability for interference is not the only legal aspect, especially the general terms and conditions of the internet providers often prohibit the passing on of the services they offer. In the box, Niko Härting explains the most important legal issues.

Transfer of the connection: WLAN, LAN cable and powerline

There is no clear answer to whether WLAN, LAN cables and Powerline are the easiest or best transfer options. Rather, it depends on the structural conditions. For example, if you live with your parents or in-laws under one roof in your own home, experience has shown that you can reach your destination quickly and cheaply. Depending on the type and nature of the circuits, powerline technology, i.e. the transmission of the Internet via the socket, is the best choice. Starter kits with two adapters for inputting and outputting 230-volt household electricity are available in the current 500-Mbit class for less than 40 euros. The actual net transmission capacity is only about a third of the gross value, but even with a 100 Mbit fast internet connection this does not mean a bottleneck. Sets in which one of the two adapters is also equipped with a WLAN access point start at around 60 euros.

Alternatively, however, a network cable can also be laid - through a hole in the wall between neighboring apartments, as a barely visible ribbon cable in the hallway or between the window and window frame along the outside of the house. 25 meters of flat ribbon cable complete with connectors cost 10 to 20 euros. Network cables are also suitable for neighboring terraced houses and for laying underground to the adjacent property.

EnlargeThe set with two Powerline adapters from TP-Link (model: TL-PA4010) costs less than 40 euros.

In the second household, which is supplied via network cable, a simple switch with several LAN sockets takes care of the distribution; you can implement additional WLAN via an access point. Many WLAN repeaters and ordinary routers also offer an "access point mode" that connects smartphones, notebooks and other WLAN clients to the Internet. The manufacturer explains how to configure an existing Fritzbox as an access point using the 7390 model.

If it is possible to lay a network cable, the cable variant is always the first choice in terms of data throughput and network stability. How good a powerline connection is depends on a number of factors, so there is no way around trying it out. Another tip: You can return adapters bought online within 14 days without giving a reason.

Measure bandwidth:The big DSL test

Nomadic telephone connection

Most providers not only provide their customers with the Internet via DSL, cable or fiber optic connections, but also with a telephone connection for the landline network. What seems practical at first glance has two disadvantages. On the one hand, when you change provider, you always have to port the existing phone number to the provider - possibly even for a fee. On the other hand, sharing an Internet connection makes the separate telephone use in two households unnecessarily complicated.

This problem can be easily solved via a “nomadic” telephone connection, which - as the name suggests - can be taken with you and used wherever Internet is available. Such nomadic connections, sometimes also designated with the abbreviation SIP (“Session Initiation Protocol”), are available from various providers, Sipgate is perhaps the best-known service in this country. As a rule, there is no basic fee for the basic tariffs, as a customer you only pay for the calls: In the German landline network these are usually between one and two cents per minute. If you make a lot of phone calls, it is best to choose a flat rate at a price between five and ten euros per month.

Our online guide explains the details, introduces providers and tariffs and describes the correct router settings, devices and smartphone apps such as Zoiper and Csip Simple.

EnlargeLike various other providers, Easybell offers inexpensive Voice-over-IP telephone connections.

The WLAN transfer in detail and everything about the landline phone

However, transmission via WLAN is more complex. Experience shows that a wireless network often reaches its limits in your own home, depending on the size of the apartment, the nature and thickness of the walls or floors. This is all the more true for the mostly difficult connection to neighbors.

Much better than with conventional WLAN hardware, special pairs of devices work for the described purpose, in which one of the radio networks is used exclusively for communication between the base and the satellite. Independently of this, the data traffic with the WLAN clients - that is, with smartphones, notebooks, televisions and other devices - runs over separate radio networks. The advantage of such a "WLAN cable" is that the various data streams do not interfere with one another and do not have to be processed one after the other.

Examples of such pairs of devices are the Gigagate from Devolo (set of 2 for just under 200 euros) and the more powerful Orbi system from Netgear, which costs almost 250 euros in the smallest version (RBK30). The Starterkit Velop from Linksys is a bit more expensive at around 300 euros. We explain the systems in detail, including data throughput measurements, in various practical scenarios online. Incidentally: We have been using the Devolo Gigagate productively for months between two parts of the editorial building - just like between two neighboring buildings.