April 18, 2019

5 Open Source Wi-Fi Hotspot Solutions


  • June 7, 2010
  • By Eric Geier

You'll find many Linux-based and/or open source options when searching for a Wi-Fi hotspot solution. Whether you're wanting to give away or charge your visitors for the wireless Internet, you should find something that will work. The best part is that most of these solutions are free -- you don't have to spends hundreds on a off-the-shelf hotspot gateway.


DD-WRT is a firmware replacement you upload onto a supported wireless router. This changes your router's control panel and gives you many more features, including several hotspot solutions: Chillispot, NoCatSplash, WiFiDog, and Sputnik. You might also find a use for the other new features as well. For example, you could create a separate wired or wireless network for your private network with VLANs and multiple SSIDs.

Here's an overview of the hotspot features in DD-WRT:

  • Chillispot: Gives you great hotspot authentication and management features for free or commercial hotspot locations, but requires an external RADIUS server. However, you can use hosted servers from companies such as Worldspot.net, HotSpotSystem.com, and WirelessOrbit.
  • NoCatSplash: Provides a quick and simple captive portal, but doesn't include user login or management features. This is still great for single hotspot locations where you want users to agree to Terms of Service (ToS) before getting access.
  • WiFiDog: Gives you an advanced captive portal and content management for free hotspot locations. However, you must configure a proprietary external server.
  • Sputnik: Provides free and commercial hosted services that gives you user authentication and device management for use with free or pay access hotspot solutions.
CoovaAP is another firmware replacement, based off of OpenWRT, specifically designed for Wi-Fi hotspots. It has the CoovaChilli access controller built-in, giving you captive portal, access provisioning, and accounting features. You can require hotspot users to login with accounts (self registered or defined by you) or just require users to agree to the Terms of Service (ToS).

CoovaAP also sports WDS (wireless distribution system), great if you're setting up multiple APs. If you or your organization has a Facebook page, you might want to check out the Facebook captive portal feature. The firmware also has traffic shaping controls so you can limit the bandwidth your guests use.

For more information on CoovaAP or for help on setting it up, refer to one of my previous tutorial series.

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