Connectify made a big splash in 2009 when it began offering software that would turn a Windows 7 PC into a Wi-Fi hotspot – long before such mobile hotspot features became common. Now the Philadelphia-based startup plans to pull the same trick in reverse.
Instead of distributing a single broadband connection to multiple devices via Wi-Fi, Connectify is aggregating multiple connections into a single, fat wireless pipe. The obvious use case is to combine Wi-Fi and 4G, but Connectify says it can stack any kind of data link ranging from an Ethernet connection to a dial-up modem. The new software is called Dispatch, but it’s still under development. Connectify is taking to Kickstarter to help fund the project and is offering early contributors access to its first beta release and free use of its app when it launches commercially.
Why would you want to combine multiple broadband connections? Well, if you eat up gobs of bandwidth through file sharing, the aggregated connections would come in handy, but a more typical example revolves around connection management. Connectify’s software allows you to prioritize different links. If you were at an airport or coffee shop with spotty Wi-Fi but didn’t want to max out your 4G hotspot’s monthly data allotment, you could configure Dispatch to tap a free Wi-Fi network’s cheap bandwidth first and only resort to the 4G hotspot when Wi-Fi falters.
Connectify plans to offer the software as a stand-alone PC product as well as incorporate it into its Hotspot software, which would allow the PC to act as both connection aggregator and broadband distributor – though more Wi-Fi links would necessitate the use of additional Wi-Fi cards or USB modems. Connectify also plans to offer up an API for developers who want to use the technology in their own apps.
Though Connectify’s service is a consumer product, mobile carriers are working on something similar. Eventually smartphones, tablets and PCs will be able to connect to multiple networks simultaneously as well as connect to multiple nodes on the same network. For instance InterDigital has developed connection management software that would maintain separate parallel connections to Wi-Fi and cellular networks, sending different types of data over each pipe depending on their destination. Traffic bound for the network core, such as carrier’s VoIP service or signaling data, would use a 4G connection, while lower-priority Internet bound traffic could be routed over the Wi-Fi.