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Cable and cellular operators are spending millions erecting Hotspot 2.0 networks in many urban centers. But large corporations can’t react as quickly as residents who know their neighborhoods.

Community-oriented networks often use inexpensive, consumer-oriented WiFi gear “flashed” with firmware that allows remote management and control of remote WiFi routers. Free, open source firmware, embedded on inexpensive (less than $100) WiFi hotspots can add new functionality to WiFi routers and make community networks practical.

Popular and free wireless router firmware projects include OpenWrt, HyperWRT, Tomato, and DD-WRT, while commercial products include FON and HotspotSystem.

Cloud-based software allows easy management and control of thousands of hotspots for pennies a day. Cloud Control Firmware is available from companies like Tanaza, PowerCloud Systems and Cloud4Wi.

CarrierWrt says they are an OpenWrt overlay that simplifies development of commercial products. CarrierWrt comes with commercial software from leading vendors that is pre-integrated.

CarrierWrt integrates some interesting functionality out-of-the-box: for example Anyfi.net, an Open Wi-Fi mobility platform.

Anyfi.net is a software extension for existing Wi-Fi access points.

According to AnyFi.net, this software extension makes your favourite Wi-Fi networks available wherever you happen to be. It’s like your network can follow you around. It works through a Wi-Fi over IP tunnel.

One application is seamless and secure guest access (“reciprocal Wi-Fi”), but AnyFi says it can also be used for carrier Wi-Fi.

Anyfi wants to turn any Wi-Fi access point into a virtual extension of mobile networks. The Swedish startup has raised $1.5 million to enable the construction of large Wi-Fi networks that would allow operators to easily build hybrid cellular-Wi-Fi networks like the ones deployed by France’s Free Mobile and by Japan’s Softbank.

AnyFi says the software is free, and is available to all vendors under a no-charge royalty-free license. In the future they may ask the end-user to pay a small fee for access to some access points.

By breaking the bond between physical radio and the Wi-Fi network, the startup says it will make it easier for carriers to build expansive hybrid Wi-Fi grids to offload data traffic.

Anyfi isn’t the only Wi-Fi networking startup getting attention, notes GigaOm. Multi-radio mesh networking app developer Open Garden just closed a $2.2 million seed round, while Devicescape, is getting a lot of attention from carriers and device makers, including Bouygues Telecom, Republic Wireless and Intel.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Community Wireless Summit, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Carrier WiFi Moves Ahead, Municipal Broadband: Here We Go Again, AT&T Can’t Give Away Their Muni WiFi Net, Top Ten Municipal WiFi Stories of the Decade

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