Light Reading

Comcast Offers WiFi to KDDI, Taiwan Mobile Subs

Mari Silbey
5/12/2014
50%
50%

Comcast is putting millions of WiFi hotspots to more profitable use through new agreements with Asian cellular carriers KDDI and Taiwan Mobile.

According to Reuters, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has signed deals with the two big Asian operators to offer WiFi as a service to their subscribers traveling in the US. Instead of paying high mobile roaming charges, customers of KDDI Corp. and Taiwan Mobile Co. Ltd. can access Comcast's WiFi network for Internet connectivity on the go.

Only two weeks ago Comcast said it planned to extend its WiFi footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of this year. And in March, Comcast Senior Vice President Tom Nagel described WiFi as "our mobile network of choice" in an interview with Light Reading. Nagel said hotspot usage is on the rise and that very few Comcast subscribers have opted out of the company's neighborhood hotspot program. The neighborhood initiative turns home routers into dual public/private access points. (See Comcast Whips Up More WiFi and Comcast's Home Hotspots Heat Up.)

Comcast isn't the only provider with broad WiFi ambitions. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) CEO James Dolan recently teased the introduction of new and "disruptive" WiFi data products. On the telecom side, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is selling its WiFi network to overseas carriers in much the same way Comcast has done with KDDI and Taiwan Mobile. The US telco signed a deal with Spanish startup Fon Wireless Ltd. last October. (See Cablevision Plots WiFi Market Disruption and WiFi Spreads Like Wildfire.)

Cable companies have been looking to find a way into the mobile market for years. Now that WiFi has proven successful, operators are experimenting with different ways to monetize network access. Service providers are selling WiFi day passes, while also considering offering WiFi as a cellular backhaul alternative and using WiFi analytics to deliver location-based advertising. (See Cable Finally Sees Money in Wireless.)

As a direct mobile alternative, however, WiFi still has many shortcomings. Using unlicensed spectrum, WiFi creates a best-effort network. There are no quality guarantees and cable companies still face multiple technical challenges.

Roaming between WiFi networks is one critical issue. Industry standards organizations are working to solve the roaming problem through a new Hotspot 2.0 specification, but it will take time before most consumer devices are certified to support the technology. (See Can Cable WiFi Scale?)

Another critical issue is the effectiveness of home-based hotspots. Although cable companies are adamant that public traffic on a subscriber's home router has no impact on the household WiFi experience, Light Reading has heard multiple anecdotes suggesting problems exist.

For instance, WiFi chip maker Celeno Communications told us that service providers need more fine-tuned control over bandwidth allocation and quality assurance. The semiconductor company has its own solution called OptimizAIR technology, which allows for dynamic, real-time control of the WiFi user experience. Again, however, technical solutions are still in the early deployment phases. The complexity involved means the consumer experience will continue to be far from perfect.

It's no wonder that service providers are working overtime to lobby Washington for more spectrum. Everyone sees more revenue potential in the future of WiFi. Now providers need to work out the technical glitches to realize that potential.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
mhhf1ve
100%
0%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/13/2014 | 3:30:59 PM
Wifi is not quite a cellular replacement for users...
I think Wifi hotspots are a "semi-mobile" solution... users won't be able to really "roam" between hotspots because, in general, most hotspots are so far apart that a user would lose a connection going from one hotspot to another. That might be okay for data applications, but not for voice calls.
msilbey
100%
0%
msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2014 | 12:55:59 PM
Re: In An LTE world?
What's funny of course is that WiFi was never meant to be a mobile network. Yet, WiFi has gained steam, while WiMAX in the US has died on the vine. 
jabailo
50%
50%
jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2014 | 12:47:02 PM
In An LTE world?
While looking for new broadband service, I noted that Comcast now throws in "access to thousands of Wifi hotspots" with a standard XFinity Internet package, but given that we'll soon be living in an LTE world (or even a Sprint Spark, 120Mpbs world), will wifi be at all competitive.   I know that a single Wimax antenna can cover 30 sq. miles.   I don't know if LTE is that efficient or similar, but it seems like it'd be much easier to build and manage an LTE style network.

 
albreznick
50%
50%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2014 | 12:41:22 PM
WiFi Tech Problems
Very interesting, Mari. We don't har much about WiFi's technical issues and how major a problem they could be. I'd love to har more about those. Any thoughts out there?
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (8) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones