& cplSiteName &

Comcast's Home Hotspots Heat Up

Mari Silbey
3/24/2014
50%
50%

After numerous false starts, the cable industry has finally found its way in wireless by embracing WiFi technology. "WiFi is really our mobile network of choice," Comcast Senior Vice President Tom Nagel told Light Reading recently.

Nagel has reason to be satisfied with that decision. US cable operators have deployed more than 250,000 public WiFi hotspots across the country, covering such major metropolitan areas as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. And there's no sign of tapering consumer demand.

For Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) alone among US MSOs, however, the hotspot movement has included a major extension into subscriber homes. Starting last summer, Comcast has carried out its new home hotspot initiative, turning residential routers into nodes in a far-reaching wireless network open to all subscribers. Home hotspots separate out the private data traffic of household residents from the activity of other Comcast customers, and public usage doesn't count toward the owner's monthly bandwidth cap. (See Comcast Turns Homes Into Hotspots.)

These home hotspots aren't available yet across Comcast's entire footprint. But the company is now approaching a milestone of 1 million activations, and Nagel says Comcast will continue to roll out neighborhood hotspots aggressively throughout 2014.

Now that the home hotspot initiative is several months old, we asked Nagel what Comcast has learned from its initial deployments. He said that very few subscribers have opted out of the program -- well under 1% -- and that usage of home hotspots continues to rise. Not only are more devices connecting to the company's WiFi networks, but they are also staying connected for longer periods and connecting from locations farther away from home.

"More devices are coming on, on average," said Nagel, "but they're also using it more, and then the home hotspot is really having an upward impact on the amount of usage not just around the home, but around other places that are a distance from the home. So we sort of look at utilization of the network more than a mile from your home, assuming that that's clearly outside your neighborhood, and there's been a good uptick once we begin to add the home hotspots."

While some critics have chastised Comcast for not communicating strongly enough about the subscriber opt-out option for home hotspots, Nagel argued that even in markets where the technology has been turned on for months -- and therefore awareness has increased -- the drop rate hasn't gone up. He also pointed out that Comcast sends a letter to subscribers when the feature is launched in a market and that the company posts information online and shares details of the program with local press outlets.

The rapid increase of home hotspot use makes sense in a world where consumers are already selectively offloading their mobile Internet activity from cellular networks. According to Nagel, between 60% and 75% of mobile traffic is currently conducted over WiFi connections. He noted that Comcast has unique scale among cable operators to extend WiFi access because of the advanced wireless gateways it is now deploying. He also emphasized the importance of security, and how that will continue to be a high priority as WiFi connections expand and consumers start to move seamlessly between networks. (See Momentum Mounts for Cable WiFi.)

Inspired by Comcast, other US cable companies are eyeing the home hotspot model, but have only run limited tests so far. Reports in at least one online user forum suggest that both Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) are running trials. Plus, back at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last October, Cox Communications Inc. Vice President Kelly Williams told a Light Reading breakfast forum crowd that home hotspots are "definitely on our radar and something we could do in 2014." (See Can Cable WiFi Scale?.)

Unlike in some other countries, such as Brazil and the Netherlands, the home hotspot movement in the US is still in its early days. It's one more example, however, of how the US cable industry is turning WiFi to its advantage.

And it's hard to argue with the investment when cable companies are finally gaining traction with a wireless broadband product. Ironically, in Comcast's case, the company's growing success outside the home is being aided by the gateways that it's deploying inside subscriber households. When every home is a hotspot, WiFi access spreads rapidly, and so does Comcast's wireless footprint.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/22/2014 | 9:50:13 PM
Re: How practical?
For the bandwidth concern, the answer will most likely be YES.

As far as liability, that is a major concern. And I would believe that the last hop would be responsible, which means YOU the sharer. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/19/2014 | 3:12:57 PM
Re: How practical?
Simplest solution would be to give a discount to people who agree to share bandwidth. 

Two concerns that Comcast or any other provider will have to address:

- Bandwidth: If I'm a Comcast customer participating in this program, and some guy uses it to stream a movie, is my bandwidth going to slow down?

- Liability: If I'm a customer participating in this program, and somebody uses it to do something illegal, could I get arrested?
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/18/2014 | 11:10:50 PM
Re: How practical?
Yes. I came across a cloud storage provider that scales because they use your hard drive space to span the network's capacity. They reward you for doing this by giving you more space. I feel like the same type of application should be done with the WiFi. Maybe if you agree to share for others, you get more bandwidth...
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/4/2014 | 7:40:11 PM
Re: How practical?
Makes sense. If Comcast wants basically install networking convenience in your house for other people's convenience, they should be required to give you an incentive to do so. 
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/27/2014 | 10:47:04 PM
Re: How practical?
Convenience/Proximity/Emergency wifi. I don't know IF they'd do it. I just don't want to give them the opportunity to do so, especially not unexpectedly.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/25/2014 | 5:48:43 PM
Re: How practical?
pcharles09 -  Why would they want to park in front of your house when they could go to a perfectly comfortable Starbucks?
victorblake
50%
50%
victorblake,
User Rank: Lightning
3/25/2014 | 4:05:46 PM
What false starts ?
I don't follow the false starts comment. Comcast, TWC, BrightHouse, Cablevision, Cox, et. al. have been progressively deploying increasing numbers of WiFi hotspots outdoors and working WiFi strategy for years. I don't see where there have been any "false" starts, only progressive growth of the services concurrent with the growth and adoption of the service on increasing numbers (and eventually all) mobile devices.
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/24/2014 | 9:26:31 PM
Re: How practical?
I don't like the idea. What would stop people from parking in front of my house to use wifi for some indeterminate period of time? I wouldn't want to be considered the 'hotspot of the neighborhood'.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/24/2014 | 5:53:35 PM
How practical?
So consumers' home WiFi routers would double as public hotspots for Comcast? Presumably users who are not subscribers would sign into the WiFi the same way they do at a Starbucks, airport, or hotel?

It's an interesting idea. I wonder how useful it would be given the typical layout of residences in the US. In the suburbs and rural areas, homes are located far from public areas. And even in the city, apartments and condos are on upper stories of buildings. Either way the WiFi signal doesn't have much opportunity to stretch to a public area. 

For example, sitting in my own home, my mobile devices can see my neighbors' WiFi networks, and presumably they can see mine. But we have no need to log on to each others' WiFi because we have our own. And none of us are contiguous to public areas where people are going to linger and use WiFi. 
Light Readingís Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Friday, December 2, 1:00PM EST
The SDN Approach to IP & Optical Integration
Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Korn Ferry Consultant: How to Find, Cultivate & Be the Best Talent

11|30|16   |   4:10   |   (1) comment


Erin Callaghan, a managing consultant for Korn Ferry Futurestep, shares strategies for companies to improve how they recruit and for women to ensure they don't get lost in the pipeline.
LRTV Custom TV
We Can Make the World More Sustainable

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


GeSI is a global e-Sustainability Initiative organization bringing together 40 big multinational companies around the world. According to GeSI's report, information and communication technology can make the world more sustainable. Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI, shared with us his opinion at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Finding a New Way to Engage Customers & Drive Revenue

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Mobile revenues are declining. Digicel, a player in the Caribbean telecommunications/entertainment space, has found a new way to engage customers and drive revenue. John Quinn, CTO of Digicel, shared with us its story at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016)
LRTV Custom TV
Do You Really Need Gigabit Infrastructure?

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Altibox is the biggest fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) player and the largest provider of video and TV in Norway. They started out with zero customers in 2002. Now they have close to half a million households and companies attached to their FTTH business. Nils Arne, CEO of Altibox shared with us their story and insight on 5G at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
BTís Openreach Strategy & Its Updates in 2016

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


A lot of developments at Openreach this year in terms of strategy and planned investments. Peter Bell, CIO of Openreach BT, shared with us the updates of Openreach at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
ITU: The Broadband Is Our Future

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Ultra-broadband Forum, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of ITU, discussed how important it is for countries, companies and everybody to be working together to help to build the broadband and digital economies (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Tackling 5G in Dallas

11|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Here are our highlights of the 5G North America show in Dallas, Texas with Light Reading's Dan Jones.
LRTV Interviews
Cox Prepping for Virtualization Trials

11|14|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this video interview, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein discusses MSO's plans to test managed business services in early 2017 and tackle Distributed Access Architectures.
LRTV Custom TV
Drivers & Potential of NGP

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


ETSI has created an Industry Specification Group to work on Next Generation Protocols (NGP ISG), looking at evolving communications and networking protocols to provide the scale, security, mobility and ease of deployment required for the connected society of the 21st century. The NGP ISG will identify the requirements for next generation protocols and network ...
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei IP 2020 for Future Networks

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Future Networks should satisfy many requirements such as high throughput, extremely low latency, flexible mobility, intrinsic security, networking automation, and so forth. The Chief Architect of Huawei Future Networks addresses a holistic solution, i.e., IP 2020, to achieve these requirements for various future life scenarios (e.g., autonomous driving, tactile ...
LRTV Custom TV
Digital Object Architecture

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Digital Object Architecture provides a basic information infrastructure that can facilitate interoperability between or among different systems, processes, and other information resources, including different identity management systems. Digital objects are networked objects that are named by digital object identifiers and instantiated by an infrastructure service ...
LRTV Custom TV
BT's Openreach Has High Hopes for Long-Reach VDSL

11|11|16   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Peter Bell, Network Portfolio CIO at BT's access business Openreach, talks about the operator's trial of a new broadband access technology called Long Reach VDSL.
Upcoming Live Events
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
AT&T Debuts DirecTV Now on New Video Platform
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 11/28/2016
Apple Seeds 5G? Seeks 'Multi-Gigabit' Chip Designer
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice Plans FTTH for Entire US Footprint
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice FTTH Bill Could Hit Almost $9.6B in US
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/1/2016
Samsung Bows to Investors, Considers Revamp
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/29/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Live Digital Audio

Even when there's a strong pipeline of female talent in the comms industry, it tends to leak all the way to the top. McKinsey & Company says women experience pipeline leakage at three primary points: being unable to enter, being stuck in the middle or being locked out of the top. Each pipeline pain point presents its own challenges, but also opportunities to stop the leak. Wireless operator Sprint is making a conscious effort to improve its own pipeline from new recruits to the C-suite, and it wants the rest of the industry to do the same. In this Women in Comms radio show, WiC Board Member and Sprint Vice President of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco will give us her take on the industry's pipeline challenges. Pitocco, who joined Sprint in May and has spent 20 years in the comms industry, will also offer solutions, share how Sprint is tackling the challenge within its own organization and take your questions live on air.