Light Reading

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. 
From The Founder
Against the odds, Huawei is growing its telecoms networking equipment business in the US -- that should be ringing some alarm bells for domestic vendors.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo

8|28|15   |   19:05   |   (0) comments


Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Vodafone: Mobile Money Is About Customer Trust

8|27|15   |   06.36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading spoke with Vodafone's Ian Ravenscroft about the unique responsibilities and opportunities facing operators handling customers' financial transactions over the network.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Palo Alto Networks on Expanding in the Carrier/Service Provider Market

8|26|15   |   07:54   |   (0) comments


Alfred Lee from Palo Alto Networks tells Steve Saunders about their new chassis-based system, the PA-7080, and how it can benefit service providers compared to legacy firewalls.
LRTV Custom TV
Global Services Forum Preview

8|25|15   |   02:36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders talks about Huawei's upcoming Global Services Forum with the help of Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan and Teresa Mastrangelo.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Infoblox on DNS Threat Index

8|19|15   |   04:39   |   (0) comments


Dilip Pillaipakam from Infoblox talks to Steve Saunders about his company's core network services.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Ihab Tarazi, Equinix

8|14|15   |   20:18   |   (1) comment


Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the dramatic changes in the data center, cloud and interconnect markets and discusses the impact of SDN and NFV in the coming years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
The Netformx Ecosystem

8|14|15   |   09:39   |   (1) comment


Ittai Bareket, CEO of Netformx, talks with Steve Saunders about the Netformx Ecosystem, which employs cutting-edge prescriptive analytics to help solution providers maximize profits.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks on Leveraging VNFs

8|12|15   |   07:37   |   (0) comments


Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of stealth mode startup Versa Networks, talks with Steve Saunders about how providers can best leverage virtualized network functions (VNFs).
LRTV Custom TV
Transforming the Network Through OPNFV

8|5|15   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Sandra Rivera, VP Data Center Group; GM Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation, on OPNFV Arno and how the industry is coming together to accelerate the deployment of NFV and transform the network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei ONS Product Demo

8|3|15   |   6:01   |   (0) comments


Huawei shows at Open Networking Summit 2015 in Santa Clara how its SDN and NFV solutions embrace openness.
LRTV Custom TV
End-User or Enterprise Benefits to the New IP

7|30|15   |   04:27   |   (1) comment


Andrew Coward discusses what the New IP means to end users or enterprise customers. He explains compelling reasons, including how every customer can get their own network, from the transformation to the New IP.
LRTV Custom TV
Network Visibility & the New IP

7|30|15   |   02:23   |   (0) comments


Mukund Srigopal provides an explanation of what network visibility is and how it is essential as service providers transition to the New IP. In addition, the importance of the network packet broker is discussed.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's cloud and virtualization portfolio can increase business agility and innovation by building a more flexible network architecture.
Hot Topics
T-Mobile CEO Plays Data Traffic Cop
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/31/2015
CEO Chat With Bill Gates
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 8/31/2015
Verizon Hums a Driving Tune
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/26/2015
Time to Monetize Cable WiFi
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 8/31/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
September 16, 2015
Wi-Fi First or Second?
September 22, 2015
Media Begins With “Me”
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
The scene: Last Saturday, lunchtime, the interior of a shi-shi-foo-foo eatery in Manhattan's SoHo district.
Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
Cats with Phones
Tastes Like Fish Click Here
Please hold while I lick the phone.