& 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. 
From The Founder
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Juniper's next-gen comms solutions, and that's a good thing.
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.
LRTV Interviews
Rogers: Millennials Prefer Mobile Video

7|1|16   |     |   (0) comments


Rogers' Upinder Saini explains how millennial viewers favor mobile devices over big TVs and non-conventional TV content over broadcast and cable networks.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Pre5G & 5G Solutions

6|30|16   |   02:23   |   (0) comments


At 5G World London, ZTE demonstrated two types of equipment, including 128 antenna Pre5G Massive MIMO and 15GHz high-frequency base stations.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Technology Innovation to Fuel Power Efficiency

6|30|16   |   07:21   |   (0) comments


Managing energy costs and consumption as cable operators deploy new services requires new levels of innovation from technology partners. In this video, Dave Fellows, co-founder and CTO of Layer3 TV and chief scientist of the SCTE/ISBE Energy 2020 program, discusses such ambitious objectives as achieving a second 500% increase in efficiency in outside plant ...
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning to Service Agile Networks

6|30|16   |     |   (0) comments


Packet optical networks are transitioning from proprietary converged systems to open disaggregated platforms. This video will describe the Fujitsu 1FINITY disaggregated platform, explore how 1FINITY interoperates with the Fujitsu FLASHWAVE platform and explain how 1FINITY is designed for software control, like with Fujitsu Virtuora NC.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Nokia's Advancement Plan: Bring Old Skills to New Roles

6|29|16   |   7:57   |   (1) comment


Nokia's Sandy Motley advises women to change their mindsets; get aggressive about advancing their careers; develop strong, diverse support networks; and always bring forth learned skills to take on new challenges and different roles.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Cisco's Yvette Kanouff

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast: Prepping Next-Gen Video Services

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this LRTV interview, Comcast's Elad Nafshi outlines where MSO stands with cloud DVR, OTT video, college and gigabit services.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Creating Unique Standards for Cable's Unique Networks

6|28|16   |   09:30   |   (0) comments


Cable's unique network requirements require a specific set of standards for operators to increase power efficiency, according to Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee, and Ian Oliver, managing director of the Trenchant Group and a member of the ...
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy: 'Now Is the Time for NFV'

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Ray Watson, VP of Global Technology at Masergy, talk about the advantages that enterprises can leverage using Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and how Masergy takes a unique approach to solving customers' problems. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Masergy Leads the Charge With NFV Capabilities

6|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Hear Tim Naramore, CTO at Masergy, talk about how focusing on solving specific customer challenges, providing self-service automation tools and being laser focused on the customer experience has enabled Masergy to be a leader in the NFV space. For more information on Masergy, please visit www.masergy.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Private Company of the Year - Affirmed Networks

6|27|16   |     |   (0) comments


At BCE 2016, Steve Saunders speaks to Hassan Ahmed about Affirmed's success.
LRTV Custom TV
Energy 2020: Growing Services, Not Consumption

6|24|16   |   07:18   |   (0) comments


Management of power requirements needs to be a key consideration as cable operators deploy new services, says Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee. In this video, Cooper discusses the importance of cable operators and technology partners ...
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
Brexit: It's Hard to See an Upside
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 6/29/2016
Qualcomm Readies Lower-Band 5G Testbed
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/27/2016
DT Eyes FTTH Solution to German Opex Issue
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/29/2016
Sigfox Said to Face Customer Backlash
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/27/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Cisco's Yvette Kanouff for an exclusive in-depth interview.
At the BCE 2016 show in Austin, ECI Telecom CEO Darryl Edwards tells Light Reading founder and CEO about the Elastic Network concept and the company's NFV and cybersecurity developments.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.