Light Reading

TW Cable Smartens Up Its Wi-Fi

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Almost a year ago, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) launched its Wi-Fi Finder app to help its broadband customers find the best wireless broadband connection while they're on the move. But only now is it being revealed who is supplying the guts of the app: WeFi Inc.

It makes sense considering the MSO is one of four known investors in the 6-year-old company.

For Time Warner Cable, WeFi created a tailored version of its Wi-Fi hotspot-finding software client for mobile devices. The client provides local data so WeFi's database and decision engine, which tracks more than 150 million hotspots, can get a fix on network performance and traffic levels. WeFi system tabulates data obtained during a 24-hour span alongside a current readout of network performance to tell the device which is the best available.

That blended data method, explains WeFi Chairman and CEO Zur Feldman, lets the system predict the quality of, and provide current characteristics of, the Wi-Fi signals. It's up to the carrier to pick the policy. TW Cable, for instance, could set up the app to choose one of its hotspots first before trying one from a roaming partner or some other provider.

TWC rolled out an Android version of the client in late 2011, and followed with an iOS app in January.

Based on knowing where the high-traffic areas are, the system can also help operators plan and expand their Wi-Fi networks and pinpoint gaps in coverage.

WeFi, which has about 45 employees, claims to have its client software distributed on 7 million devices (the company offers a free consumer version in addition to the apps it tailors for partners) that supply the data.

WeFi runs sales and marketing in the U.S. and R&D in Tel Aviv, Israel. It counts Devicescape Software Inc. among its competitors and has deals with other Tier 1 and 2 operators that it hasn't disclosed. Obvious candidates include TW Cable's Wi-Fi roaming partners: Cox Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Bright House Networks .

Why this matters
Cable operators are using Wi-Fi primarily to protect their high-margin broadband services, but not all Wi-Fi networks are created equal. To get an edge on the others, cable operators such as TW Cable are using tools such as We-Fi's to help its users automatically locate the best available connection. That trend isn't lost on other vendors that are underpinning carrier Wi-Fi platforms. It's one of the big reasons why Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) bought ThinkSmart Technologies and Meraki Networks Inc. -- companies that will add brains to Cisco's Wi-Fi routers and controllers. (See Cisco Snaps Up Wi-Fi Analytics Startup and Why Cisco Wants Meraki's Wi-Fi Smarts.)

TW Cable continues to get aggressive with Wi-Fi deployment. A spokesman says the MSO now has more than 8,000 hotspots deployed in Los Angeles; New York City; Charlotte, N.C.; and, just last week, Kansas City. TWC and its cable partners have deployed more than 60,000 hotspots.

For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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