DENVER -- While Comcast has significantly expanded the reach of its WiFi footprint through the use of home-based hotspots, its proposed merger partner, Time Warner Cable, isn't planning a similar strategy. At Light Reading's "Optimizing and Monetizing WiFi" breakfast session here Tuesday, TWC principal architect Roger Stanford said community WiFi isn't on the product roadmap.
Community WiFi has helped boost Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s home hotspot count to more than 4.5 million pver the past couple of years. Plus, in collaboration with Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Comcast expects to offer access to more than 10 million hotspots in the US and Europe by year's end.
In contrast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has only about 46,000 hotspots nationwide, including its latest deployments in the San Diego area. (See Comcast, Liberty Global Ink Big WiFi Pact and Time Warner Cable Launches WiFi in San Diego.)
Home hotspots make use of gateways that broadcast two SSIDs; one for public use and the other for private subscriber access. While Time Warner Cable won't use this type of hardware for community WiFi, Stanford did say the company is looking at deploying dual-SSID wireless gateways for smart home services. Right now, TWC has to put two devices in a home if a customer subscribes to both traditional Internet service and a new smart home service. However, with multiple SSIDs, the operator could combine functions in a single gateway.
Although Time Warner Cable's WiFi hotspot ambitions may be limited now, that could quickly change if and when Comcast's planned acquisition of the company is approved. At that point, the Time Warner Cable team likely won't have a choice about following in Comcast's footsteps.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading