More than a year after it enlisted in the landmark cable WiFi alliance, Cox officially opened up access this week to free, out-of-region WiFi for subscribers to its Preferred, Premier, and Ultimate High Speed Internet tiers. Users can sign on to hotspots with the "CableWiFi" identifier using their Cox login credentials. (See Cable WiFi on a Hot Streak.)
Cox customers now have access to WiFi hotspots in regions served by three other members of the club -- Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp., and Bright House Networks. Time Warner Cable Inc. is the fifth member of the WiFi club, and a Cox spokesperson said he expects TWC hotspots to be integrated into the Cox service before the end of the year. Charter Communications Inc. is the only top-five US MSO not participating in the WiFi alliance yet. (See Charter Goes Own Way on WiFi.)
Current "CableWiFi" locations open to Cox subscribers include areas of metro Washington D.C.; Boston; Richmond, Va., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Time Warner Cable would add hotspots in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Cable companies have numerous reasons for wanting to add WiFi access to their service portfolios. Not only does free WiFi offer customers more incentive to pay the monthly cable bill, it's also a brand extension for operators outside the customer's home. Cable operators are looking at monetizing new hotspots as well, in part by offering paid access to non-subscribers. (See Cisco 'Heats' Up Hotspots.)
But there's a cost side to the equation too. In addition to the capital expense of installing new WiFi access points, there's also the issue of increased network traffic from users who switch to WiFi on mobile devices to avoid costlier mobile broadband services.
At the Cable Show, Cox CTO Kevin Hart told Light Reading that new WiFi hotspots affect network planning strategies. With WiFi roaming agreements in place, operators now have to account for traffic from out-of-region cable customers, in addition to their own subscribers.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable