Cable Tech

WiFi Spreads Like Wildfire

Need more proof that WiFi is spreading like wildfire throughout the US? Three recent news stories provide ample evidence.

First up, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has reached a deal with Spanish startup Fon to offer joint WiFi hotspot access to customers of both companies. FON subscribers gain access to AT&T's 30,000 hotspots in the US, while AT&T users gain roaming access to "hundreds of thousands" of FON hotspots around the globe.

FON was a pioneer in 2006 when it began creating a community of hotspots built on shared bandwidth from subscriber home routers. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) announced a similar program at The Cable Show earlier this year. (See Comcast Turns Homes Into Hotspots.)

Speaking of US cable companies, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is reporting that cable providers now operate 200,000 public WiFi hotspots across the country. These hotspots are free for cable subscribers, but also offer operators a chance to sell broadband access to non-cable-customers as a way to bring in new revenue. Heavy Reading predicts the number of cable WiFi hotspots will jump to 250,000 by mid-2014. (See Cable Wi-Fi on a Hot Streak.)

Finally, ABI Research reports that shipments of WiFi access points are on their way up. Thanks to the growing number of hotspots deployed by both cable and telecom companies, ABI predicts that carrier WiFi access point shipments will reach 9.7 million by 2018.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

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