Carrier WiFi

Comcast Boots Up Wi-Fi in California

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s wireless broadband network has reached the left coast after the MSO lit up its Xfinity WiFi service in several cities in Northern and Central California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, Monterey, Santa Maria and Chico. (See Comcast Lights Up Wi-Fi in California .)

Comcast, which uses the service set identifier (SSID) "xfinitywifi," is providing access to the wireless network for free as a perk for its cable modem subscribers. Comcast is also offering non-subs two complimentary 60-minute sessions through the end of the year. The MSO also sells access: $2.95 per hour, $7.95 per day, or $19.95 per week. Comcast is also pitching longer-term access, including a six-month pass for $29.99.

Comcast said it's already installed and activated a "few thousand" hot spots in California and expects to install more in the Golden State throughout the year. Here's the orbital view of Comcast's current Wi-Fi footprint in California:

It was not immediately known which vendors are participating in Comcast's California deployment, but Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Ruckus Wireless Inc. have been getting the lion's share of cable Wi-Fi wins lately.

Update: At this phase of the deployment cycle in California, Comcast says it's using outdoor Wi-Fi units from Ericsson (nee BelAir Networks), and Cisco modems and BelAir/Ericsson routers for indoor Wi-Fi deployments in small- and medium-sized business locations. But the company also says that it's always evaluating new products, so more vendors may be added to the mix as deployments expand. (See Ericsson Adds Wi-Fi With BelAir Buy .)

Why this matters
The launch marks the latest expansion of Comcast's Wi-Fi network, following earlier deployments in Boston, greater Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and parts of New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Those sites factor into a new cable Wi-Fi roaming pact that currently involves Comcast, Bright House Networks , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC).

Those MSOs also have the opportunity to complement their outdoor Wi-Fi networks and fill in gaps using new software that turns Docsis 3.0 wireless gateways into quasi-public hot spots. (See Intel's Docsis 3.0 Chips Also Do Wi-Fi Sharing and Broadcom Brings Wi-Fi Roaming to the Home .)

These Wi-Fi efforts will also help the cable operators further their mobile backhaul interests while also staying competitive with telcos such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which likewise been aggressive in deploying complementary Wi-Fi networks.

And this strategy is not solely about wireless data. Comcast, for example, has developed Voice2Go, an app that lets customers place free phone calls via Wi-Fi. (See Comcast Gives Wi-Fi a Voice .)

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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