WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Cable Show -- Comcast Corp. is preparing to become the first communications service provider in North America to turn its Xfinity service customers' home wireless gateways into Wi-Fi hotspots.
Following a model already employed (or at least announced) by Oi in Brazil and Ziggo B.V. in the Netherlands, Comcast is partitioning Wi-Fi access on new home gateways to create separate private and public wireless networks. The first configured network stays tied to household residents, while the public Wi-Fi option -- under the SSID "xfinitywifi" -- becomes accessible to any authenticated Xfinity customer. (See also Intel's DOCSIS 3.0 Chips Also Do Wi-Fi Sharing.)
Currently, Comcast has neighborhood hotspot trials underway in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Northern Virginia, and the Washington, D.C. metro area. The MSO is also part of the larger CableWiFi Alliance, which offers open Wi-Fi access to cable subscribers in multiple MSO regions across the U.S.
Other MSO participants in that alliance include Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. (See Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?)
In a statement, Comcast Senior Vice President Tom Nagel said: "Wi-Fi is at the center of our strategy to offer our customers the best online experience, whether it's the fastest Wi-Fi experience in the home, or a fast and reliable Wi-Fi environment outside the home."
At the same time, Comcast announced the launch of Xfinity Home Control, a new product under its Xfinity Home umbrella of services. The new service is aimed at subscribers seeking such smart-home solutions as video monitoring and remotely accessed lighting and thermostat controls. (See iControl Rubs Its Touchstone.)
Comcast is separating out Xfinity Home Control from the professional security monitoring that it offers with other Xfinity Home services, which are now called Xfinity Home Secure.
"The home control market is growing tremendously, and it's being driven by innovative technology, affordability and consumer demand," said Mitch Bowling, senior vice president and general manager of new businesses for Comcast Cable. "With the launch of Xfinity Home Control, we're adding yet another way customers can remotely manage their homes anywhere and at anytime."
Specifically, Xfinity Home Control enables customers to: get real-time text and e-mail alerts when doors and windows open or close; watch live streaming video of their home via wireless cameras; and manage home devices, including lights and thermostats, remotely or by using automated schedules. Comcast is offering the service starting at $9.95 per month. A "starter pack" of Xfinity Home Control monitoring equipment is available for $99.95.
In addition, Comcast has added another component to its Xfinity Home service with the launch of EcoSaver, a new, cloud-based solution designed to help customers cut their energy use and trim utility bills. Paired with the Xfinity Home thermostat, EcoSaver learns the unique heating and cooling patterns of a home and makes automatic, incremental adjustments to the thermostat based on real-time weather data, the house's thermal characteristics and the temperature preferences of the occupants.
The homeowner maintains full control over the thermostat. Over time, the system adapts to user inputs to help reduce energy while keeping the home comfortable. The move comes a week after Comcast announced a deal to offer energy-efficient light bulbs that can be controlled remotely through the Xfinity Home platform.
Xfinity Home is one of the prime Comcast services that takes advantage of high Wi-Fi speeds inside the household. Comcast recently introduced a new wireless gateway designed to give customers faster wireless speeds and greater coverage. (See Cisco Ups Wi-Fi Gateway Ante.)
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable