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Summary:

A wireless network comprised of 50,000 free hotspots will appear in the coming months, but there’s a small catch: To use the free Wi-Fi service, you’ll need to be a subscriber to one of five cable television providers. The Wi-Fi roaming revolution is finally here.

wi-fi-networks

A wireless network comprised of 50,000 free hotspots will appear in the coming months, but there’s a small catch: To use the free Wi-Fi service, you’ll need to be a subscriber to one of five cable television providers. On Monday, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable jointly announced the CableWiFi network. Customers of one provider can seamlessly roam on hotspots from other four as a result of the news.

Most of the new roaming functionality will be in New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, and Philadelphia as those areas have overlapping cable and Wi-Fi coverage. The group will be adding more cities and coverage areas, however. Signing in to a Wi-Fi network out of your home coverage area should be seamless: You’ll simply use the same credentials as you would on your own cable operator’s network.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, not only will consumers be happy with this broader Wi-Fi coverage, but so too will the mobile broadband network providers: Free Wi-Fi — even from someone else’s hotspot network — helps to offload data from 3G and 4G networks. Single sign-on while roaming on different networks makes this an easy win for consumers while cable providers can use the expanded coverage as a marketing perk to attract new consumers.

Sounds like a win all around to me and to my colleague Stacey, who said this two years ago after speaking to the folks at BelAir Networks, maker of wireless solutions, and now owned by Ericsson:

“So will ISPs take the consumer love of ubiquitous broadband and carriers’ need for offload to the next level and create the equivalent of roaming agreements for Wi-Fi? Greg Williams, the new SVP of corporate development at Bel Air Networks, thinks they might. …He wonders if carriers will negotiate with each other and fixed-line ISPs to get access for their wireless subscribers, especially in congested cities such as New York or San Francisco.”

Two years later, and it looks like the Wi-Fi roaming revolution is well underway. Be sure to bring your smartphone or tablet with you to get on board!

  1. Kevin Darty Monday, May 21, 2012

    Is this for Cable TV Subscribers only or will Broadband Internet Subscribers from these companies be able to enjoy this nice perk?

    In my case, I’m using RoadRunner through Bright House which is on this list but I don’t subscribe to Cable TV.

    1. This is from the press release, suggesting you can be a broadband subscriber:

      “This effort adds great value to our high speed Internet customers by providing free wireless Internet access on all of their WiFi enabled devices in our markets and additional areas across the country,” said Nomi Bergman, President of Bright House Networks.”

    2. You have to be subscribed to one of the 5 cable companies.

      Cablevision has been offering this for about 3 years

  2. Jason Hanson Monday, May 21, 2012

    So, who are the Hotspots…other Internet users? So by jumping onto my, or someone else’s free transmitting Hotspit while roaming…would make the Data usage go up for the originator of the Hotspot. Thus exceeding the Data Caps and charging for excesses, all because other users can freely use your transmitter…..which you have no control over….all implemented by the same companies promoting this? Try lowering your cable price to $50 included with ALL HD broadcasts and whatever 800+ channels there are with no extra charge….might get or keep the cable cutters better. THAT’S how you compete with Internet only Streaming Movie Services…which is what this is ultimately all about.

    1. No, the other Internet users aren’t the hotspots. These are hotspots with operator provided service or retailers that offer the Wi-Fi in conjunction with these providers. This has nothing to do with home / mobile broadband data caps except for allowing you use Wi-Fi data without it counting against your cap.

  3. Scott Hollander Monday, May 21, 2012

    and will they still be charging for the data dwnlaoded for all this ‘free’ usage?

  4. Glenn Fleishman Monday, May 21, 2012

    You wrote: “A wireless network comprised of 50,000 free hotspots will appear in the coming months”

    The press release states, “The participating cable operators currently offer more than 50,000 WiFi hotspots”

    And I would wager from previous reports that most of those are run by Cablevision. And that’s defined as a hotspot is an interesting point, too (each access point)?

    The network exists, and several already do interconnection in the New York area. This is more a broader coalition, and a plan by those (like Comcast) that offer practically no service across their footprints to add some.

    1. Most of them are probably run by Cablevision at the moment, but a larger and larger proportion is being built out by the rest of the federation. The NY-Philly corridor is the heaviest build out with other major metros following. ( “Practically no service” depends on whether you’re in a built out area Glenn ;-) ) When non-tech people talk to me about OptimumWiFi, they say “Its everywhere”. Its not really, but if you build in the right spots, your users think its everywhere, and from a customer experience perspective, that’s a large part of what counts.

      MSO marketing metrics use the formula 1 Access Point = 1 Hotspot, but practically, deployments are done in clusters, covering a location or corridor with multiple APs.

      The federation has been in the making for quite a while. A single SSID makes for much better scaling.

      As Wi-Fi deployments expand and become carrier-grade, you will see more robust roaming, personal VPNs and authentication mechanisms come to the fore.

      When you consider that a strand-mounted AP with a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem in it can deliver well over 100 Meg of bandwidth to clients with a fractional increase in operational expense for an MSO and the fraction of the capital expense for a cellular presence, it becomes a no-brainer. ( See Ericcson buying BelAir. )

      The interesting question is: How will the Federation tie in with the MSO/VZW spectrum plans, since some federation members face fierce competition from FiOS…

  5. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Monday, May 21, 2012

    How to set up an International Calling Plan for Digicel or LIME Prepaid and Postpaid. My article dials up the Telecom Providers and provides answers!!!

    http://www.geezam.com/how-to-set-up-an-international-calling-plan-for-digicel-or-lime-prepaid-and-postpaid/

  6. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Dekal Wireless is not free but paid Wi-Fi Service. See their website for more info!!

    http://www.dekalwireless.com

    Dekal Wireless is expanding rapidly and works with any device that is capable or receiving IEEE 802.16 a/b/d/g/f/n Wi-Fi

    Here is another article that i wrote for another blog for which i am an associate Editor:

    http://www.geezam.com/dekal-wireless-jamaica/

    The full set of my technology articles for Geezam can be seen at this link:

    http://www.geezam.com/author/lindsworth

    Dekal Wireless is doing so well that they are giving our local Telecom Providers Digicel and LIME a run for their money, taking away customers in parts of Jamaica where the Telecom Providers do not see it profitable to install 3G, HSDPA+ in the case of LIME or WiMaX in the case of Digicel to provide Wireless Internet.

    http://www.geezam.com/limes-4g-experience-centers-challenge-the-rise-of-dekal-wireless-dragon/

    http://www.geezam.com/lime-huawei-e586-mi-fi-dekal-wireless/

    Jamaica is definately ahead of the adoption curve for 4G Broadband, but Municipal Wi-Fi will beat them out in the end, as most mobile phones have Wi-Fi option built in

    http://www.geezam.com/lime-digicel-and-flow-leading-the-global-4g-adoption-curve/

    As for the Caribbean, Wi-Fi is already free in Barbados!!

    http://www.geezam.com/barbados-free-island-wide-wi-fi/

    St. Lucia is following suit with islandwide free Wi-Fi

    http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120522/business/business2.html

    So if you intend to invest in the Caribbean, you would best to move fast!!!!! Wi-Fi is simmering to a boil as Columbus Communications via its Caribbean subsidiary FLOW is retailing T1 capacity for interested parties to set up Municipal Wi-Fi Networks!!!

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