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Summary:

Comcast is compounding its extensive Wi-Fi network with even more Wi-Fi. But these new hotspots aren’t coffee shop and outdoor access points. They’re inside its broadband customers’ homes.

Comcast revealed on Wednesday it has grown its Wi-Fi hotspot network to 1 million nodes. Considering that on Tuesday its FCC filing on its planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable listed 870,000 hotspots, it appears to be ramping up its wireless network quickly.

Comcast can scale so quickly because its broadband customers are doing much of the heavy lifting. Its latest wireless home gateways all operate in dual modes, providing a private home network for the customer and a public network that can be accessed by any Comcast broadband customer. Comcast also offers public hotspot capabilities to all of its business customers and has built with thousands of high-powered outdoor hotspots in key high-traffic zones in its operating territory.

Comcast's hotspot network in the mid-Atlantic (source: Comcast)

Comcast’s hotspot network in the mid-Atlantic (source: Comcast)

Comcast isn’t breaking out how many neighborhood hotspots it’s running versus commercial access points, but they make up the vast majority of its network. Comcast is part of the CableWiFi consortium, which pools together the outdoor and business hotspots of Time Warner, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks. CableWiFi has 200,000 hotspots in total, meaning Comcast has more than 800,000 access points transmitting from living room shelves.

Though its hotspot network is a considerable resource for Comcast’s customers, it’s not the easiest to use. Customers still have to log in to each hotspot using their Xfinity credentials, but emerging technologies like Hotspot 2.0 will eventually make those connections automatic. When that happens Comcast can turn its hotspot footprint into a kind of mobile data overlay offloading smartphone and tablet traffic off from cellular networks.

Comcast told regulators it’s weighing using that footprint to create a Wi-Fi First mobile network, using cellular systems to fill in the gaps between its hotspots. It hasn’t revealed whether it would sell such a service to consumers to sell Wi-Fi capacity to other carriers.

  1. Very interesting.

    It sounds like a great concept – ubiquitous wireless data connectivity and the user doesn’t have to know if the connection is wifi or cellular-based. “It just works”. Sounds good for Comcast and sounds good for the user.

    So what’s the catch? Artificial data caps. This model only works with unlimited data plans. I don’t want seamless and automatic data connections if Comcast forces me to manage within a data cap.

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  2. The signal from my current Comcast Home WiFI hardly reaches my basement / patio, I wonder how can folks outside even use this low powered xfinitywifi SSID signal.

    I think its too much hype for something that does now work practically. Millions of unusable Hotspots :- )

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  3. I’m a Comcast subscriber and also a Republic Wireless subscriber. Unsurprisingly, none of the Xfinity hotspots I’ve ever encountered will allow me to make WiFi calls with my RW phone.

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  4. I wonder if others using my WiFi take out of my max throughput or if Comcast adds bandwidth to allow for the extra traffic… In other words, does my connection slow when outside users are on my router?

    I also wonder if I can charge Comcast rent of my space used to do their business.

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  5. I’ve used the Comcast hotspots and I only had to log in the very first time. Every subsequent login was automatic.

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  6. StretchFinnell Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    It is just a matter of time before Comcast will offer Unlimited Wi-Fi phone packages for ….of course an exorbitant amount of money…… Between Metro PCS and this Comcast Time- Warner acquistion. AT&T, Verizion will be forced to lower their prices of what may soon to be obsolete celluar service.

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