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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(s cvc), Comcast(s cmsca), Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable(s twc) 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 (s eric):
“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!