Cox Communications on Tuesday said that its premium cable broadband customers will now have free access to a Wi-Fi hotspot network spanning 150,000 indoor and outdoor public areas in major cities across the country – most of which aren’t even in Cox’s cable franchise territories.
That sounds like an impressive network feat for a cable operator entrenched in its own local markets, but Cox is part of the CableWiFi consortium, a group of five cable operators that are pooling their Wi-Fi resources. Cox, Comcast(s cmsca), Time Warner Cable(s twc), Cablevision Systems(s cvc), Bright House Networks have each been building out hotspot networks in its own territories, but have agreed share access with each others customers in a massive five-way roaming agreement.
Subscribers to Cox’s Preferred, Premier and Ultimate internet packages will be able to tap the network. Once customers login into the first access point in the network using their Cox user name and password, their smartphones, tablets and laptops will recognize their devices and automatically connect them for 180 days.
The cable operators have become big proponents of Wi-Fi to boost their broadband reach, ever since their efforts to build their own mobile networks fizzled out (Cox actually launched and then shut down its CDMA network). Those cable companies aren’t just dropping hotspots into restaurants and cafes. In many cases they’re building outdoor Wi-Fi grids covering busy intersections, parks, malls and other high-traffic pedestrian areas.