Comcast and Liberty Global agree to share their Wi-Fi networks

Cable giants Comcast and Liberty Global have signed a deal that will allow Liberty’s broadband customers to use Xfinity wireless hotspots in the U.S. and Comcast customers to roam onto Liberty’s Wi-Fi network in European countries.

It’s a significant deal since both have extensive Wi-Fi footprints. Comcast now has 3 million hotspots, while Liberty runs of a network of 2.5 million Wi-Fi nodes. The reasons both their networks have grown so big, though, is that Comcast and Liberty customers are the ones actually running the Wi-Fi access points.

Both Comcast and Liberty have adopted crowdsourcing approaches to their hotspot networks. Any customer who uses one of their routers is actually running two networks, a private home network for their use only and a public network that any Comcast or Liberty customer can access. The two cable operators have essentially tasked their customers to build their network for them, and in exchange those customers get free access to results.

What’s interesting about this agreement is it’s the first that we know of in which Comcast is inviting outsiders onto the network. Not just your Xfinity-using neighbors, but Liberty’s European customers can now use that network to avoid high cellular roaming costs when traveling in the U.S. Ultimately, the deal is still reciprocal. Xfinity customers get the same benefit when they travel in Europe. The question is if all future Comcast deals will be reciprocal or if it will just start selling access to our home hotspots to anyone willing to pay.