Comcast confirmed that it’s weighing plans to create a nationwide WiFi network using its routers. Comcast filed its 180-page merger plan with the FCC detailing their proposed $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner merger.
The merger would create a behemoth, reports the NY Times, controlling 30 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers and more than 40 percent of broadband service, nationwide. Opponents of the deal say joining the two largest providers of cable television and broadband service would create a company with inordinate market power.
“This will lead to new technologies, better services and more choices for consumer and businesses — keeping America at the forefront of the digital revolution,” Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said Wednesday in prepared testimony.
Perhaps Comcast should start with a new settop box. The Natural Resources Defense Council says the biggest energy drain in your house is the TV set-top box, not the fridge, air conditioner, or heater. It operates at near full power even when the consumer is neither watching nor recording a show.
Comcast residential customers by the hundreds of thousands across the country now have the new Xfinity routers with a public-hotspot feature.
The CableWiFi alliance was announced at last year’s Cable Show in Boston. It includes hotspots from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. Collectively the MSOs in the partnership have laid claim to having the largest Wi-Fi network in the nation.
It makes their homes rough equivalents of coffee shops and other public venues that have long offered free Wi-Fi. Comcast didn’t say whether it is considering a hybrid mobile service or selling Wi-Fi to carriers.
Whether Comcast’s WiFi network would be truly “free” (to non-cable subscribers) is an open question. It creates a new revenue stream for Comcast but could kill competition before its starts.
France’s Free Mobile uses a similar network. Free.fr uses a set-top box that automatically shares a portion of one’s broadband connection via Wi-Fi with other Free.fr customers. Over five million set-top boxes has created a free Wi-Fi cloud enveloping major cities such as Paris.
Iliad-owned Free added 4G LTE at no extra cost to customers. Free in France offers unlimited talk, unlimited SMS and MMS messages, tethering and unlimited data with a speed reduction after 3 GB. Free charges only $25 per month and there is no contract.
Verizon could sell 4G access to Comcast outside of its footprint in exchange for access to Comcast’s Wi-Fi networks, according to GigaOm.
Comcasts’ strategy may not be unlike Republic Wireless which uses Voice over WiFi to offer monthly plans starting at just $5/month. A proprietary VoIP Android application can seamlessly switch between Sprint’s CDMA mobile networks and Wi-Fi networks.
Sprint’s Wi-Fi Calling is a free service that lets you use voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. Sprint now supports four phones for Wi-Fi calling, the tri-band Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S4 mini, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Mega and Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
Skeptics are fearful Comcast and Time Warner Cable will simply “take out” actually free WiFi spectrum. Some people (like me), fear that by blanketing whole communities with powerful WiFi on the lower 5 GHz band, Comcast and Time Warner could largely eliminate any WiFi competition from GoWex, Facebook/Cisco, Google, the phone companies or independent providers. Comcast could charge for the air.
Other WiFi providers that plan “free” nationwide networks include:
- Madrid-based Gowex which has wireless smart cities and WiFi networks in more than 80 cities worldwide – has announced a new initiative to merge public and private access WiFi services from mobile operators and businesses to create seamless roaming for consumers.
- Europe’s Fon WiFi community uses a $59 Fonera WiFi router but lacks the sophistication of the GoWex system. Fon claims to have the largest Wi-Fi network in the world, with over eight million hotspots as at July 2013.
- Cisco and Facebook announced a similar partnership that allows Wi-Fi users to log into access points, using Facebook credentials, sharing their demographic data in the process. Facebook Wi-Fi isn’t sharing the customer’s name with the network owner; instead it’s supplying the business demographic and social data drawn from the customer’s profile.
- Google is weighing the possibility of launching its own wireless service in markets where it offers its Google Fiber, according to a report in The Information. Google’s plan is to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator buying service, possibly through a partnership with Sprint or Verizon Wireless at wholesale prices and reselling it to consumers under its own brand.
A combined licensed/WiFi 2.0 hotspot subscription model might make a lot of sense — in the 20th century. It’s hard to imagine Comcast and Time Warner – let alone mobile phone operators – becoming a low cost provider for the unsubscribed mobile masses.
A Comcast/TWC merger may require extensive consumer protection provisions, according to Ars Technica, which has an in-depth analysis.
Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC hikes power in the lower 5 GHz band, Google Fiber Expands to More Cities, FCC Authorizes High Power at 5.15 – 5.25 GHz, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network, FCC Moves to Add 195 MHz to Unlicensed 5 GHz band, Free Broadband in France?, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free WiFi for 31 SF Parks, Ubiquiti 802.11ac Outdoor Access Points, Ubiquiti Launches “Revolution”, Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop, Enterprise-grade Firmware for Community WiFi Networks, Subsidized Access Vs Free Access, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood, Meraki Proposes Free SF Wi-Fi Network, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free WiFi: It’s a Right!, San Jose: Municipal Wi-Fi Comes Alive (Again),