Cox Communications announced today that it launched more than 1,700 additional WiFi hotspots for Cox Internet customers in the Phoenix and Las Vegas this month. The latest Cox WiFi hotspots bring CoxWiFi service to six markets to date with many more planned for 2015, including hundreds of hotspots in San Diego after the first of the year.
In addition to the current Cox WiFi markets (Connecticut, Northern Virginia, Omaha, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sun Valley), customers also have access when they travel to the nation’s largest WiFi network of more than 300,000 hotspots made possible by a collaboration of cable companies across the country, called CableWiFi, launched in 2013. The hotspots are strategically located in high-traffic areas such as restaurants, malls, sports arenas, parks and beaches in cities like New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Richmond, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Tampa.
Only Cox customers who subscribe to the Preferred Internet Package ($49/mo for the first 12 months) or higher have free access to the CableWiFi network. Comcast offers a similar “deal” for access to the joint cable WiFi network offered across the country.
CableWiFi uses Hotspot 2.0 technology where visitors will be able to use Passpoint-certified smartphones, tablets, and laptops tied to different service providers to roam across different hotspot networks. Authentication will be tied to the original service provider, but connectivity will be delivered through the local hotspot.
In June, Comcast said its Xfinity WiFi footprint had expanded to about 3 million hotspots nationwide, getting it closer toward a goal of expanding that footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014.
If Comcast’s strategy is to take over the lower 5GHz band with “free” public WiFi (for cable modem subscribers), they’ll have competition from T-Mobile US which wants to “privatize” as much as 500 MHz of the unlicensed 5 GHz band for “unlicensed LTE, aka LTE-U.
Qualcomm championed the so-called “LTE-U” or unlicensed LTE back in November 2013, before the 3GPP switched to the term “License Assisted Access.” According to Fierce Wireless, Macquarie Research analysts Kevin Smithen and Will Clayton said that after having met with T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, they expect T-Mobile will use LAA “extensively on the 500 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum, with handsets becoming available at the end of 2015.”
A spokesperson at T-Mobile confirmed the plan to use 5 GHz unlicensed technology to FierceWirelessTech, although the timing remains unclear.
Hotspot 2.0 is a new set of protocols to enable cellular-like roaming. A variety of partnerships are developing nationwide and world-wide, including:
- The “CableWiFi” network identifier (SSID) allows devices to auto-connect to a “CableWiFi” hotspot when in range. Comcast alone will install eight million Xfinity WiFi hotspots by the end of the year available in public locations across the country, from shopping centers, commuter stations, parks and sporting venues. Xfinity Homes will now contain two SSIDs, enabling consumer cable WiFi boxes to “share” their WiFi, helping the MSOs compete with mobile carriers.
- Facebook Wi-Fi is a partnership between Cisco and Facebook that allows Wi-Fi users to log into access points, using Facebook credentials. Facebook said it had 819 million monthly mobile users (73%) out of its total 1.15 billion users in Q2 2013. It’s primarily driven by advertising revenue.
- Europe’s Fon WiFi community. Uses a $59 Fonera WiFi router. Fon claims to have the largest Wi-Fi network in the world, with over eight million hotspots as at July 2013.
- Boingo launched “Passpoint Secure” networks at more than 20 airports throughout the United States using the Cisco Hotspot 2.0 network. Cisco, AT&T and Accuris partnered to bring a Hotspot 2.0 network to MWC 2014 this year.
- iPass has launched a cloud-based Business Traveler Service 2.0, marking iPass’ transformation into a cloud company utilizing a Software-as-a-Service delivery model, coupled with an app based approach. The service is available at 3,000 airports, 22 airlines, hotels and public areas worldwide. A single log-in enables users to obtain automatic access and authentication on smartphones, tablets and laptops in over 120 countries.
- Google is considering deploying Wi-Fi networks in cities covered by Google Fiber. The disclosure is made in a document Google is circulating to 34 cities that are the next candidates to receive Google Fiber in 2015.
- Google is apparently planning to offer subsidized, commercial-grade Wi-Fi hardware to small and medium-sized businesses, reports TechCrunch, including doctors’ offices, restaurants, and gyms. A Hotspot 2.0 feature would streamline signing in. The hardware would be the only cost involved, and use the businesses’ existing Internet connections, unlike the Google-provided Wi-Fi networks running at Starbucks.
According to Ruckus Wireless, a recent survey of 400 U.S. small businesses with retail places of business, commissioned by Devicescal, found [to nobody’s surprise] that providing free Wi-Fi is good business for increasing:
- Customer foot traffic
- The time spent on premises (and most importantly),
- The amount customers spend.
- The study focused on independent “mom and pop” retail stores, including bars, nightclubs, restaurants, fast food places, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, book shops, and salons.
A good night’s sleep isn’t as important as good hotel Internet connectivity, according to a recent report.
Infrastructure providers are also enabling small businesses and organizations to “roll their own” Hotspot 2.0 network. Ruckus Wireless gathered a bunch of interesting WiFi stats in a holiday-themed slide show.
Multi-User MIMO promises to handle large crowds better then Wave 1 802.11ac products since the different users can use different streams at the same time.
Public Hotspots serving large crowds will benefit most from MU-MIMO. Several enterprise and carrier-grade infrastructure providers are beginning to roll out their equipment (and backend software) now. LTE using the unlicensed 5GHz band is likely to be several years away, say most industry observers.
How large corporate takeovers of the unlicensed 5GHz band will (or will not) affect any truly “free” municipal network remains to be seen.
The FCC has increased Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, making Comcast and mobile phone operators happy since they can make use of 802.11ac networks, both indoors and out, even utilizing all four channels for up to 1 Gbps wireless networking.
These FCC U-NII technical modifications are separate from another proposal currently under study by the FCC and NTIA that would add another 195 MHz of spectrum under U-NII rules in two new bands, U-NII 2B (5.350 – 5.470 GHz) and U-NII 4 (5.850 – 5.925 GHz).
Commercial entities, including cable operators, cellular operators, and independent companies seem destined to blanket every dense urban area in the country with high-power 5 GHz service – “free” if you’re already a subscriber on their subscription network
Related Dailywireless articles include; Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook, FCC increases Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network,Cloud4Wi Annouces Cloud-Controlled WiFi , PowerCloud: Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , WiFi & Hotspot 2.0 at MWC, Hotspot 2.0 Moves Out, NYC & Cable Provide Hotspot 2.0 Service, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood,Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , Meraki Cloud Managed Security