The Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Wi-Fi network only encompasses 1 million hotspots right now, but that number will skyrocket to a whopping 8 million by year's end, with the cable MSO promising to operate hotspots in 19 of the country's 30 largest cities.
Cities targeted for new hotspot locations include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
In a blog post, Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, said some 200 million out-of-home sessions have been initiated on the company's Xfinity Wi-Fi network so far in 2014, a 650 percent year-over-year increase.
"Comcast customers now transmit nearly 2 million gigabytes (or half a million DVDs worth) of data through Comcast's Wi-Fi hotspots each month," Jenckes added.
Comcast's hotspots are located at a mix of outdoor locations, businesses and residences.
One of the company's more controversial efforts has been the creation of "neighborhood hotspots" via the inclusion of a second "xfinitywifi" signal (or SSID) in its residential customers' home wireless gateways. The second signal provides visiting Xfinity Internet customers with Wi-Fi access without the need to use the homeowner's private network password. Comcast said 54 percent of Xfinity neighborhood Wi-Fi usage already travels over the second SSID.
"Wi-Fi is part of our broader plan to deliver the fastest in-home and out-of-home Internet experience and power our customers' growing number of devices and growing Internet use," Jenckes said.
Though Comcast has indicated an interest in possibly launching a wireless service that would rely on a combination of Wi-Fi and back-up leased capacity on a cellular network, it and other U.S. cable MSOs are currently using Wi-Fi primarily to extend wireless connectivity to their nomadic broadband customers.
The cable industry's need for Wi-Fi was stressed by other industry execs at this week's 2014 Cable Show in Los Angeles, according to an article in FierceCable. "There's so much we can do with Wi-Fi that it's becoming very important in our new service offerings. It just gives our customers more flexibility," said Yvette Kanouff, executive vice president of corporate engineering and technology for Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) Systems.
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