Comcast turning Utah into a Wi-Fi hotbed

Cable operator Comcast announced a massive rollout of new Wi-Fi hotspots across Utah, and the company expects to add more sites in the state as time goes by.

The hotspots, part of the largest Wi-Fi Internet network of its kind in Utah, are part of Comcast's Xfinity Wi-Fi network, which provides additional Internet access points to Xfinity Internet customers. "This is a rolling launch so we have over 1,000 [hotspots], and the number is going to increase," Comcast spokesman Ray Child told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Earlier this month, the cable operator also rolled out 210 Wi-Fi hotspots in the Kansas City area.

Comcast Xfinity home broadband subscribers have free access to its hotspot service. Through Dec. 31, Comcast is giving nonsubscribers free access twice per month for an hour each. After that, nonsubscribers will have to pay $2.95 for one hour of access and up to $19.95 for a week-long pass.

Comcast is aggressively touting its Wi-Fi service as an alternative to cellular. Its website notes users can conserve usage on their wireless data plan by using Xfinity Wi-Fi to listen to music, watch movies, catch up on email and more. It also encourages customers to stream or download HD quality Xfinity TV content to their mobile device.

The offloading push appears to signal growing competition between cable TV companies and wireless operators. This rivalry may have led to termination of the joint innovation lab that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) launched with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks after agreeing to buy spectrum from the cable companies in December 2011. The effort was terminated in August but only recently disclosed by Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman told our sister publication FierceCable, "Evolving technology and market changes since the joint venture was formed have led all parties to conclude that a joint venture, per se, is no longer needed to deliver innovative services to customers."

Comcast began constructing its Wi-Fi network about three years ago. It has hotspot footprints in Northeastern markets such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Kansas City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, said the Salt Lake Tribune. However, Utah is the only Rocky Mountain state with the service.

Comcast has more than 60,000 hotspots, according to Light Reading. Comcast's Xfinity customers also have access to hotspots operated by Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cablevision and Cox Communications, which are partnered with Comcast in the CableWiFi Alliance. The alliance says its members operate more than 150,000 Wi-Fi hotspots altogether.

The cable TV industry has deployed more than 200,000 U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

For more:
- see this Comcast release
- see this Salt Lake Tribune article
- see this Kansas City Star article
- see this Light Reading article

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