Report: U.S. cable operators closing in on 10M hotspots

U.S. cable operators are expected to deploy some 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots by early 2015, according to analysts at Heavy Reading. The forecast was released in Denver in conjunction with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo and was reported by Light Reading.

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) alone has already deployed 4.6 million Wi-Fi hotspots, while Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC) has also rolled out 1 million. Thanks to their growing deployments within homes and businesses of dual-SSID access points, which carry a second signal for public access, those two MSOs should reach a combined total in excess of 9 million hotspots by year's end, Heavy Reading predicted.

During a breakfast session sponsored by Light Reading in Denver, Roger Stanford, principal architect at Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), said that particular MSO does not intend to deploy dual-SSID wireless gateways within residences. However, he said the company is eyeing the use of such devices to support smart home services. Time Warner has some 46,000 hotspots nationwide, including 17,000 in Southern California. It recently began deployments across the San Diego area.

Like Comcast, Time Warner is supplying dual-SSID access points to businesses so they can create internal Wi-Fi networks and also provide Wi-Fi access to customers. Similarly, Cox Communications' enterprise unit, Cox Business, just announced national availability of an Internet gateway with guest Wi-Fi for small and medium-sized businesses.

Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Cox are members of the CableWiFi roaming alliance, through which they allow each other's high-speed Internet customers to access more than 250,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Heavy Reading forecasts that U.S. cable MSOs' Wi-Fi hotspot numbers will reach 20 million by the end of 2015, scaling up to 50 million by end-2017. Much of that growth will be driven by the deployment of dual-SSID access points in homes and businesses to create community hotspots.

In related news, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) published a whitepaper that it said details community Wi-Fi service levels, network architectures and implementation details. The paper also shares case studies from existing providers. The WBA said it will send the paper out for review by industry forums such as the 3GPP, Broadband Forum, GSMA, IEEE, NGMN, Small Cell Forum, Wi-Fi Alliance and CableLabs.

The WBA added that in intends to take an active role in coordinating community Wi-Fi activities. It may host community Wi-Fi interoperability trials, generate network management and device behavior specifications, plus create a community Wi-Fi compliancy program for devices and access points.

"The appetite for community Wi-Fi has grown exponentially in recent years, mainly due to consumers wanting to always be connected both inside and outside the home. Operators are feeling the pressure to address this demand and deliver the desired services but they first need to lock down on certain considerations around implementation, QoS and even monetization," said Shrikant Shenwai, WBA CEO.

For more:
- see this Light Reading article and this article
- see this Cox release
- see this WBA release

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