Cable WiFi Alliance stalls at 500,000 hotspots

The Cable WiFi Alliance, although still in operation, appears to have stopped deploying new Wi-Fi hotspots. The alliance continues to tout half a million public hotspots falling into its purview, a figure that hasn’t changed in two years.

The Cable WiFi Alliance launched in 2012 as a venture among what was, at the time, most of the nation’s leading cable operators. And just a year after the group launched, it boasted that it had tripled the number of its public Wi-Fi hotspots to 150,000.

However, in the intervening years, the U.S. cable industry hasn’t made much mention of the alliance, and one of the last public announcements about the project in 2016 (from the industry’s NCTA—The Internet & Television Association) pegged coverage at 500,000 hotspots. That’s the same number the alliance touts today on its website.

It’s worth noting that the cable industry has been embroiled in significant merger-and-acquisition activity during the past few years. Altice purchased Cablevision and Suddenlink, while Charter snapped up Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

However, the alliance doesn’t appear to be dormant. For example, in 2016, Charter promised that it would pursue membership in the alliance as part of its purchase of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. A Charter representative confirmed this week that Charter is indeed a current member of the alliance; Cox, Altice (under Cablevision’s Optimum brand) and Comcast are also listed as members on the alliance’s site.

Indeed, it appears that Charter is leveraging the alliance’s hotspots as part of its new Spectrum Mobile MVNO service. On its website, Spectrum Mobile advises that customers “have access to over 500,000 Spectrum WiFi hotspots nationwide. Connecting to the Spectrum WiFi network is easy and can reduce your monthly data usage.”

Interestingly, Comcast’s own Xfinity Mobile boasts dramatically more publicly available hotspots—18 million—for its own MVNO service, which launched last year. That’s likely due to the cable company’s decision to deploy cable modems to its customers that also broadcast a public signal. “Select Comcast-provided wireless gateways broadcast a public hotspot called xfinitywifi that extends the Xfinity WiFi network into your home, allowing any Xfinity Internet subscriber to connect to it there,” Comcast states on its site. “We encourage you to keep the Xfinity WiFi Home Hotspot feature enabled, as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of Xfinity WiFi. This xfinitywifi WiFi signal is completely separate from your private Xfinity WiFi home network and won't slow down your home broadband connection.”

It appears, however, that Comcast’s xfinitywifi hotspots aren’t available to the Cable WiFi Alliance.