Possibly laying the groundwork for future Wi-Fi First wireless services, a cable company announced the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspot networks last week.
Time Warner Cable (TWC) launched a national Wi-Fi network, using HotSpot 2.0 Passpoint-enabled technology on most of the access points, which allows seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks similar to the way cellular phone users roam cellular networks. Edgar Figueroa, CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, praised the deployment, saying that Time Warner Cable has taken a leadership stance in deploying advanced Wi-Fi technology.
The product is being marketed as a value-add to the existing Internet service for customers, according to Judy Barbao, spokesperson, Time Warner Cable. “Anyone who signs up for Internet service, standard or above, gets the added advantage of free Wi-Fi service through the Time Warner Cable network,” Barbao said. “It will be a part of our bundle of services.”
Startup companies, such as Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless, are offering access to Wi-Fi access nodes in what are being referred to as Wi-Fi First networks.
“There are currently no plans for further marketing of the Wi-Fi HotSpot 2.0 service, but down the road we could look at arrangements that would monetize it,” Barbao said.
The Wi-Fi HotSpot network will use the enterprise-grade security WPA2 and is available for most Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, tablets and smartphones. After connecting to the network the first time, customers will then seamlessly connect to the new preferred secure network whenever in broadcast range.
“There is a small percentage of customers that are leery of accessing public Wi-Fi,” Barbao said. “We hope that by providing this secure network it will attract those customers, too.”
The new network option is available on nearly all of TWC’s 33,000 Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Southern California; New York City; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Kansas City; Myrtle Beach, Fla.; and Hawaii. A downloadable app helps the phone seek out nearby TWC access points.
With Comcast planning to deploy HotSpot 2.0 across its one million access points, and a possible merger in the offing, TWC appears to be heading for a Wi-Fi First wireless offering. Either way, cable companies using Wi-Fi First networks are going to be a force to reckon with in the wireless world.