Cable Show: Comcast to Create Crowdsourced Hotspot Network

At the National Cable and Telecommunications Association conference yesterday in Washington D.C., Comcast announced that it has begun shipping a new wireless gateway to its residential broadband customers that will serve as both a private Wi-Fi router and a public hotspot. The bold (and possibly controversial) move will enable Comcast to essentially crowdsource its Wi-Fi network, turning home gateways into public hotspots.

“Basically the Cisco Systems gateway transmits two signals — each with separate SSIDs – each functioning as a separate network,” reports GigaOM. “The family that owns or rents the router can access the first network, but the second is open to any Comcast broadband customer.”

Crowdsourcing broadband is not a new concept. It started with Spain’s Fon years ago, “but it’s recently gained traction among traditional telecom services providers looking for a cheap way to expand broadband capabilities to customers outside their homes,” explains the article. “The biggest worldwide practitioner is France’s Free Mobile, whose parent company Iliad is a residential broadband provider like Comcast.”

Free and Fon have both struggled with the inconsistency of their networks. Comcast is addressing the issue of covering densely trafficked public and business areas by building outdoor public hotspot networks in regions where traffic is highest.

“Comcast subscribers can move between those public and private hotspots seamlessly, notes GigaOM. “If it does wind up installing these gateways in its 20 million broadband customers’ homes, it will have quite the Wi-Fi network indeed.”