The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Comcast plans to “turn thousands of wireless Internet routers in private homes in the Bay Area into publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots” and that, with 8 million hotspots in 19 U.S. cities available to customers and non-customers alike, the company may be angling to create a wireless phone network.
Mobile hotspots will also have major TV Everywhere implications. The theory is that even if consumers continue to cut cords and unsubscribe from cable packages – and recent Viacom and Adobe TV Everywhere studies show that this is far from the case – a Comcast-Time Warner deal would still give the cable and internet giant control over the bandwidth required to stream – whether through AirPlay or Google Chromecast, or through over-the-top devices like Amazon Fire TV and Roku. If consumers want to unsubscribe from expensive cable packages, so it goes, they cannot unsubscribe from a relationship with Comcast-Time Warner.
Again, research shows that consumers like their cable packages and see TV Everywhere as a value-add. The access to mobile hotspots wherever a consumer is may further strengthen these ties. Streaming an NHL game via NBC Sports Extra while in Central Park is a data suck for those not on unlimited plans, and a 4G signal, while strong, is sometimes not enough to get the job done.
The Comcast-owned NBC Sports has already experimented with an authentication preview model for accessing live Olympics coverage. Non-authenticators had 5 minutes of live sports before having to sign in, while authenticators had full access. As part of the mobile hotspot plans, Comcast’s top-tier Internet subscribers are able to access the public hotspots for free. “Lower-tier customers and noncustomers get two free one-hour sessions per month, then are charged a fee by the hour, day or week,” according to the Chronicle.