Wednesday, March 05, 2014

ISP competition -- testing a Time Warner Cable public WiFi access site

As mentioned earlier, a welcome bit of infrastructure deployment competition seems to brewing between the telephone and cable companies. At the Mobile World Congress last week, Philips and Ericsson announced WiFi-ready streetlights and a coalition of five cable companies has formed to roll out open WiFi hotspots.


I am a Time Warner Cable (TWC) customer, so I decided to try it out. I checked in my neighborhood and found a WiFi hotspot at a school two blocks from my house. I drove over, parked on the street in front of the school and logged in using my TWC account credentials. I had a solid, five-bar connection (whatever that means).

I ran Speedtest, which showed 16 ms ping time, 40.6 mbps download and 5.06 mbps upload -- considerably faster than the service at my home.


Our phones are able to switch seamlessly between WiFi and the cellular network (see, for example, Republic Wireless). I do not want to be bothered knowing which I am using at any time -- I just want my phone to pick the best connection available given my ISP terms and the application I am running.

I've beaten up on TWC and the other ISPs for exploiting their non-competitive markets in many blog posts, so it is only fair that this post congratulate them on providing a meaningful, competitive service.

Today the five-ISP coalition lists 200,000 hotspots in their database. How many will they have in five years? Might the cable companies have outsmarted the phone companies in splitting up mobile and landline access?
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Update 4/12/2014

Comcast has revealed that they have a million public access points, with at least 800,00 of them in the homes of their broadband subscribers and, if they succeed in acquiring Time Warner, that footprint will expand significantly.

We may be witnessing a race between cable companies deploying WiFi and phone companies deploying 4G (and later 5G) infrastructure. That might lead to increased competition or, more likely, they will gerrymander access so as to limit competition (following the example of the U. S. House of Representatives).

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Update 5/29/2014

FON's public WiFi routers are gaining steam. I've had one of their dual-SSID routers for years, but never used it because there are so few in my neighborhood, but they are catching on with ISPs in other nations.