About a year ago when I was helping my son set up his new life in Nashville, one of the things I chose to do was set up his cable/Internet/phone account. I found it curious that the cable company was offering its most sophisticated set-top box with integrated wireless access point and DVR for $1 less per month than its cheapest version.
I didn’t pay much attention at the time but later found an interesting tidbit in an article about the cable industry noting that one cable company was including an additional access point in its high-end set-top boxes. One was private and the other public. I thought this was one of the most brilliant marketing schemes I’d ever heard of: The company could create hotspots by the millions without spending a dime. Looking at this company’s Nashville hotspot map today shows one great red blob of coverage over almost the entire city and many of its closest suburbs.
And now last weekend I decided to spend the extra five bucks a month and upgrade to 50/25 Mb/s broadband in my own home. The cable company generously offered me not only a new modem but a very impressive, MIMO-and beamforming-enabled $200 D-Link router--for nothing. Setup was simple but as usual I ran into one glitch that technical support couldn’t figure out. So the next day, the “cable guy” came to the rescue. When I was shooting the breeze with him about the cabled business he casually mentioned that I too was now the recipient of a dual-network router, not that the cable company had ever mentioned it to me or has a single word about it on its Web site.
The ultimate result of this clandestine rollout of residential hotspots will be a parallel network to rival that of the carrier wireless networks over most of the country. Roaming between participating cable companies’ hotspots thanks to Hotspot 2.0. Of course, wireless carriers also benefit by offloading data onto the Wi-Fi network, reducing their increasingly overwhelmed infrastructure. It should be interesting to see how all this shakes out once the “hotspotization” of America is complete. I doubt we’ll have long to wait.
Barry Manz is president of Manz Communications, Inc., a technical media relations agency he founded in 1987. He has since worked with more than 100 companies in the RF and microwave, defense, test and measurement, semiconductor, embedded systems, lightwave, and other markets. Barry writes articles for print and online trade publications, as well as white papers, application notes, symposium papers, technical references guides, and Web content. He is also a contributing editor for the Journal of Electronic Defense, editor of Military Microwave Digest, co-founder of MilCOTS Digest magazine, and was editor in chief of Microwaves & RF magazine.
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