Lawsuit targets Comcast dual SSID routers

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As we have mentioned in the past, the building out of Comcast’s Xfinity WiFi network is being accomplished primarily through the activation of a second Xfinity WiFi SSID on consumer routers.  This practice has many consumers unhappy and questioning how it can be that Comcast is using its customers resources for it’s own gain: “Comcast Thinks Its Okay To Install Public WiFi In Your House”   A class action lawsuit has just been filed in California against Comcast.  Comcast never received authorization from its customer to broadcast a second public SSID from their homes and the lawsuit claims that:

“Indeed, without obtaining its customers’ authorization for this additional use of their equipment and resources, over which the customer has no control, Comcast has externalized the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers,” the court filing says. “The new wireless routers the Company issues consume vastly more electricity in order to broadcast the second, public Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspot, which cost is born [sic] by the residential customer.” Comcast sued for creating public hotspots using private wireless routers — RT USA

For those who are unaware of the secondary Xfinity SSID – Comcast is working on building out its WiFi network, with a target of 8 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots accessible to Comcast subscribers.  These hotspots are not actually being built out by Comcast, they are being broadcast from paying subscribers home routers.  These SSIDs are being broadcast “opt-out” which means that they are broadcasting an Xfinity SSID as default in addition to the personal SSID of the Comcast subscriber.  Many consumers are not even aware that this is occurring, they simply see an Xfinity SSID when they scan for available WiFi networks and assume that it’s location is somewhere else – they don’t even realize it is being broadcast from their own home.  While consumers are technically able to “opt-out” from the secondary SSID, consumers are complaining that the opt out process is complicated, Comcast employees don’t know how to advise it and the links to opt-out are not even working.  While there are certainly questions as to the ethics of Comcast’s practices, there are also very valid concerns about the service impact on Comcast subscribers:
1. Utilizing Customer Resources For Their Own Gain: In addition using a router that the customer is paying for to build out their own network, Comcast is utilizing customer resources like electricity.  So a customer is paying a portion of their electric bill to cover Comcast’s WiFi network.

2. Service degradation: Because a router only has one bandwidth pipe going into it (bandwidth which the customer pays for based on their plan) that bandwidth is shared between the two SSIDs.  This can cause a decrease in service to the customer if a stranger logs on to the Xfinity SSID. This is something that Comcast recognizes, stating that because WiFi is a shared spectrum experience, there will be, “some impact as more devices share the network.”

3. Security: With hacking and spoofing an ever increasing threat to our personal security, of course consumers are deeply concerned about having strangers accessing WiFi on their personal router.  While Comcast, of course, is attempting to minimize the threat to security saying they utilize the same encryption as financial institutions, with companies like Home Depot, Bank of America, Chase and Target in the news for breach of personal security due to hacking – customers should be very concerned about what is Comcast is doing.

This is a big problem for Comcast subscribers in the MDU space whose secondary SSID could potentially be broadcast to very large amounts of people at any given time.  Until it become more clear as to what the legal implications of Comcast’s behavior might be, it is important that consumers be aware and know that they can contact Comcast to get this secondary SSID shut off.  Taken from the Comcast website:

How do I disable/enable the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature?

We encourage all subscribers to keep this feature enabled as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi around the neighborhood. You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at http://customer.comcast.com/, click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”

 

Wireless Operators See WiFi Calling As “The Next Big Frontier”

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A recent article from fiercewireless.com addressed what wireless operators are calling: “The Next Big Frontier”: WiFi Calling.  Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo was asked to comment on the industry excitement surrounding WiFi calling and expressed her belief that WiFi calling will be a “long term trend”:  “WiFi calling is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of service provider business models.  T-Mobile was the ground-breaker in terms of seeing the potential for WiFi as a vehicle for voice services, though their vision was early in the market when they debuted Hotspot@Home WiFi calling (which was discontinued around 2010).  T-Mobile’s pioneering, however, allowed them to be at the forefront of WiFi calling when the market was ripe and be the first carrier to say it will support WiFi calling on the iPhone.  Verizon and AT&T followed suit announcing that their networks will support WiFi calling in 2015 – the largest carriers simply can’t ignore the demand for seamless WiFi calling.

WiFi calling has been around for quite awhile, in one fashion or another, but the difference is that now the market is ready to take WiFi calling mainstream and WiFi calling has carrier support. It is the seamless carrier experience that will allow WiFi calling to garner mainstream acceptance.  Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, was quoted in FierceWirelessTech discussing the market change:

“Being able to make voice calls over WiFi is the final thing that you weren’t able to do… Your data worked over WiFi the same as it did over cellular, all your apps worked the same, but making a voice call never worked.  You had to use and over-the-top application like Skype.  Now with this being completely seamless, you can do everything on WiFi that you can do on cellular, and its also waking up all the large operators.  They’re looking now at how WiFi can be combined with their traditional network, so it’s a very good sign of things to come, and we are wonderfully enthusiastic about it.”

It is hard to comprehend how huge the last 6 months have been for the wireless industry.  With the cellular carriers no longer having control over voice a whole slew of voice options are open for industries that are wrought with poor cellular coverage, namely MDU/ MTU buildings and commercial properties.  If you are interested in a WiFi calling network for your property, contact us.

Inbuilding Cellular Solutions And WiFi Calling A Hot Topic at NMCH OpTech

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Among this year’s hot topics at the 2014 NMHC Op Tech in Orlando, was the debate over MDU/ MTU in-building cellular reception and who is responsible for solving the problem as well as what the actual effect poor indoor cellular coverage has on apartment occupancy.   There were varying opinions from building owners as to just how much business is lost due to poor cell reception in the buildings, but one thing was agreed upon: there is a lot of frustration among building owners that the poor reception problem has become theirs to solve, as indicated in NMHC’s recap article of the discussion.

“Scott Wesson, senior vice president and CIO of UDR, said that there are many examples of residents who absolutely need reliable connectivity to perform their jobs and it they can’t get it, will be dissatisfied and ultimately move.  A doctor on call, for example, must be reached on his cellphone.”

Building owners have been saddled with the high cost of Distributed Antenna Systems and frustrated by the uncertainty that comes along with rebroadcasting signal as, “there’s no guarantee that the cellular service provider will ultimately provide the authorization to rebroadcast, making the system functional”.

However, the white knight technology solution appears to be in the form of WiFi calling.  Building owners already need to be providing residents and tenants with WiFi for data offload, internet access, staff services and more.  Now, it looks like that same property-wide WiFi that is being used as a resident amenity will be able to provide a voice solution.

It means the four major carrier would effectively offer a voice calling facility that could be seamless to the user, meaning the user doesn’t know if he’s on the wifi or cell service,” explained Dick Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks. “It’s a cost effective way to implement voice calling.”

Read the entire NMHC recap

Airlines Show Thanks With Free WiFi This Thanksgiving!!!

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On Wednesday, November 26, eight airlines (and select airports) will be offering free WiFi for what is the busiest travel day of the year!  Being dubbed “Connection Day” by some, airlines are offering Free WiFi to travelers AND free digital content like music and magazines are being offered from Pandora, Amazon, Conde Nast and others.  A pretty nice gesture to help make the travel day a little more entertaining and a little less expensive.

If you are traveling this Thanksgiving holiday on one of the airlines below – enjoy the free WiFi access:

  • American, Alaska, Delta, Air Tran, United, US Airways, Virgin America: 30 minutes of free WiFi access
  • JetBlue: Free WiFi for your entire flight!!! (nice!)
  • Airports with Boing: Travelers will get free WiFi access in the airport for varying durations.

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LinkNYC to setup world’s largest free public WiFi

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both_link_modules.0WiFi has become an important pillar of our society, helping connect us like never before. It’s used in homes, small and large businesses, public areas such as parks and event venues as well as shopping centers. The next logical progression for WiFi is to provide service to the general public, helping those who can not afford internet access.

CityBridge is a consortium of companies in New York City joining forces to build LinkNYC, a network of WiFi pillars placed all over the city, providing access to free WiFi Calling nationwide, as well as a Gigabit access which promises to be 20 times faster than your home connection. Members of the CityBridge group include Titan, the Manhattan-based ad company that already maintains most of the city’s pay phones; Qualcomm, the telcom giant; Control Group, a design firm, and Comark, a hardware company.

“With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world – accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike – we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city,” said Mayor de Blasio.

Columns placed curbside will feature table size screens that will allow the public to access city information, maps, and and free nationwide calling. Easy 911 and 311 calling will also be available as well as free device charging.

Privacy concerns have been raised, but the LinkNYC promises not to sell private data to other companies. Mobile users will have to consciously opt in using an app on their device. Advertising data will be used to modify targeted ads which are projected to generate somewhere around $1 billion dollars over 12-year period. And with a 50-50 split, the City of New York stands to pocket around $500 million.

References: 

New York City is building 10,000 internet pylons for free public Wi-Fi. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, “Hello, NYC? The future is calling via public Wi-Fi (editorial)”
http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/17/7235481/new-york-city-to-provide-free-gigabit-speed-public-wi-fi-for-everyone

The scary truth about Cable providers and dual SSIDs

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It’s undeniable, traditional cable subscriptions are on the decline.  With the availability of data streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime and the internet in general generation Y does not like to pay a lot for TV.  This has left the cable companies scurrying to change their business model.  What is also undeniable is the increase in WiFi usage.  Cable companies want to get into the WiFi game and are touting large WiFi network expansions (Comcast alone touts “millions of WiFi hotspots” )that would have the average consumer believing that a lot of development is going into building out cable operator WiFi networks, like Xfinity.   What is actually occurring is entirely another operation – one that you, as a consumer, may have a lot more to with than you think.

The Truth About Dual SSIDs

When you activate the wireless router provided to you by the cable company you give your home WiFi connection a personal name, like: “Home”, “The Smiths” or even something funny like, “May The Force Be With You”, however, you will also notice that there is a second SSID or “guest” SSID named after your cable company, like “Xfinity”.  This guest SSID is one of the “millions of public hotspots” thats the cable companies are boasting about.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Those WiFi hotspots that cable companies are working so hard to build for their customers are actually… their customers.  Basically, you are subscribing to the cable service and then, via the router you are paying for, expanding the network of the company you are paying a subscription fee to.

Routers with Dual SSIDs Can Cause Problems for Connectivity/ Voice in MDUs

So, what does this mean in the MDU space?  Well, WiFi is a shared spectrum experience.  That means that the bandwidth available in one router is still split between SSIDs and users that are connected to it.  Whoever grabs the upstream first will be the one to have the best connectivity.  In an apartment setting where there is a high density of users, the likely hood that an Xfinity subscriber will be using your home router is much higher than in an individual residence.  In addition, WiFi voice coverage will suffer greatly with the cable company dual SSID approach.  For example: If you neighbor, two apartments down, has a guest who happens to connect to YOUR WiFi to stream a YouTube video and then you go to make a voice call – you may be out of luck.  The guest grabbed the upstream first and regardless  of who pays for the network, you are at a loss.

Comcast Admits This Approach Can Cause Problems!

Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast, confirmed that connectivity issues may be caused by the dual SSID approach and that “home hotspots could experience network congestion from guest users simply because of the way that WiFi works” as reported in the Light Reading article addressing this issue: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles

What Does This Mean for Voice Over WiFi/ WiFi Calling?

It means a lot, especially in an MDU or other high density environment.  It is important that WiFi routers have QOS and can prioritize voice packets over data.  Unless voice traffic is prioritized, voice service will suffer.  Users are used to seeing data buffering, but do not want to experience dropped or lost calls.  When it comes to MDU/ MTU WiFi – it should have bandwidth management and QOS.

CellBoost® offering extended to Commercial Real Estate/ Office Space

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The demand for reliable coverage and capacity in Class A commercial buildings has increased exponentially in recent years.  The use of tablets, smartphones and the BYOD culture of today’s businesses for both voice coverage and data streaming is forcing commercial building owners to consider their options for providing in-building voice coverage.  The first step to getting a voice coverage problem solved is to request an exhausted site survey and frequency plan to determine what issues are occurring at the property and how best to solve the problem for the least amount of money.  Request A Site Survey

What In-Building Voice Solutions Are Available To Commercial Properties?

Until recently, the only real solution available to building owners has been the Distributed Antenna System (DAS) which can run upwards of 500,000K – 1,000,000 dollars.  That is no longer the case.  There is now flexibility for building owners to deploy a cost effective solution that really works.  More than ever, commercial building owners are in control of their own destiny and have a suite of in-building voice solutions to choose from.

CellBoost®

Requires no carrier approval. Quick to deploy. Carrier Neutral.

Typical cost: $0.75/ sq. ft


Heterogeneous Network

Combines voice solutions (including: WiFi, Small Cell) to provide the best voice solution to cover all carrier/ coverage problems.  Carrier specific.


DAS

Requires carrier approval.  Slow to deploy.  Very Expensive.

Typical cost: $2.00/ sq. ft.


What Causes The Voice Coverage Problem?

The problem is really two-fold.  Today’s buildings are constructed with LEED building materials, like Low-E glass, that do not allow cellular signal to penetrate.  In addition, the cellular carriers have built out their networks to provide geographic coverage without taking into account the amount of users on the network.  In a commercial building space, where there are a large amount of users in a dense area, calls are dropped, connections are lost and data streaming is slow.  The cellular networks are strained and cannot support all of the usage.

The Importance of A Site Survey/ Frequency Plan

When it comes to in-building coverage and capacity: “There is no such thing as plug and play”.  That quote, said by Paula Doublin, AT&T’s AP for Antenna Solutions, really sums up what needs to go into an in-building voice solution.  DAS is not the only solution out there, though it is the most expensive.   A site survey and coordinated frequency plan is necessary to pinpoint areas of poor coverage by carrier and then a solution can be formulated specifically to the areas/ carriers with problems.  Contact Spot On for a  site survey/ frequency plan of your building.

 

Beware: Individual Home Routers Do Not Equal An MDU Voice Solution!

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Cable companies like Comcast are activating subscribers home wireless routers to broadcast two SSIDs, the subscriber SSID and a public hotspot SSID for guest/public use.  This initiative, called the Community WiFi initiative, is a “shared spectrum experience” – which means that users on both sets of SSIDs, the subscriber and anyone who accesses the public hotspot, are sharing spectrum.  This can cause serious performance issues for the subscriber (the person who is actually paying for the service & router).  The problems that are being caused by individual routers broadcasting public hotspots was recently addressed in an article published by Light Reading: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles:

“Imagine a public user 50 feet away from an access point wants to upload a photo to Facebook while the owner of the home hotspot is trying to send email only 10 feet away.  Because WiFi is egalitarian, if the guest user grabs the upstream channel first, it creates congestion on the network, making it difficult for the home subscriber to send email.” – CableLabs architect Vivek Ganti

This is very pertinent to the MDU/ MTU industry in regards to WiFi calling as a voice solution for residents.  If a subscriber attempts to make a voice call from their apartment over an individual router, but another user is connecting to their guest SSID, the resident may not be able to make a call or service could be unreliable.  In order for WiFi to work as a voice solution, it needs to be managed with QOS to ensure that voice service gets prioritized over the network and is not sacrificed for data.  Learn more about WiFi Callling.

Comcast has admitted that home hotspots could experience network congestion when guest users log on to the public hotspots.  Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast confirmed the issues, saying:

“‘If you were at a baseball stadium, and it was empty, and the WiFi was on, and you were there by yourself, you would have an amazing experience,’ but, he continued, if the stadium filled up, your experience would slow down.”

Douglas references exactly why network management and QOS are essential to not only voice service but to data usage as well over WiFi as well.  There needs to be network management behind the scenes ensuring that bandwidth is being allocated for the usage that is occurring and that voice packets are prioritized over data packets.

Read the Light Reading Article

 

VoLTE & WiFi

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WiFi calling is undoubtedly a hit amongst its users. The VoLTE technology allows for better call quality inside buildings where coverage can be spotty if at available. VoLTE presented a solution to mobile service providers by giving its users access to the cellular network through millions of WiFi Hotspots, therefore reducing costs and network congestion. The outcome is a win win for the user. With no distinguishable difference in quality of service, callers can make and receive calls and texts without using any of their carrier minutes or incurring any additional costs.

What is VoLTE?

Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) has been developed to allow carriers worldwide to offer the same high-quality services over mobile as well as broadband through packetized voice and data on a next generation network architecture based on IP multimedia subsystem (IMS).

Calls originating on WiFi networks do not use carrier networks for access, offering the same access to services over both LTE and WiFi, while providing the same quality of services for its user. Utilizing the AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband) sideband codec, VoLTE bring improved call quality with it’s wider speech bandwidth of 50 – 7000 Hz, which is about twice the bandwidth of PSTN Call

Base on 3GPP standard, VoLTE works with any client that utilizes the standard. Phones like iPhones and Androids will be offered by major carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

AT&T AVP for Antenna Solutions talks In-Building Coverage & Capacity

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This year’s HetNet Expo in Chicago boasted some great speakers including featured speaker Paula Doublin, Assistant Vice President, Antenna Solutions Construction and Engineering for AT&T.  Doublin started her speech by opening up for questions and, not surprisingly, the first question asked was in regards to spending.  What was really interesting, however, was the focus on multi-faceted, well-thought out in-building deployments that address both coverage and capacity issues.  Doublin’s speech seemed to reject the “one solution fits all” approach, even going so far as to say, “I cringe when I hear the word plug and play…there is no such thing” (we agree).

Doublin seems to support exhausting all network options to solve the coverage and capacity problems – hinting that you need all network deployment types, including WiFi and network customization and that it all has to work together to provide a successful in-building solution that provides both coverage AND capacity:

“You’ve got site acquisition, you’ve got power, you’ve got backhaul, you’ve got interoperability, you’ve got alarming and maintenance, you’ve got customer service and you’ve got technical skill. You’ve got to have all of those to deploy a macro. What about a DAS? You’ve got to have it all. What about a Wi-Fi? You’ve got to have it all. What about a small cell? You’ve got to have it all.”

At Spot On Networks, we have been speaking of network customization and customized in-building solutions for a long time.  In regards to cellular coverage the first essential step to getting the problem solved is an exhaustive frequency site survey to determine wher the actual problems are and then build the solution to fit the problem. There simply is no “one size fits all” solution.  Coverage, cost, network management and backhaul capacity (to name a few) all need to be taken into consideration to develop the idea in-building solution.    With 4 of 4 major carriers announcing support for WiFi calling coming in 2015, the complexity of in-building coverage and capacity solutions gets even greater and cost savings really begins to come into play in the MDU/ MTU spaces.

For more information about getting a site survey and frequency plan for your property email: sales@spotonnetworks.com

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