Cable WiFi, an MSO-backed roaming consortium, has a footprint that spans more than 500,000 hotspots in a mix of business locations and indoor and outdoor public venues. But an initiative now underway could bring that total to a whole new level.
Kyrio, the CableLabs for-profit spinoff, said it is making significant progress with a WiFi roaming hub service that will be targeted not just to cable operators that have built or are building metro WiFi networks, but to non-cable WiFi providers as well.
Kyrio’s platform is designed to let partners roam on and interconnect to each other’s WiFi networks.
EARLY FOCUS: INDIE OPS
Much of the initial focus around Kyrio’s WiFi roaming hub will apply to independent cable operators, though.
“We identified the need of mid-tier operators to also provide WiFi roaming service to their customers as they deploy or already have WiFi services in their networks,” Mitchell Ashley, Kyrio’s president and general manager, told Multichannel News.
The advantage of the offering is that it will aggregate WiFi hotspots and establish a footprint that will continually scale and build on itself, he said.
“There’s been a lot of support for this,” Ashley said, noting that the plan is to have as many as nine cable operators on board by 2017.
That will enable the hub to reach a requisite “critical mass,” though talks are already underway with “external” (non-cable) WiFi providers that are eager to interconnect. Kyrio is also looking to expand to regions such as South Africa and Europe.
Members of CableWiFi are expected to participate, though Kyrio has yet to confirm if any of them are on board yet. Current partners of that roaming group include Comcast, Altice USA (via Cablevision Systems), Cox Communications and Charter Communications (including the systems acquired from Time Warner Cable and Bright House). Of that group, Comcast already has a separate WiFi roaming deal with Liberty Global and TWC has one with Boingo.
Midco is the first announced partner for Kyrio’s roaming program.
“It’s on the front burner for 2017,” Jon Pederson, Midco’s chief technology officer, said, noting that most of the “heavy lifting” is slated for the first quarter of next year. Though Midco’s footprint is rural in nature, it is deploying WiFi in select, high-traffic areas such as malls and downtown hubs.
Ashley said the WiFi roaming hub, a project that started at CableLabs, has completed a technical trial and a market trial with two operators that tested the connectivity and the authentication process.
Kyrio has already set up a process for participating. MSOs must identify their WiFi footprint and then set up the roaming agreement themselves. Kyrio provides a default roaming agreement that partners can opt in to, but partners can also have the ability to create custom agreements. Kyrio also supports the hub’s back-office platform that does the monitoring, reporting and settlement between operators, typically based on how traffic levels are allocated between the roaming partners.
There’s also a subscription fee (Kyrio won’t reveal that yet), plus a setup fee and some other, optional services.
CableLabs spun off its for-profit subsidiary in 2012 as NetworkFX, and rebranded it as Kyrio in February. Its mission is to commercialize technologies that CableLabs creates, expanding the consortium’s access to the cable sector and other markets.
Kyrio is profitable, Ashley said. The WiFi roaming hub is just one of a handful of businesses it runs.
Its first and still flagship business is a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) service, used by MSOs, device makers and trade associations such as the Wi-Fi Alliance. It’s also doing business with the smart-grid industry and the Internet of Things market, and is pursuing opportunities in the medical field.
Kyrio also runs Go2Broadband, an offering that started out as a service locator for cable-modem service, but has since evolved into a cloud-based platform that connects resellers and partners such as Best Buy to cable operator services, and as a resource for consumers who move residences and need to switch providers. Ashley said the platform handles more than 14 million transactions per month.
Kyrio also performs performance-testing services for wireless devices, including access points, as well as set-tops and cable modems, and is looking to expand into Internet of Things (IoT) testing.
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