Downloads From WICT Philly’s ‘Tech It Out’ Cable WiFi Binge

PHILADELPHIA — It was a full-on WiFi binge at WICT Philadelphia’s Tech It Out program here on Aug. 21, with one common refrain: When it comes to WiFi, we’re still in the very, very early stages.

“We know it’s new and nifty, and know it adds value, but where it’s going to go is anybody’s bet,” said morning keynoter Ken Falkenstein, Comcast’s vice president of wireless technology. He added, for the benefit of the appreciable student presence. “You will have a marvelous career trying to get rid of the wires.”

Other highlights of the “WiFi Everywhere” day, hosted by the Philadelphia chapter of Women in Cable & Telecommunications, included:

Greyhound’s decision on its 100th anniversary to put WiFi spigots throughout its short-term bus rides, which reversed what had been the company’s smallest earner — and the company can thank the millennial generation for it. “They gave us something we think we should have,” Blaire Ballin, a senior at Ramapo College, and Comcast summer intern, said.

(Speaking of millennials, they’re a demanding bunch. Earlier this summer, Ballin accidentally over-ran her data plan. Yes, she could’ve paid for more. But then again: “I have a hard time understanding that I have to pay for anything. Luxuries should just be there.” Just to bring your eyebrows back down: This same young woman also led a project that enabled a community of Guatemalan women to sell their woven goods over WiFi.)

Sexy WiFi numbers: Comcast expects to light up 8 million WiFi “homespots” by yearend, calling the decision to install boxes comprising both cable modem and WiFi radio “the hockey stick moment.” Time Warner Cable’s WiFi footprint supports 17 million sessions per month; about one-fifth of them come in from roaming partners like Boingo. (Last summer, TWC was the first U.S. operator to partner with Boingo on WiFi roaming, industrially known as HotSpot 2.0, with a consumer brand of Passpoint.)

Meanwhile, SEPTA (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) supports about 270,000 WiFi sessions per month, with a load of 2.5 Terabytes of data transfer, on Philadelphia’s regional rail line, said Bill Zebrowski, senior director of information technology for SEPTA. “That’s a lot of Walking Dead,” he quipped.

At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil, 30% of the people sitting in the 241,033-seat Maracanã Stadium got a connectivity fix over WiFi, moving 5.6 terabytes of data over 217 access points, noted executives from Ruckuss Wireless.

Crazy stuff that’s coming: WiFi that recharges your batteries. (What!?) Well, sort of. It’s called “wireless backscatter,” and is in the academic stages now as a way to make the sensors of the Internet of Things battery-free.

In closing: Focusing on one tech subject for an entire day takes guts! It worked. Kudos, WICT Philadelphia, for an outstanding event.

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