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Comcast touts its Xfinity Communities Wi-Fi

Comcast and Charter are two of the largest providers of Wi-Fi in the U.S. At last count, Comcast had about 22 million Wi-Fi hotspots, and Charter recently said that over 11 million homes were using its Advanced Wi-Fi product.

In addition to providing broadband and its associated Wi-Fi to single-family residences, the cable operators also have lucrative business-to-business units.

Mike Mancini, director of sales engineering for Xfinity Communities, recently spoke with Fierce Wireless. He said Xfinity Communities serves about 250,000 properties from multi-dwelling units (MDUs) to single-family communities, assisted living residences, hospitals and college dormitories. Xfinity Communities has six special account managers to handle its top 40-50 largest property owners.

He said some of the properties it serves are “really spread out.” It’s providing Wi-Fi not just to specific units but also in the lobbies, on the grounds and at the pool, etc.

Although Comcast has the technology to provide Wi-Fi to a whole building without wiring multiple individual units, it seems to prefer the more traditional model. “To serve individuals best you need some kind of wired technology,” said Mancini. “Every unit gets wired to make sure we can deliver the highest speeds possible.”

He said many people are working from home now, and they’re using company VPNs. He said these people are more comfortable having their own wired connection. “We’re never just engineering for Wi-Fi. It’s both wired and Wi-Fi.”

But when questioned further, Mancini said that in certain circumstances — such as college dormitories — Xfinity Communities can and does wire the dormitory building, but not every individual unit.

“We do hook up entire buildings as well, and people don’t have gateways, they have an access point up on the wall,” he said. “We can provide connectivity both ways, it really depends on the property. We’re very flexible.”

In terms of its business relationships with the properties it serves, some Xfinity Communities contracts are exclusive. These "bulk" contracts mean that Comcast is the sole provider of Wi-Fi to the building. But Mancini said the majority of its contracts are “retail,” meaning that they’re not exclusive, and other providers also serve the property with broadband and Wi-Fi.

Although Comcast seems to be in a prime position to help close the digital divide in urban areas by providing Wi-Fi in low-income housing, it doesn’t have any initiatives to do that through its Xfinity Communities at this time.

Separately, Charter Communications this week announced the availability of its Advanced Wi-Fi for Spectrum Business customers across its 41-state footprint.

Charter’s Advanced Wi-Fi includes its Red Dot Design router, which can support up to 200 devices simultaneously. And it includes greater coverage with Spectrum Wi-Fi Pods, which are additional access points for extended Wi-Fi coverage and more consistent speed to all corners of the business.

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