Charter Plays Catch-Up with Managed WiFi

New open source-based application is reportedly in employee trials
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Why This Matters: More cable operators are looking to add managed WiFi features that help subs troubleshoot problems, avoid security breaches and improve the overall broadband experience.

Comcast has rolled out a new iteration of its WiFi management and security tool, xFi, that lets Xfinity broadband customers cut off their kids from the home internet once they’ve surpassed a certain threshold of usage time.

The xFi software product includes a whole host of WiFi optimization features, not to mention a user-friendly smartphone app interface. It’s been on the market for more than two years now and has become the benchmark for smaller cable companies looking to also own the home WiFi experience.

Comcast-xFi

“There’s a lot to like about Comcast’s xFi solution,” said Jeremy HItchcock, founder and CEO of Minim, which makes WiFi and security software that goes into Motorola-branded modems made by Zoom Telephonics, as well as those made by Sercomm. “Smaller operators need those kinds of capabilities, too, but if you’re not Comcast, you probably don’t have the resources to build them yourself.”

Indeed, even tier 2 and 3 cable operators have recognized that their end of the network doesn’t end where the cable meets the box anymore.

“A lot of operators asking how can I expand what I do,” said Hitchcock, noting that MSOs want “visibility” into the home, to better troubleshoot problems, avoid security breaches and create an overall improved broadband experience for their customers that will reduce churn and maximize average revenue per customer.

Notably absent from the managed WiFi discussion has been Charter Communications, the second-biggest U.S. cable provider. But that could soon change.

Light Reading unearthed what it said was a webpage that described a Charter employee trial of a new managed WiFi application. According to the report, the router software platform being tested would enable subscribers to manage the in-home WiFi network via smartphone apps, allowing them to “pause” the internet connection on any device connected to the home network.

According to the report, Charter would based its managed WiFi platform not on the Reference Design Kit (RDK) that underpins xFi, but on Prpl, another open-source software platform.

By the time B&C visited the link, though, the reference to the employee trial — said by Light Reading to be “hiding in plain sight” — had disappeared. A Charter rep said, “We’re declining comment for this story.”

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