CableLabs’ Kyrio promises Wi-Fi roaming among 8-9 cable operators by 2017

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Mitch Ashley, the president and GM of CableLabs’ Kyrio subsidiary, said the operation expects to launch Wi-Fi roaming services for as many as nine cable operators in the United States in the next three quarters. He added that the company also expects to ink roaming agreements with major U.S. cable operators, including those that are members of the CableWiFi Alliance.

“So the Wi-Fi roaming hub is a service that we put together targeted primarily at the mid-tier operators to provide them roaming capabilities across their footprint as well as to larger cable providers,” Ashley told FierceCable. “It drastically increases the footprint of a mid-tier operator such as Midco.”

Midco recently confirmed to FierceCable it will participate in Kyrio’s Wi-Fi roaming hub, and is currently upgrading its public Wi-Fi network in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in part to support the hub.

Ashley said Kyrio recently completed technical trials and a field trial of its Wi-Fi roaming hub with two other mid-tier cable operators, and said the hub is now up and running between those two providers – he declined to name the two providers. “We expect eight to nine participants over the next three quarters to be announced,” he said.

Ashley added that he expects some of those participants to also be members of the CableWiFi Alliance. The Cable WiFi alliance is a group formed by several cable operators including Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications in 2012 to support roaming among participants’ respective public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Of course, Charter's recent acquisitions of TWC and Bright House and Altice USA's recent acquisition of Cablevision cast some uncertainty on the agreement, but Comcast confirmed that CableWiFi is still available to those MSOs' subscribers. "The Cable WiFi consortium remains in place following the recent M&A activity," a Comcast spokesperson recently told FierceCable. "Subscribers of each MSO that were previously entitled to use the CableWiFi hotspots continue to enjoy access. Access points that were made available by each MSO continue to provide CableWiFi service."

The CableWiFi Alliance, which totaled about 250,000 hotspots in 2014, is now up to about 500,000 total hotspots.

“The Kyrio Wi-Fi roaming hub is actually a compliment to the CableWiFi consortium,” Ashley explained. “What it does is it allows the mid-tier operators to pull together collectively their geographic footprint and provide that through a single connection to members of CableWiFi.”

“We will connect into members of the Cable WiFi Alliance,” he said. “We are a compliment to [the alliance]. I don’t see us joining the Cable WiFi Alliance. But we will interconnect with their members.”

Ashley added that Kyrio is also in discussions with Wi-Fi operators outside of those in the cable industry. Companies like Boingo and others operate large numbers of public Wi-Fi hotspots. “We anticipate that we will be providing that connection to Cable WiFi members, and also beyond that. So we’re in discussions with other Wi-Fi operators to interconnect with our hub. Potentially what it does is it increases the presence that the mid-tier operators can provide, in terms of a network footprint, to those other service operators,” he said.

When questioned whether mobile operators like AT&T and Verizon would participate in Kyrio’s Wi-Fi roaming hub, Ashley said nothing had been inked yet but the company was open to the possibility.

Ashley said Kyrio’s Wi-Fi roaming model, which currently uses AAA authentication but will move to Passpoint technology at some point in the future, supports a range of potential business models.

“The business model is that there’s a default roaming agreement that participants, when they sign up, can opt into,” he said. “And from that they can either use that for all of the other providers that are connected into the hub, or they can choose to individually set up different roaming agreements with each individual providers.”

Added Ashley: “The roaming business model is still roaming and growing.”

CableLabs rebranded its for-profit, security-focused spin-off subsidiary, NetworkFX, into Kyrio earlier this year, and Kyrio’s Wi-Fi roaming hub is one of several businesses the company operates. The company also offers security and device testing services, as well as CableLabs’ Go2Broadband (G2B) service that essentially allows cable operators and others to interconnect customer activation systems. The result is a service that allows customers to transfer their cable service from one provider to another if they move to a new location, as well as for third parties like Best Buy to activate cable service on behalf of participating cable providers. Ashley said all of the nation’s major MSOs participate in G2B, and that the company signed up two new, unnamed participants this year.

Related articles:
Cable operator Midco signs onto CableLabs’ Kyrio hub for Wi-Fi roaming
Comcast, TWC 'CableWiFi' shared network deal survives recent M&A, hotspot count now 500K
CableLabs rebrands NetworkFX spin-off into 'Kyrio'