Comcast partners with KDDI, Taiwan Mobile for Wi-Fi roaming

In an effort to extend its global influence, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is extending its Wi-Fi roaming partnerships to Japan's KDDI and Taiwan Mobile as part of a trial that will allow customers of KDDI and Taiwan Mobile to use Comcast's Wi-Fi hotspots at discounted rates when visiting the U.S. Both Asian carriers operate cellular and Wi-Fi networks in their home countries, according to FierceWirelessTech.

Comcast's Wi-Fi network encompasses 1 million U.S. hotspots right now mostly in homes. But that number will skyrocket to a whopping 8 million by year's end, with the cable MSO promising to operate hotspots in 19 of the country's 30 largest cities. The MSO is also part of the Cable WiFi Alliance, which includes also Time Warner (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Bright House Networks and Cox Communications. That group currently has a footprint of 250,000 U.S. hotspots.

Alliance members allow their customers to roam onto one another's public Wi-Fi access points. U.S. cable operators largely insist that their rapidly expanding Wi-Fi footprints are intended to provide value-added nomadic Internet access to their fixed broadband customers and that Wi-Fi is complementary to cellular service.

But Comcast's pacts with the two Asian cellular operators encourage cellular-to-Wi-Fi offloading and could position the MSO as a lower-cost data roaming partner than a comparable U.S. cellular operator, according to Reuters. Taiwan Mobile is currently promoting its Comcast relationship to subscribers. A Taiwan Mobile webpage cited by Reuters says travelers would normally pay about $0.13 per minute to use Comcast Wi-Fi but will be charged only $0.07 per minute under a promotion that is slated to last until the end of June.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told analysts during the company's latest conference call that the company has big plans for Wi-Fi. But he stopped short of saying there are any discussions or plans to create nationwide wireless network built on Wi-Fi. Still, analysts continue to speculate that the cable MSOs have an ulterior motive predicated upon providing competition against cellular operators for wireless broadband customers.

For more:
- FierceWirelessTech has this story

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