Comcast Nears Launch of ‘xFi’ Home WiFi Platform

MSO now has nearly 1 million Xfinity Home subscribers
Xfinity xfi.jpg

Comcast next month will launch “xFi,” a cloud-powered home WiFi service and management platform that will support millions of already-deployed broadband gateways out of the chute, execs revealed Thursday during Comcast’s Q1 earnings call.

Comcast also announced that it now has nearly 1 million subscribers to Xfinity Home, its home security and home automation service. Comcast’s last update on Xfinity Home subscribers was in May 2015, when it announced it had 500,000 of them.

Meanwhile, xFi is the brand name Comcast is giving to a smartened up WiFi management platform that introduced in January.

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Though the commercial launch is not expected until sometime in May, Comcast has apparently been conducting some technology tests of the newly-branded xFi offering, as the offering has already begun to make an appearance on X1 set-tops, via apps for iOS and Android, as well as an xFi Web portal.

It’s not clear how many Comcast subscribers have access to xFi today, but the apps for iOS and Android devices were last updated on April 18.

Comcast has also posted a thorough xFi overview.

“We think this [xFi] will be a game-changer for WiFi, enabling people to easily improve, personalize and manage and control their home network and the devices connected to it,” Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, said on the call, noting that the produce will officially launch sometime next month.

“Our goal is to do with broadband what we did with video with X1 – create a better experience with WiFi,” Dave Watson, Comcast Cable’s new president and CEO, added later. “It lets you define the user experience throughout the household…There’s more to come on that, but I think it’s a premium position for us and evidence that we’ll keep on growing the broadband category, not just on speed, but coverage.”

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He said about 10 million Comcast customers will have access to xFi when it is rolled out commercially, as it will be supported in a good portion of the MSO’s deployed gateways and will be supported in new models that are rolled out.

Per the posted outline of the xFi features, those users will be able to view their WiFi names and passwords, network activity and troubleshoot connection issues. They’ll also be able to create individual user profiles and organize the devices they use, including a way to give nicknames to devices), view the devices connected to their home networks, and adjust their wireless gateway settings.

As mentioned in January, the system will allow users to “pause” all WiFi access on the home network, and utilize a “Bedtime Mode” whereby users can automatically pause WiFi access on the home network during scheduled times. The system also supports parental controls.

As for the latest Xfinity Home milestone, Watson said the product offers a good opportunity for Comcast to add another option in terms of packaging, holding that home security and automation represents a $9 billion opportunity for the company.

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Watson said Comcast added about 66,000 Xfinity Home customers during Q1, and that half of those customers are new to Comcast, and that over 90% of Xfinity Home subscribers take a service bundle comprised of three to four products.

Watson didn’t offer financials for Xfinity Home, but said the service is a “healthy contributor to our efforts.”

During the call, Watson also reiterated Comcast’s position that the company does not think the economics of an out-of-footprint OTT video service adds up.

“We just haven't found the business model that works outside” Comcast’s footprint, he said. “We'll keep evaluating, keep looking at it, but our success within our footprint is packaging [and] bundling, so we'll continue to drive that internally within our footprint.”

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Comcast added 42,000 residential and business video customers in the first quarter (32,000 from residential), ending the period with 22.54 million.

X1 continues to be a driver there, as the MSO ended Q1 with 52% of its residential base on the platform, versus 35% a year ago. Comcast still expects X1 penetration to be in the low 60% range by year-end.