Dutch cableco latest to expand WLan density by opening up home access points, working with ALU

As broadband providers look to add wireless to their services by investing in Wi-Fi, many are exploring the idea of turning their customers’ home access points into public hotspots, which in turn can expanded wireless coverage and offload capacity for mobile partners. FON pioneered similar ideas, working with telcos like British Telecom, and Free has used the tactic to disruptive effect in France. The latest to take this route is Dutch cableco Ziggo, which also recently acquired LTE spectrum, signalling a step towards a quad play offering in future.

The operator has kicked off a commercial trial in the city of Groningen, working with Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio Wi-Fi equipment, unveiled earlier this year as part of the vendor’s small cell architecture. The partners say this is the largest community trial of cable-based hotspots in Europe to date. Ziggo subscribers will be able to access one another’s home Wi-Fi connections with a simple login rather than complex authentication passwords, without damaging the hotspot owner’s security or network performance, says ALU.

The trial will be opened up to 18,000 homes in November, making it the largest and densest public WLan in the Netherlands. Ziggo customers must give permission for their home routers to be opened up, and if they do, they also get access to those of other participants. This differs from some systems, such as FON, where those supporting open access received free or discounted services.

Heleen Elferink, director of network and systems development at Ziggo, said in a statement: “We are confident that the community Wi-Fi service we have built with Alcatel-Lucent is the first great step toward extending our services to customers outside their homes in a simple, reliable and secure way. The trial has already demonstrated that even with multiple subscribers accessing the Wi-Fi connection at the same time, speeds and quality are not compromised.”

As well as lightRadio boxes, ALU is providing WLan gateway functionality with its 7750 Service Router, as well as AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) systems, allowing the simple login without the need to change the cable network. The technology complies with requirements set down in the report, ‘Cable Wi-Fi Services (CEL-TR-WIFI-V1.0)’ from industry body Cable Europe Labs.

By CAROLINE GABRIEL, Rethink Wireless

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