Tag Archives: Comcast

Comcast WiFi Pro Won’t Sit Well With WLAN Engineers

As a WLAN architect and widely-published gonzo bloggist livin’ in the world, I get a fair amount of email invites to talk with different industry folks about what’s going on with new initiatives. I’m profoundly thankful to be able to feel the pulse of the WLAN industry up close and personal on occasion, and I try not to be hyper-critical (unless something really, really sucks). Earlier this week, I saw Twitterflashes of Comcast’s new WiFi Pro service whizzing by, a la:

comcastpro

Shortly after, I got an email invite from a very nice PR gent asking if I wanted to to talk with Comcast about WiFi Pro. Being quite busy, I had to decline a call but did promise to write it up if I could get a few basic questions answered. The PR guy did indeed get responses, and he got them quickly (obviously a fellow man of action). The answers from John Guillaume, vice president of Product Management at Comcast Business, weren’t unexpected, and I’ll share them here before I find fault:

Me: What WLAN hardware is in use? What of routers, switching?

WiFi Pro is delivered using a high-performance wireless access point using the latest AC chipset capable of 1Gbps performance. The WiFi Pro device is cabled to the cable modem via Ethernet.

Me: What is SMB measured as here- how many APs?

We define small business as 1-20 employees, and mid-sized businesses as 21-500 employees. In most cases, WiFi Pro would be used in a small business or enterprise branch location. With WiFi Pro you can have multiple access points – up to 2 APs to expand your reach, depending on the configuration needed. This is a managed solution, so the equipment and access points are installed and managed by expert technicians.

Me: Will Comcast SMB wireless use design best practices that their consumer side doesn’t- like WLAN channel planning and only using non-overlapping channels?

The WiFi Pro access point uses an advanced auto channel algorithm that searches for the cleanest airspace in both the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz spectrum and ensures channel overlap avoidance.  

WiFi Pro is designed to allow businesses to simply create and manage two high-performance commercial Wi-Fi networks – a guest network for consumers and a private network for employees all through a simple mobile application.  This design, having separate networks for consumers and employees, provides performance and range benefits as well as control and security benefits. WiFi Pro also uses the latest AC chipset to support the fastest WiFi speeds and maximum range.

Plus, with WiFi Pro you can get unparalleled control over almost every aspect of the network – via a smartphone – using the web-app. Businesses can get analytics and reporting to obtain insight into their deployed WiFi networks with metrics on connected access points and customer counts.  Best of all, businesses can reach their customers like never before using marketing tools to promote their brand via guest networks and splash pages.

OK. Here’s why WLAN professionals HATE services like Comcast’s WiFi Pro (other than the fast-and-loose “capable of 1 Gbps performance” thing. I’m CAPABLE of dating Halle Berry but it ain’t happening- she keeps calling the house, my wife is getting pissed.) 

The WiFi Pro access point uses an advanced auto channel algorithm that searches for the cleanest airspace in both the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz spectrum and ensures channel overlap avoidance.  

Join me for a second in a collective WLAN-admin face palm. Really grind your forehead into your hand… You don’t have to go very far to find a whole bunch of Comcast or Time Warner residential wireless networks sitting on bad channels. Nobody is telling Mr. Guillaume that if you’re on anything other than 1,6, and 11 in 2.4 GHz, then you are making life tough for your nearby neighbors. I’m guessing there is also no output power adjust om the nameless high-performance wireless access point. Put another way, to the professional WLAN community, Comcast is flunking WLAN 101 and losing credibility along the way.

The thing that sucks here is if you look at the rest of what WiFi Pro promises, it might actually be a good deal. But for the love of cheese, what will it take to get cable providers and personal hotspot makers to follow WLAN best practices as they flood the landscape with their devices?