Comcast brands smart home network product 'xFi,' deploys it to 10M homes

Customers can monitor who is using their network, and manage access controls via mobile apps or voice-remote technology. Image: Comcast

Comcast has branded the cloud-based, smart-home network solution it first introduced in January as "xFi" and has, as of today, made it available to the 10 million customers who have XB3 gateways for no additional charge.

Using the service, parents can direct the network to disable the Wi-Fi access of their children at specific times, or put the whole house “to bed,” if they so choose. 

Customers can also monitor who is using their network at any given time and how much data is being used, troubleshoot their network and monitor specific connected devices. Users access and control the Xfinity xFi service via iOS and Android mobile apps, but it can also be controlled and configured with Comcast’s voice-remote technology. 

The service also has optimization features that help customers position their gateway and any associated Wi-Fi extenders to maximum reach within a domicile. Comcast said it has invested in Plume, a maker of auto-connecting, Bluetooth-enabled extenders. 

“Wi-Fi today is like the check-engine light to my 1978 Ford,” said Eric Schaefer, senior VP and GM of communications, data and mobility for Comcast, in an interview with FierceCable. “The light doesn’t tell you what’s wrong.” 

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Schaefer said the app was designed with customer “pain points” reported to call centers—50% of those calls are solved by xFi, he explained. 

“Everything is connecting via Wi-Fi in our houses now,” Schaefer added. “Less than 9% of devices now have anything connected to an Ethernet port. There are 9.5 devices, on average, connected to Wi-Fi in U.S. homes, and that number will be closer to 50 in the next 36 months … And what we’re hearing from our customers is, they feel like they don’t have any control.”

In his demo, Schaefer put the parental controls front in center. Parents can create user profiles and enable settings for individual users across devices. That means that Johnny can’t just move to his laptop at 11:30 p.m. to continue his group chat if he finds Wi-Fi access on his iPad has suddenly shut down. Parents can also screen rated content on the internet for their kids. 

With the mobile internet also so readily available, is the ability for parents to restrict the home Wi-Fi network really such an advantage?

Based on Comcast’s research, Schaefer said, most kids under 15 don’t have wireless LTE devices 

Comcast hopes the service will have an impact similar to the X1 video platform on customer Wi-Fi experience. Having returned to customer growth in pay-TV, Comcast credited the experience delivered by X1 technology for drastically reducing video churn rates. 

Schaefer described the setup process for the xFi "as less like cable and more like Alexa."