Comcast 'mobile WiFi network' would use transceivers placed on rental cars, buses, bicycles, humans

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Comcast engineers have a vision for extending the reach of the company's Wi-Fi network by placing transceivers on rental cars, buses, bicycles and even humans, according to a patent application obtained by FierceCable.

The patent, titled "Mobile WiFi Network," details a strategy for managing a dynamic mesh network of mobile hotspots as well as ways Comcast could offer incentives to consumers to help it deliver wireless data in areas where it needs coverage. The invention could be one of the products Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is developing through a joint innovation lab with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). The patent application, which was published Thursday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, notes that 3G and 4G circuitry could be added to the Wi-Fi transceivers to transmit data to cellular towers.

In June, Comcast announced plans to use a second Wi-Fi antenna placed in new wireless gateways it is deploying from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) to extend the reach of its Wi-Fi network and potentially create millions of neighborhood hotspots. The patent application discloses a method for further expanding its Wi-Fi coverage by placing Wi-Fi transceivers in rental cars and taxis and discusses how Comcast may be able to motivate drivers to move Wi-Fi equipped vehicles to areas where it needs coverage.

"The offer may indicate that if the rental car is dropped off at one or more designated parking spots, the driver will receive a discounted car rental rate, free parking, a coupon for items sold at the designated parking spot, etc. In this manner, the driver may be incentivized to assist in managing the network of transceivers to improve the coverage area. A driver wishing to accept the offer may press a button on the car's computing display, or other computing device (e.g., using a smart phone application) to respond to the offer with an acceptance," Comcast states in the patent application.

The nation's largest MSO also wants to patent the idea of using Wi-Fi transceivers placed on other modes of transportation to extend its reach--a strategy that could allow it to one day transmit video and data to mobile Web surfers. "It should be understood that the process could be implemented by placing transceivers in or on any other mobile unit, such as bicycles, Segways, buses, police cars, taxis, boats, persons, dedicated vehicles, etc. or any combination of such mobile units," Comcast wrote.

Comcast may sweeten the deal if drivers decline its requests to move cars to areas where it needs coverage. "If the initial offer is rejected a different offer may be made. The new offer may further incentivize the driver to take the rental car to the destination or may present the driver with another destination," Comcast said.

Comcast filed the patent application on Jan. 17, 2012. The inventors listed on the application are VP of Technology Michael Cook and Principal Engineer Ivan Ong.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas declined to comment on the patent application on Thursday.

For more:
- see images from application
- see the patent application

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