Cox uses Wi-Fi roaming to sell premium Internet tiers

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Cox Communications is beginning to use the Wi-Fi roaming deal it struck with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) last year to market premium tiers for its high-speed Internet service.

The MSO said Tuesday that subscribers who take its Preferred, Premiere or Ultimate broadband service will be able to surf the Web from the nearly 150,000 hotspots that are part of the CableWiFi consortium unveiled at The Cable Show convention last year. Cox subscribers who log in through CableWiFi hotspots in markets such as Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., will be able to automatically access the hotspots for 180 days, the company said.

Consortium members haven't yet added the CableWiFi network ID to all of the hotspots they have constructed. For example, the Wi-Fi access points that Time Warner Cable and Cablevision launched recently in New York public parks don't show the CableWiFi ID. Instead, users are prompted to select the "guest Wi-Fi" network ID.

Jefferies & Co. predicted in June that major cable MSOs will use their Wi-Fi networks to market new wireless data plans to mobile Web users who rely on usage-based 4G services from AT&T Wireless (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and other carriers. "We believe the inexorable current below the surface is that cable will enter the wireless market in a disruptive, Wi-Fi/MVNO [Mobile Virtual Network Operator] manner in the foreseeable future," Jefferies analyst Thomas Seitz wrote in a research note.

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