Cox Communications is nine days away from turning on hundreds of wireless hot spots in Omaha, enabling many of its Internet customers to access wireless Internet on the go at no extra charge.
Cox customers would gain Internet access on their smartphones, devices and laptops without depleting their mobile data plans around the metro, including at parks, restaurants, entertainment districts and shopping centers.
Most of the more than 500 hot spots Cox has planned will go live on May 20. Those will be in Council Bluffs, downtown Omaha and midtown Omaha, in Dundee and Benson, along the Interstate 80 corridor and in north and South Omaha. Others will follow, in Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista, Millard and northwest Omaha.
Market Vice President Robert Woodard said Cox customers have growing numbers of mobile devices. They want to be able to access email, Internet and social networking sites, as well as television programming through Cox’s Contour app, at all times.
“Consumers are wanting access to reliable, high-speed Internet not just when they’re in their home, but when they’re out,” Woodard said.
The Wi-Fi hot spots will be available at no additional cost to Cox customers who have a “preferred, ” “premier” or “ultimate” Internet service package, all steps up from its introductory “essential” plan.
Cox said the Wi-Fi service will operate at speeds up to 15 Mbps download and 4 Mbps upload, depending on the number of devices connected at a time. That’s faster than the “essential” service, but not as fast as the “preferred” service, which advertises speeds up to 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload.
Still, the Wi-Fi speeds will be fast enough for typical mobile uses, Woodard said.
Customers will be able to access the hot spots using the Wi-Fi network finder on their phone or device. They can log on using their Cox account username and password. The username and password will stay active for two years, so customers don’t have to sign in each time they log on within the Omaha area. A map of the locations will be available at cox.com/hotspots.
Similar hot spots already are live in other Cox markets. The project is part of a collaboration, called CableWiFi, among several providers, including Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable. Cox customers who access the service will also be able to sign on to more than 200,000 hot spots in other cities served by those providers. Time Warner Cable, for example, has heavy Wi-Fi coverage in the Kansas City area, Chicago, Boston and New York.
Cox declined to say how much it spent to install the hot spots.
Kristin Peck, a Cox vice president of public affairs, said the provider has invested $2.5billion over the last 10 years in the region that includes Omaha.
“Because we’ve made these investments, we’re able to offer state-of-the-art services like this,” Peck said.
Woodard said the service at each hot spot comes through a device about the size of a home cable modem. Some are on poles, others are underground or in above-ground pedestals. The devices are connected to Cox’s cable network and will not have any markings indicating their locations.
As part of the Wi-Fi rollout, Cox sponsored a contest in which customers could vote on where in the metro they’d like to see the hot spots. Cox said the contest winner was Stephanie Kiggins of La Vista, who voted for the hot spots to be located around the Council Bluffs casinos. She wins a trip to Las Vegas.