Comcast, through its Xfinity Voice service, is the nation’s fourth-largest wire-line phone provider, with 9.5 million customers.
The new features push Comcast further into the wireless market, although in an indirect and severely limited way. Comcast will be using a person’s Xfinity Voice home phone number on another carrier’s smartphone. In addition, there are huge gaps in the coverage area of the evolving WiFi network.
Five cable companies — Comcast, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Cox Communications — said Monday at the annual cable industry show in Boston that they would together to create this network, which currently has about 50,000 hot spots.
The hot spots are clustered in the Philadelphia-to-New York corridor. But the cable companies say hot spots will expand over time. Time Warner has said it is quickly building out the hot spots in Los Angeles, and other cable companies are expected to do the same in big markets in their franchise areas.
The customers of the individual companies can share the hot spots for free, according to the industry agreement.
Cathy Avgiris, Comcast executive vice president, said the upgraded app could save Xfinity customers money on their wireless bills because they can use the Xfinity home phone in the WiFi hot spot instead of their traditional wireless service, thus saving minutes.
Comcast has used the same argument with data usage. It says Xfinity Internet customers can access the Internet over the WiFi network and avoid consuming data on a wireless company’s data plan.
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