How Comcast Will ‘Bridge Wireless Networks to Provide Better Service’

Comcast details in a patent application obtained by The Donohue Report on Thursday how it could use a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular networks to deliver new and reliable wireless video, voice and data services to customers using both mobile devices and TV set-tops.

The nation’s largest cable MSO, which won the right to sign a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) agreement with Verizon as part of a spectrum deal it signed in 2011, has been quietly developing its mobile service. Comcast’s mobile product will run primarily on neighborhood hotspots powered by Wi-Fi gateways in subcriber homes, and Wi-Fi access points that Comcast and other cable MSOs have installed in central business districts, parks and other public locations.

But Comcast notes in the patent application how it can use mesh servers and cellular networks to provide service when subscribers are not within range of Wi-Fi access points.

“The mesh server may identify any access point that might not be connected to an emergency mesh (using e.g., the generated contour map) and may send that access point the alert message over another network (e.g., a cellular network). Additionally or alternatively, the mesh server may identify an area near that access point at which a mobile vehicle of the service provider may be placed in order to connect that access point to the emergency mesh,” Comcast states in the patent application.

Comcast filed the application, titled, “Mapping and bridging wireless networks to provide better service,” in April 2014.

Abstract: Methods, systems, computer-readable media, and apparatuses for providing service to access nodes are presented. In some embodiments, a computing device may generate a geographical coverage map comprising a plurality of wireless access nodes respectively at a plurality of geographic locations and a wireless coverage range for each wireless access node. The computing device may receive from at least one wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes an indication that the at least one wireless access node detected a first wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes. The computing device may refine a first coverage range of the first wireless access node based on a respective geographic location of the at least one wireless access node. In some embodiments, a first wireless access node may receive and forward join emergency mesh (JEM) messages to establish a wireless network.

Patent Application

Claims:

1. A method, comprising: generating, at a computing device, a geographical coverage map comprising a plurality of wireless access nodes respectively at a plurality of geographic locations and a wireless coverage range for each wireless access node; receiving from at least one wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes an indication that the at least one wireless access node detected a first wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes; and refining a first coverage range of the first wireless access node based on a respective geographic location of the at least one wireless access node.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: comparing an estimated geographic location of the first wireless access node with a first geographic location associated with the first wireless access node; and in response to a determination that the estimated geographic location does not match the first geographic location, identifying the first wireless access node as unauthorized and blocking service to the first wireless access node.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the first wireless access node has a first media access control (MAC) address, the method further comprising: prior to the identifying, determining that a second wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes has a second MAC address equivalent to the first MAC address.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising: identifying a first subset of the plurality of wireless access nodes and a second subset of plurality of wireless access nodes different from the first subset; identifying a geographical gap in wireless coverage between the first subset and the second subset; and identifying potential new wireless intermediate access nodes within the geographical gap that are capable of eliminating the gap in the wireless coverage.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising: establishing a wireless network between at least the first wireless access node and a second wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes, wherein the first wireless access node is associated with a first distribution network of a headend device and the second wireless access node is associated with a second distribution network of the headend device different from the first distribution network; and provisioning the first wireless access node for a first bandwidth capacity greater than a second bandwidth capacity associated with the first distribution network.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising: sending, to at least the first wireless access node, a repetitive discovery protocol instruction instructing the first wireless access node to periodically interrogate whether a geographically adjacent wireless access node has a connection to a headend device and to connect to the geographically adjacent wireless access node once the geographically adjacent wireless access node establishes the connection with the headend device.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising: establishing a wireless network between at least the first wireless access node and a second wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes; and sending to the first wireless access node via a distribution network of a headend device a message comprising an instruction to propagate the message to the second wireless access node via the wireless network.

8. The method of claim 1, further comprising: establishing a wireless network between at least the first wireless access node and a second wireless access node of the plurality of wireless access nodes; receiving, from the first wireless access node, a message transferred from the second wireless access node via the wireless network; and sending the message to an emergency service provider.

9. A method, comprising: receiving, at a first wireless access node from a second wireless access node within a wireless range of the first wireless access node, a join emergency mesh (JEM) message comprising a request to establish a wireless network at least between the first wireless access node and the second wireless access node, wherein the JEM message indicates that the second wireless access node does not have network connectivity to a headend device; detecting that the first wireless access node does not have network connectivity to the headend device; and forwarding the JEM message to a third wireless access node different from the second wireless access node, wherein the third wireless access node is within the wireless range of the first wireless access node.

10. The method of claim 9, further comprising: establishing network connectivity over a first distribution network connecting the first wireless access node and the headend device; establishing a wireless network between the first wireless access node, the second wireless access node, and the third wireless access node, wherein the third wireless access node has network connectivity over a second distribution network connecting the third wireless access node and the headend device, wherein the second distribution network is different from the first distribution network; and receiving an instruction to increase provisioned bandwidth capacity of the first wireless access node to have a first bandwidth capacity greater than a first bandwidth capacity associated with the first distribution network by utilizing at least part of a second bandwidth capacity associated with the wireless network.

11. The method of claim 9, further comprising: receiving, at the first wireless access node, a broadcast message from one of the headend device and the third wireless access node; outputting, at the first wireless access node, the broadcast message to a user; and forwarding the broadcast message to the second wireless access node.

12. The method of claim 9, wherein the JEM message includes a hop-count of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes between the first wireless access node and another wireless access node, the method further comprising: adding one to the hop-count in the JEM message.

13. The method of claim 9, wherein the first wireless access node is associated with a first emergency service area (ESA) and the second wireless access node is associated with a second ESA different from the first ESA, the method further comprising: rejecting the request establish the wireless network at least between the first wireless access node and the second wireless access node.

14. The method of claim 9, further comprising: prior to the receiving, sending, from the first wireless access node to the headend device, an indication that the first wireless access node detected the second wireless access node and the third wireless access node for refining a wireless coverage range of at least the first wireless access node on a geographical coverage map.

15. The method of claim 9, further comprising: blocking requests for a first content type from the second wireless access node; and permitting requests for a second content type different from the first content type from the second wireless access node.

16. The method of claim 9, wherein the second wireless access node is connected to a first connected device and a second connected device different from the first connected device, wherein the second wireless access node, the first connected device, and the second connected device are located at a premise of a user, the method further comprising: blocking, at one of the first wireless access node and the second wireless access node, requests from the first connected device to the headend device; and permitting, at one of the first wireless access node and the second wireless access node, requests from the second connected device to the headend device.

17. The method of claim 9, wherein the first wireless access node is assigned to a first cable modem termination system (CMTS), the method further comprising: connecting, by the first wireless access node, with a second CMTS different from the first CMTS via the third wireless access node.

18. A method, comprising: receiving, at a first wireless access node, a join emergency mesh (JEM) message and a first private service set identifier (SSID) from a second wireless access node using a public SSID; in response to a determination that the first wireless access node does not have network connectivity with a headend device, sending from the first wireless access node the JEM message and a second private SSID of the first wireless access node to a third wireless access node using the public SSID, wherein the third wireless access node is different from the second wireless access node; and establishing a wireless network between the first wireless access node and the second wireless access node using the first private SSID and the first wireless access node and the third wireless access node using the second private SSID.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising: connecting with the headend device through a first set of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes and determining a first hop-count of the first set of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes between the first wireless access node and the headend device; determining a second hop-count of a second set of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes between the first wireless access node and the headend device; and in response to a determination that the second hop-count is less than the first hop-count, disconnecting from the first set of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes and connecting to the second set of one or more intermediate wireless access nodes.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising: in response to determining that the first wireless access node has regained network connectivity with the headend device, sending a request for an increase in provisioned bandwidth to the headend device.