Managing your Comcast Wi-Fi network at home is about to get a lot easier.
As companies like Google and Eero continue to eliminate the hassle of setting up and maintaining a home network, Comcast is providing customers with its alternative.
The new service, xFi, is available starting May 8 to 10 million customers.
"This is a product we believe will put really easy control in the hands of our customers," Chris Satchell, chief product officer at Comcast told ZDNet.
The xFi service provides customers with a website or mobile app where the user can control various aspects of his or her home wireless network.
For example, through the xFi dashboard customers can quickly see their current network name and password, view a list of all devices connected to the network, create user profiles, and even pause the connection to unrecognized devices. There's also an option to see how much data each device has used in a given month, a welcome feature now that Comcast has broadened its rollout of the 1 TB data caps.
"We wanted to make the xFi experience for our normal customer who doesn't want to be a Wi-Fi expert," Satchell explained when describing the approach Comcast took to the new service.
He continued to explain the setup process, which boils down to installing the xFi mobile app, scanning a QR code, and following the prompts. Users are also asked to assign a name and password to the network, instead of using a random string of numbers and letters assigned by Comcast.
In contrast, the last time I set up a Comcast Wi-Fi device I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a support representative monitoring which lights were blinking, what color they were, and reading off a bunch of arbitrary numbers.
Using a smartphone streamlines the process, according to Satchell.
For bigger homes, where Wi-Fi signals may not cover every room, Comcast will launch xFi pods later this year. The pods will extend your existing network through a mesh network, dynamically routing network traffic based on bandwidth and location of a device.
Comcast invested in Plume, a company that developed pods to extend Wi-Fi networks, and will use Plume's products and cloud services when xFi pods become available.
Other notable features included in the xFi dashboard is the ability to troubleshoot a particular device's connection issues.
If for instance, you are consistently having to wait for your Apple TV to buffer while streaming a movie, you can open the xFi app on your phone and go through some troubleshooting steps.
Satchell explained that the troubleshooting tips available at launch would be somewhat generic to start. For example, the app will give advice such as move your streaming box outside of the entertainment center or recommend not placing it on the bottom shelf, tucked behind other objects that could cause interference.
Later this year, however, the company is going to add specific troubleshooting steps for devices connected to your network. You'll have the ability to pick a connected device, and then the app will walk you through solving any connectivity issues.
Comcast is also adding better parental controls to its xFi product. Through the app or website, parents can assign devices to a child's profile, setting time limits or bed times, after which the Wi-Fi connection to the device(s) is turned off.
When creating profiles for children under 12, xFi will automatically block any objectionable websites or content from ever displaying on the child's device. Meaning instead of having to monitor and control which sites or services a child has access to, xFi takes care of it for you.
Customers with a compatible Comcast wireless system now have access to the new xFi dashboard and mobile app. You can check if your Comcast equipment is compatible by visiting xfinity.com/myxfi. That's also the same website you can use to access the new xFi controls on a computer.