I’ll share in this post how I hooked my Model Y to Comcast’s xfinitywifi hotspots, which are free for all of its Cable Internet subscribers nationwide. You can do that to your Tesla, too. It’s fun!
For this to work, though, you need to be an Xfinity Cable Internet subscriber yourself or have a friend who’s willing to add your car as part of their own roaming devices.
While this post is specifically about Comcast’s xfinitywifi hotspots, the steps mentioned here may also apply to similar public hotspot services.
So what are xfinitywifi hotspots exactly?
The xfinitywifi public hotspot and a device’s MAC address
In the US, when driving around town, chances are you’ll see a public and open network called “xfinitywifi.” It’s one of the most ubiquitous public hotspots.
That is a Wi-Fi network broadcast by Comcast’s gateway — yes, the one I wrote in this piece on how to replace so that you can get rid of the monthly rental fee — aimed to keep its Internet subscribers connected even when they are not home.
If you use such a gateway, including the newly announced Wi-Fi 6E xFi Advanced Gateway, your rental equipment is part of making this public hotspot available to all other subscribers. And for the most part, that’s a good thing — the hotspot does not eat up your monthly data cap.
The xfinitywifi network is open — it doesn’t have a password. However, to get a device connected, you’ll need to authorize it using a valid Xfinity account’s credentials, namely the username and password.
You need to do that only the first time you get the device connected. After a successful login, the device’s MAC address is remembered, and it subsequently will get connected automatically.
For this type of MAC filtering to work, you need to use a device’s real MAC address.
A lot of mobile devices — phones, tablets — automatically use a virtual randomized MAC address when connecting to a new, unknown Wi-Fi network. In this case, you need to change the settings to make it use its native address.
This post on the MAC addresses will explain more.
For this reason, generally, you can only use this hotspot on a device that allows you to enter the credentials.
Devices without a standard OS — like a printer, an IP camera, or your Tesla — don’t have a way for you to enter the username and password, so generally, you can’t use them with the xfinitywifi network.
Or can you? This is where this post comes into play.
Tesla data usage
By default, all Tesla cars come with a free lifetime Standard Connectivity mobile cellular plan. The company uses it for the car’s navigation and sends over-the-air updates.
When you get a new car, it comes with a one-year Premium Connectivity, which costs $9.99/month after that, you get a few valuable extras, as shown in the table below.
|Over the Air Updates|
(Certain updates require Wi-Fi)
|Live Traffic Visualization||–||✓|
|Sentry View Live Camera||–||✓|
|Video Streaming *|
(Content subscriptions required)
|Music Streaming *||–||✓|
|Internet Browser *||–||✓|
By the way, you can’t turn your car’s premium connection into a mobile hotspot.
* Accessible over Wi-Fi for Standard Connectivity
As you might have noted, many of the extras are available via Wi-Fi, meaning you don’t need to subscribe for premium to enjoy them. All you need is an Internet-enabled Wi-Fi connection.
In any case, getting your car hooked to public Wi-Fi keeps it better connected even when you’re driving it around, or parked in a neighborhood, especially where the cellular signals are poor.
And in my experience with a 2021 Model Y, the xfinitywifi network generally has much faster data connection speeds than the car’s built-in LTE connection. In certain areas, it even has better coverage than the car’s cellular reception.
The point is, it never hurts to use the hotspots if you can.
With that, let’s move to the steps on how to hook the car to the xfinitywifi network.
While these steps are written specifically for hooking a Tesla to Comcast’s xfinitywifi hotspots, the principle also applies when you want to link the car to another public hotspot system that uses the MAC filtering, or if you want to hook another non-standard device to xfinitywifi.
The step to hooking a non-standard device — your Tesla — to Comcast’s xfinitywifi hotspots
This step aims to add the device’s MAC to the approved list of an Xfinity subscriber’s account. Each subscriber can add up to ten devices to use them.
The general direction
For those who are in the know or comfortable with networking, here is the general direction:
- Figure out your device’s Wi-Fi MAC address — it’s in the Additional Vehicular Information part of the car’s screen.
- Make a computer to spoof this MAC address — temporarily make the machine use this MAC as its own.
- As the machine is using the spoof MAC, connect it to an xfinitywifi hotspot. Sign in with a Comcast Xnifity account as prompted.
- Connect your device to the xfinitywifi network.
And that’s it. Oh, make sure you undo step #2 to restore the computer’s MAC to its original before doing step #4.
The detailed steps
If you’re unsure of what you’re doing, follow these steps closely, and you’ll get it done.
1. Figure out your car’s Wi-Fi MAC address
There are many ways to figure out your car’s Wi-Fi MAC — not to be confused with its cellular MAC or IMEI.
The easiest way is to use the car’s screen — as shown in the photo above:
- Tap on the vehicle icon then on Software
- Tap on the Additional vehicular information line
A screen will pop up with extra information, including the vehicle’s Wi-Fi MAC address.
Alternatively, you can also find this address by connecting the car to a router and checking its list of connected clients using the web interface or mobile app.
2. Use a computer to spoof the car’s MAC address
For this step, I’ll use a Mac laptop, specifically one without a network port, which is the case with most Apple laptops released in the past 10 years. The computer has Wi-Fi as its only network adapter.
(Alternatively, you can also use a Windows computer. In that case, use the steps in this post instead.)
Again, you need to be where an xfinitywifi hotspot is available. Here are the steps — as demoed in the screenshot:
- Disconnect your computer from Wi-Fi: Click on the Wi-Fi icon (top right corner), while holding down the Option key, then on Disconnect from the current Wi-Fi network. Do not turn the Wi-Fi off!
- Call up Terminal: Use Spotlight (Command + Space bar) and then search for “Terminal” when found, click on it. The Terminal program will run.
- Execute the MAC sproofing command: Input the following command into the Terminal and press Enter — type in your account’s password and press Enter again when prompted:
sudo ifconfig en0 ether E5:AA:FC:0A:95:4C
You can copy and paste the command. (E5:AA:FC:0A:95:4C is the MAC address I used for this post. Make sure you replace it with yours.)
Now your Mac’s Wi-Fi adapter should use the new MAC address instead of its own. To verify, input this command and press Enter:
ifconfig en0 | grep ether
The current MAC being used will be displayed. Without restarting the computer, let’s move to the final step.
3. Get the car’s MAC address approved
- Connect the Mac to the xfinitywifi hotspot: Click don’t the Wi-Fi icon and then on the xfinitywifi on the list.
- The computer will connect and after a few seconds a screen will pop up for you to enter an Xfinity account’s credential.
- Enter the account’s username and password — as shown in the screenshot above. If the information is correct, the computer will connect to the Internet successfully. I.e. you can reach a website, such as dongknows.com.
- Restart your Mac. That will restore its MAC address.
4. Connect your car to the xfinitywifi network
On your Tesla, connect it to the xfinitywifi hotspot — tap on the Wi-Fi icon and then on xfinitywifi on the list of available networks. You’ll note that it will connect successfully right away.
And from then on, as you drive around the US, the car will connect to that network by itself, when Wi-Fi is applicable — generally, the car automatically uses its LTE connection when it’s in motion. In any case, you can always manually connect it.
Final notes on Tesla data usage
Keep in mind that, just like any cellular data plan, the public hotspots are not always available. But in my experience, it tends to be available where cellular reception is bad, such as in a parking lot or certain neighborhoods.
That said, this hotpot trick is not a complete replacement to the Premium Connectivity package for your Tesla — that’s another story at a later time — but it’s still a cool supplement, if not a reliable alternative in many areas. And the fact it doesn’t cost anything — almost — sure is a bonus.