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.
So what are xfinitywifi hotspots exactly?
While the steps mentioned in this are 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 any non-standard device to xfinitywifi.
By “non-standard,” I mean devices that don’t have a way for you to connect to a special Wi-Fi network that requires a username and password. Examples are printers, IP cameras, cars, and most IoT devices.
Table of Contents
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 Xfinity 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 only need to do that once. After a successful login, the device’s MAC address is remembered within the Xfinity account, and subsequently, it 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, such as a computer or a smartphone.
Devices without a standard OS — like a printer, an IP camera, or your Tesla — don’t have a way to enter the username and password, so generally, you can’t use them with the xfinitywifi network.
Or can you? That 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, or $99/year, after — that gives you a few valuable extras, as shown in the table below.
(9.99/month or 99.99/year)
(Certain updates require Wi-Fi)
|Live Traffic Visualization||–||✓|
|View Live Camera in Sentry Mode||–||✓|
|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, especially in areas with poor cellular signals.
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.
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. On a Tesla, it’s in the Additional Vehicular Information part of the car’s screen.
- Make a computer 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. This will make the car MAC address, spoofed by the computer, added to the Xfinity account.
- 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. In most cases, that means you only need to restart the computer.
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 computer 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, 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 in 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.
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9 thoughts on “Tesla Data Usage: How I Hook My Model Y to Comcast’s xfinitywifi Hotspot”
I just did this, but I noticed Tesla doesn’t give you the option to “remain connected in drive” to “xfinitywifi” like it does for your own Wi-Fi network. I’m not sure if this is because the xfinitywifi network doesn’t use security or because they filtered it out. Either way, that’s a bummer.
Good job, Michael! And that’s normal. When you stop the car in a hood with the hotspot, it will connect automatically. You can’t count on public hotspots when on the move anyway since hopping from one access point to another constantly is as good as being disconnected.
None the less, I’d be curious to know if Tesla filtered out “xfinitywifi” SSID from having that check box available or if ALL unsecure wifi networks are filtered out from having that check box available. I know it’s definitely available for my secured home network.. but it’s too late to go turning up another insecure SSID to put my theory to the test. I know Tesla tout’s the “remain connected while in drive” for use with mobile hotspots.. but I’m guessing it’s only “secure hotspots” judging from some of the posts on TMC re: people’s hotspots not showing that option… my guess is their hotspot isn’t secured, so the option doesn’t show up. Post back if you decide to put my theory to the test and I’ll do the same if I get time this weekend. 😉
That’s not the case, Machel. The car will disconnect from any Wi-Fi network (even a secure one) and use the cellular connection as you put it in motion. I believe that’s because Tesla wants to have full control of the link to the car for diagnostic purposes when that’s possible. But after that, you can manually connect the car to a Wi-F network, say, of your mobile hotspot, or Xfinity, as it’s moving. When the car is put in park, it’ll automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi network it has access to.
By the way, the public hotspot mentioned here is secure because it’s isolated, but it does route through Comcast.
I don’t believe this is true any longer.. if you check your wifi settings in the Tesla and specifically look at your secured home wifi network you will see “remain connected while in drive” and a checkbox. You can in fact remain connected to a wifi network while driving your Tesla, but I suspect it only applies to secured wifi networks. Either that or “xfinitywifi” is specifically filtered out from having this option.. possibly because Tesla is looking into partnering with Xfinity to allow their cars to be constantly connected to xfinity hotspots in the future (see other comment).
Interesting. I actually didn’t know that. But that might be a bad idea since the connection will be very choppy. Wi-Fi’s range is short, and moving from one access point to another can be problematic. This type of connection is only good when the car is stationary. We’ll see. (I have a premium connection anyway, just to have the Live Cam.)
I already made that happen. 🙂 But yes, that’d be convenient for sure.
Now I want a tesla 😂
It took you long enough! 🙂