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Charter Goes Own Way on Wi-Fi

Alan Breznick
7/26/2013
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Breaking from the cable pack yet again, Charter Communications has begun offering wireless home networking services to broadband subscribers over a specially customized Wi-Fi router.

By making this move, Charter, the fourth largest MSO in the U.S. with nearly 3.9 million broadband subscribers, is joining other large cable operators that have jumped into the potentially lucrative home networking market. With subscribers bringing more and more IP-enabled consumer electronics devices into their homes, cable providers are seeking to profit by offering fast Wi-Fi connections between devices around the house.

But, in doing so, Charter is taking a different tack than most of its contemporaries. While others are integrating their routers and DOCSIS cable modems into a single wireless gateway device, Charter is offering the router separate from the modem.

The St. Louis-based MSO is offering the special high-performance router as part of its new Charter WiFi service. It's selling the new home networking service for $3 a month, plus a one-time activation fee of $39.99. Customers pay an additional charge of $29.99 for professional installation help.

Charter, which is promoting the product to subscribers of its Plus and Ultra broadband tiers, is promising around-the-clock technical support for the new Wi-Fi service and pledging to replace any defective routers.

"The Charter WiFi router is the heart of a home's network, responsible for powering our fast Internet speeds over Wi-Fi," said Rich DiGeronimo, senior vice president of product and strategy for Charter, in a prepared statement. "Faster speeds required a better router."

DiGeronimo hinted that Charter, which is initially relying on routers from Netgear, may switch out home routers in the future as Wi-Fi technology continues to improve. "We're confident this solution provides an optimal experience to our customers," he said. "Of course, as Wi-Fi technology rapidly evolves, our goal will remain to deliver the best in-home Wi-Fi experience possible."

This is not the first time that Charter has gone its own way on the wireless front. Unlike the five other biggest U.S. MSOs -- Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. , Cox Communications , Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks -- Charter has not joined the nationwide Cable WiFi roaming alliance. In fact, Charter has not announced any public deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots, unlike all the others.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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