Cable Wi-Fi

Cable Finally Sees Money in Wireless

ATLANTA -- After all of cable's missteps in the mobile market (a certain Pivot venture comes to mind), the industry finally appears to be putting together a winning wireless strategy.

At a Light Reading Cable breakfast here this morning, panelists from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Cox Communications Inc. , Buckeye CableSystem , and CableLabs highlighted some of the ways cable WiFi is helping operators retain customers and define new revenue opportunities.

With more than 200,000 public hotspots already deployed in the US, cable companies have begun to learn what works and what doesn't work in WiFi. Hotspots have proven useful largely for reducing subscriber churn, but opportunities for monetization are on the near horizon. And companies are already experimenting with ways to bring in new WiFi cash.

Beyond offering paid access to nonsubscribers, cellular backhaul may be the most obvious potential revenue generator for WiFi deployments. As mobile network operators look to relieve some of the burden of traffic congestion, cable operators can provide backhaul and mobile offload support through WiFi and even mobile small cells. Combining the two technologies will only strengthen cable's value proposition. "There's a lot of interest" in moving small cell development forward in conjunction with WiFi, CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown said. "Small cells are definitely in the future." (See: Comcast Testing Small Cells – Sources.)

On the WiFi front alone, cable operators have opportunities to bring in revenue through location-based services and analytics. Cisco senior director Jared Headley cited trials going on in the hospitality and retail industries that target advertising to mobile users based strictly on location. Those ads have a higher impact than ads delivered without real-time location information, Headley said, and cable companies should be able to capitalize on similar offerings through location awareness at their own hotspots. The issue of scale must be solved before cable operators can take full advantage of location services, but initial deployments of location-based advertising should "roll out in the next year."

Ericsson vice president Surya Bommakanti said he's seen location-based advertising trials, and he believes that arena and stadium environments are "a natural place" for those types of services to be implemented. There are a "couple of live examples today where we have been working with operators on this topic."

Headley said cable companies should also start to test WiFi analytics offerings in 2014. Metrics around foot traffic and crowd flow are valuable to venue owners, and that data could be offered as a value-add on top of WiFi service packages. Conveniently, even if a mobile user doesn't connect to a WiFi network, an operator's local access point still knows when a new device is in the vicinity. Cable companies should be monetizing that data, he said, and they will in the near future.

Until cable companies start to make real money on WiFi, they can still enjoy the benefits of reduced subscriber churn. Headley said one operator in Europe has seen a fivefold reduction in churn from its home wireline service because subscribers can access its millions of community hotspots. That's a case of the WiFi business model proving itself in the immediate term, and it bodes well for the future of cable WiFi.

US cable WiFi is still in its early stages, but the industry has come a long way since last year, when the cable WiFi SSID was first being implemented. For cable, it looks like there's money in wireless after all.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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Cellco 10/24/2013 | 6:48:50 AM
Re: Wireless Voice? @22ten, yes you are right, the recent entry into wholesale ethernet, additional of business district customers, the growth of HSD broadband user consumption all add to the complexity of the DOCSIS 3 ppipe (when fully deployed) from a couple of perspectives.  The containers for the wireless traffic inside the DOCSIS "carrier" [lack of a better name at the moment] Then the HSD pipe is shared and smaller than FiOS solution but bigger AT&T VDSL option.
22ten 10/24/2013 | 4:18:04 AM
Re: Wireless Voice? surely, the challenge is to combine the demands of data and voice over DOCSIS since they have different requirements.
DanJones 10/23/2013 | 9:06:52 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? 2.4GHz is already horribly crowded in Manhattan, so they really would be stuck with that.
Cellco 10/23/2013 | 8:03:45 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? Yes, think about the wireless in-home phone, on essentially the same frequency (1900 Mhz) , at the same power level but because Wi-Fi is no-longer on an analog modulation (like your wireless home phone) but instead a digital modulation with a less robust protocol (IP).  Then you get the picture.  To be sure, much better than Blue Tooth or Near Field and WhiteSpace but not nearly as good as LTE.

I am more worried if the incumbent carriers try to take a Carrier Wi-Fi carve-out at 5.6 Ghz which improves the frequency band for data and slightly higher power output allowed in a carrier licensed band.  Teh result would be closer to a low power LTE product.  Cable would be really stuck in the ISM bands at 2.4 GHz, especially if the HetNet initiative moves to the Carrrier Wi-Fi carve-out that is under discussion. 

In addition to jockeying for a strategy, Cable and Telco are slightly restrained by the effect of a extremelly expensive repurcusion [spelling, oooh I wish for an acronym here] if push comes to shove.
DanJones 10/23/2013 | 7:45:44 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? Uh-huh, I get ya, just not sure WiFi is really built for the job of being a truly mobile VoIP system.
Cellco 10/23/2013 | 3:25:45 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? Another Analogy, 1986, AT&T 2ESS and then 5ESS were state of the art but the industry needed to build up a 2nd quality supplier.  BCE/Norther Electric, Ericson, Seimens, Fujitsu, Plessy(Stomber-Carlson) and upstarts DEC and ABC jumped in for new Class 5/4 vendor status.  Nortel won-out. The quality was initially ok but not top of the line.  After 5 years, it became comparable, competitive. 

This situation is the same I think.  It is not that LTE is not acceptable, it is that the technology is held by your competitors vertical investments, you would be blindly funding your competitor.  That is why we have ATM in core of PON and ATM in Core of DOCSIS. 

The two will/require two different religions.


DanJones 10/23/2013 | 2:53:40 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? Hmm, 100, 000 engineers and 5 yrs work? Do we like those odds? Considering how LTE networks may have evolved by then?
Cellco 10/23/2013 | 2:53:01 PM
Re: Who needs Verizon? The 1st three years of the wholesale Verizon Agreement has an option to convert to MVNO.  Either Vz make LTE available in MVNO with robust published and working O/BSS for MVNOs or Cable walks and builds the Wi-Fi initiative.  It cannot be both for another year or so. 

Cable walked away from the Sprint joint investment and gave a portion to Vz.  I am not sure what is in store for T-Mobile except for DT liquidity.
Cellco 10/23/2013 | 2:49:43 PM
Re: Wireless Voice? The cablecos sold off their AT&T purchase/ownership after a very (remarkably) short period, when they realized all the TDM licensing went to Baby Bell licensing fees.  It forced the CableCos to get behind VoIP and force it to mature.  Hence my statement in 2002, IP was never intended for Voice but for equipment manufactures to survive, a 100,000 engineers will take 5 years to make it work or-else.

So VoIP was a poor and a big risk for a tier one provider 5 years ago but now VoIP is becoming good enough. 

I think this emboldens cable to take the risk with mobile voice Wi-Fi.  100,000 engineers 5 years of work and it should be good enough.
DanJones 10/23/2013 | 10:37:00 AM
Re: Customer experience Yep, although Facebook and Cisco and Google are also jockeying to be be WiFi purveyors of choice as well. Its going to be a race. Do you think cable has the advantage or not?
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