Cable Tech

TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is becoming a window to cable's future as other operators continue to borrow from its wireless broadband playbook.

The latest is Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), which is building a $15 million Wi-Fi network in Los Angeles that will be much larger than its deployment in New York City, where it's set up to share access with Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Cablevision customers. (See MSO WiFi: Roam (If You Want To).)

Like Cablevision, TW Cable will let its subscribers use the Wi-Fi network for free. But, in a varied approach, TW Cable will also help pay for the buildout by letting non-subscribers jump on -- for $2.95 per hour, $6.95 per day, $19.95 per week, or $49.95 per month.

TW Cable says its Wi-Fi network will reach more than 40 square miles of southern California, covering areas such as Venice Beach, West Hollywood, downtown L.A., Santa Ana and Newport Beach. A spokesman wouldn't say when TW Cable expected to complete the deployment but confirmed that more Wi-Fi buildouts are planned.

In another Cablevision-esque move, TW Cable is tying the Wi-Fi investment to an expansion of its Docsis 3.0 network, noting that its new 50Mbit/s D3 tier is now offered in about half its homes passed in Southern California. The MSO expects to finish its wideband rollout there by the end of next year.

Why this matters
TW Cable's heavier investment in Wi-Fi is a good sign for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), BelAir Networks Inc. and other vendors that have developed WiMax access points tailored to work on cable plants. Update: TW Cable confirmed that they're using BelAir gear for the Los Angeles deployment.

But questions continue to linger about TW Cable's overall wireless broadband strategy. The MSO has publicly expressed disappointment with the results it's getting with the WiMax product it's selling through its Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) partnership, leading to rumors that TW Cable and other MSOs may invest more in Clearwire or buy it outright to help spark an aggressive LTE play.

TW Cable, which has been noncommittal about its Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum holdings, has also been linked to talks with LightSquared about potential partnership scenarios.

For more
Read more about what cable's doing (and might be doing) with Wi-Fi, WiMax and other wireless technologies.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:54:07 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

I haven't seen such a comparison, but it would be a good one to see.  At this point, this seems like more of a retention play, though TWC did say it will sell access to non-subs.

I only use a service like Boingo when all other options fail.  Turning my Android phone into a mobile WiFi hotspot has also worked fairly well, to the point that I'm probably going to drop the 3G subscription I have for my iPad. 

But I agree that scale's limited outside of those footprints, and not much use to someone who travels frequently.  I expect that other MSOs will be rolling out wifi in a bigger way in the months and years ahead and we'll see them do more roaming deals.  But that will take time.  A deal with Boingo to help fill the gaps sounds plausible; I just wonder what kind of deal the cable guys can swing.  Maybe discounted access to Boingo hotspots?


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:54:07 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

Okay, so how does this compare in actual usage to what AT&T does with Hotspots in McDs and Starbucks.

I have gone back and forth about whether to get a cell connection on my Netbook replacement.  I have found it rare when I want to be using a device like a Netbook and not be near a WiFi hookup.  Phone....different thing.

But really what are the MSO scale WiFi networks trying to drive at as a consumer of them?  Good if I don't travel, but not so good if I am out of the area.  Maybe cut a deal with Boingo?



Greenbone 12/5/2012 | 4:54:06 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

I agree.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:54:06 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

It's easy for subs to use and apparently not all that hard to deploy. The $15M outlay for LA hardly makes a dent in the capex budget of an MSO the size of TWC. Broadband sub growth is slowing so they have to spend a few extra bucks to keep them with enhancements like this.  Cablevision estimated it would cost $70/sub to get wifi rolled out back when it first announced the plan. Seems like the ROI isn't bad if you can show how retention value increases with the WiFi enhancement versus not having it.

I'd have to hunt down something that gives a % breakdown of the cable wifi access point market, or the larger market.  As cable goes, I'm thinking BelAir has the lead, but Cisco was the only one named for Shaw's coming wifi network rollout, so they have the early edge as that one gets underway.  Arris is reselling Ruckus, but don't know how that's been faring. Moto, meanwhile, has a deal to resell BelAir.


AESerm 12/5/2012 | 4:54:06 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

Consumers are becoming comfortable with Wi-Fi in the home. Makes sense to leverage something that's easy to use for a growing number of their customers. For my part (here at IBC in Amsterdam at the moment) I'm changing my Android's settings to Wi-Fi several times a day to avoid VZ's onerous international data roaming charges. As for the deployment, any sense of CSCO and BelAir's respective (%-wise) takes?

SabrinaChow 12/5/2012 | 4:54:04 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

I'm glad that somebody mentioned Ruckus Wireless.  They have a really nice strand-mounted wifi hotspot with built-in Docsis 3 cable modem:




The word on the street is that TWC is taking a serious look at using this product as the foundation for the wifi initiatives in their footprints; and subsequently Arris will be the beneficiary of such an endeavor.  Virgin Media is trialing it as we speak across the pond.


The other thing I would mention is that wifi is being considered not only for customer retention, but as THE alternative to 3g/4g mobile.  It's good for netbooks now but the vision is for every device to traverse the wifi network.  Clearly it's more forgiving on the capex side and simpler to deploy.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:54:04 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

I would love it if cable MSOs could provide free or cheap WiFi in places like airports, hotel lobbies and public places. I cancelled my Boingo account recently because even they can get decent coverage in DFW Airport and most of the places I travel most often.

I agree that the ROI is really about retaining customers and eventually getting non-customers to use network services on a per minute/per hour basis.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:54:04 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

Interesting to hear that Ruckus may be making some progress with the cable guys, as it's been about a year since they officially entered that market.  And working with Arris is one good way for Ruckus to penetrate the Great Wall of Cable.  To BelAir's credit, they were able to get in and make a mark well before they connected with Moto on their reseller agreement. 

So, now that we have at least three solid players in here, what's going to be the diffentiator as the market expands and more MSOs start making big WiFi decisions?   We already know that the MSOs are going to play one off the other and pound them all on price.  JB

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:54:03 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

Okay, WiFi as a replacement for 3G/4G?

There is a real problem with this.  Mobility is definitely challenged.  Coverage is definitely a problem.  Again, if I want to sit at an airport...well sure.  But mobile calls?  Out of region?  

I also would think there is a pretty big challenge with scaling.  Since there is no mobile IP stack basically the IP address assigned has to follow the device without reassignment.  I would think once the scale of use gets high, the ability to manage a flat IP map across say New York or LA would be really hard.




SabrinaChow 12/5/2012 | 4:54:02 PM
re: TW Cable Places Bigger Wi-Fi Bet

To Jeff's comment, yes MSO's are cheap.  =o)  Better to diversify the products and keep the vendors honest.


Differentiator is a tough one.  I've witnessed purchases of equipment that weren't necessarily better based on the relationships with the vendor and sales teams.  If you're customer likes you because you take care of them, regardless of quality, then you tend to do well.  Ultimately whoever can provide the feature sets the cable guys want at the fastest pace and with a smile will get the market share.  ;o)

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