Cable's Wild About Wireless

WASHINGTON -- The Cable Show -- The wireless strategies of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) may be jutting in three different directions, but they all share a common goal: to create platforms that extend their portfolios of voice, video, and data services.

The MSOs outlined their goals during a Friday afternoon panel here, with none of them expecting to be able to mobilize their entire service arsenals right off the bat.

Time Warner Cable, which will offer its brand of WiMax through a parnership with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), expects to focus primarily on delivering wireless Internet access at first. (See Cable Plays Clearwire Card.) The service should launch in the fourth quarter, MSO group VP of wireless services Mike Roudi said.

"Our [WiMax service] really starts as a data piece," Roudi said, with VoIP and other applications to come later.

While Clearwire takes responsibility for the build-out of the network itself, Time Warner Cable will handle the marketing, service pricing and packaging, billing, and customer care, Roudi said.

Cox, meanwhile, is going to lead with mobile voice as it builds out a 3G network and partially piggybacks on the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) network. (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts and Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection .) It's also starting some 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) trials later this year.

"There's a lot of money out there to be had in the voice market," said Stephen Bye, Cox's VP of wireless strategy and development.

Bye said the service will launch later this year, available only in Cox's cable footprint. It will carry the Cox name and will be backed by a big retail push.

"Wireless is heavily indexed on retail," Bye said. "That's a channel that dominates distribution."

Finally, Cablevision is about halfway done deploying a WiFi mesh network in New York and New Jersey. That project, which also includes network plumbing for Docsis 3.0, is expected to cost about $300 million. (See Cablevision Hits 1M WiFi Hits, Cablevision WiFi Enters NJ, and Why WiFi Is a Winner .)

Cablevision estimates it can get a return on the WiFi investment in less than five years if it's able to increase its high-speed Internet subscriber base by just 5 percent. "It makes this investment look very reasonable," Bickham said.

The MSO has hotspots running in the three main train lines that serve the N.Y. metro area. Cablevision is also working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on a deal that would let Cablevision put WiFi gear on the trains themselves, according to John Bickham, president of Cablevision's cable and communications unit.

Cablevision offers WiFi access for free to its cable modem subscribers.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

menexis 12/5/2012 | 4:07:46 PM
re: Cable's Wild About Wireless I think Cox stands the best chance of having great success in the long run due to the fact that more and more people are utilizing wireless broadband laptop connect card via 3G network. Their partnership with Sprint is great because Sprint and Cox will lead the way. The 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) trials later this year will be a really big deal for them. I can't wait. I'm actually one of Sprint's client who have been placed on a list of customers who may potentially be trying out the 4G network before they release it. Hopefully I will be chosen, Fingers cross.
menexis 12/5/2012 | 4:07:43 PM
re: Cable's Wild About Wireless Jeff;
I agree with you and Michael Harris on that.
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:07:43 PM
re: Cable's Wild About Wireless

Cox has certainly taken the most ownership of its wireless strategy and appears to have the most at stake among US operators that are taking on wireless projects, but I'm still curious as to how they're going to differentiate in that ultra-competitive wireless market. But they are starting off with a clean sheet of paper and in ultimate control, so there's no idea that's off-limits. Perhaps they'll come up with some creative service ideas and not have to compete simply on price or bundled discounts.

But I agree with Michael Harris's opinion that Cablevision may have taken the smartest, most cost-effective  near-term approach with WiFi; they could hook into  a 3G/4G later down the road if it turns out they need to. But CAblevision also has the benefit of being an MSO that serves a very dense cluster, so it's easier to make uniform, across-the-board decisions. Other big operators don't have that luxury.


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