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Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
5/31/2013

How does a wireline service provider thrive in a wireless service environment? For years, the U.S. cable industry has struggled with that question, making several vain, expensive attempts to join the wireless movement. Now the cable industry has embarked on its boldest mission yet to make wireless a key part of its product portfolio. Specifically, major U.S. MSOs are aggressively deploying public Wi-Fi hotspots to provide free wireless broadband service to their broadband customers. By establishing a wireless presence, cable is extending its role in video, high-speed Internet, business services and possibly even mobile phone services. So far, U.S. MSOs have deployed about 150,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the nation, according to a new Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, From Wired to Wireless: Cable Uses Wi-Fi to Extend Its Reach. By about this time in 2014, Heavy Reading projects that the industry will have more than 250,000 cable Wi-Fi hotspots in place. Collectively, the cable industry has now spent more than US$175 million on building out Wi-Fi hotspots, and that amount will double to more than $350 million by 2014, according to the Heavy Reading report. Cable operators enjoy the advantage of being able to string many of their Wi-Fi access points (APs) on their own aerial lines. The MSOs' initial motivation is to add value to cable packages and remain competitive with the increasing capabilities of 4G mobile and over-the-top (OTT) video services, the report says. Insiders say there already is evidence that Wi-Fi is helping to retain cable customers, driving down churn rates. Cable operators are also deploying Wi-Fi as a key component of their growing business services portfolios. Bigger opportunities may lie ahead, the report says. Five MSOs -- Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems Corp., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable Inc. -- are teaming up to offer a joint CableWiFi SSID that enables their customers to get Wi-Fi service across each other's service areas. As their Wi-Fi density increases, MSOs could form business relationships with mobile service providers, including mobile data offload services, or develop a much-speculated mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service with Verizon Wireless. But Wi-Fi is an unlicensed, best-effort technology that faces many technical and operational challenges, including quality, scalability and security. The report says cable is looking to exploit emerging capabilities such as HotSpot 2.0, which will support seamless roaming across multiple MSO service areas and Wi-Fi hotspots. The report explores cable's Wi-Fi deployment strategy, the opportunities and challenges and the implications for cable operators and suppliers. Included is a look at six suppliers that are supporting cable's Wi-Fi efforts with access points and other technologies, including , Alcatel-Lucent, Arris Group Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Ericsson, Ruckus Wireless, and WeFi. — Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading

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macemoneta
macemoneta
6/1/2013 | 9:25:32 AM
re: Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?
AT&T is paid by the retailers that offer its service, as an incentive or perk for customers. It is built into the cost structure that customers are charged for (like heat, AC, electricity, cable TV, etc. in a hotel).

The cable WiFi is paid for by customers that pay for cable. Cable WiFi is not 'free' in the sense that you must be a cable Internet subscriber to use it.
PositivelyKeith
PositivelyKeith
6/1/2013 | 6:53:38 AM
re: Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?
Hi guys
This all sounds great, but where is the Money to be made?
Here in UK we expect everything for free! Some of the mobile and fixed telecom providers have their own network of hot spots but we now expect to go in many stores and restaurants and get it for free!
The only cost generally is to pay with your email address so they can direct mail you. But most of them don't do that very well.
macemoneta
macemoneta
6/1/2013 | 1:07:25 AM
re: Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?
Here in South/Central NJ, there's cable WiFi covering all the major highways. As mentioned, the cable companies recently merged their WiFi efforts, and all the WiFi access points were renamed CableWiFi, increasing their coverage significantly. We also see AT&T WiFi, mostly in retail outlets.

I think the merged SSID and pre-authorization (based on MAC) that the cable companies are doing is a great idea. It makes the management of WiFi sign-ons in the devices much easier.
gconnery
gconnery
5/31/2013 | 11:34:46 PM
re: Is Wi-Fi the Way Forward for Cable?
Is it just me? I see AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots everywhere in California. They provide the Wi-Fi in all the McDonald's locations. They provide the Wi-Fi in Hilton Hotels. Etc. And of course my iPhone logs into them magically somehow so I never have to login using the AT&T account password I'd have to look up.

I have NEVER seen a single Comcast Wi-Fi hotspot. And I have my Comcast account all memorized since I have to enter it for any TV Everywhere access using HBO Go or whatever. Not a single one. Where are all these supposed hotspots Comcast is putting in? Am I just missing them somehow?
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