Interviewed by BusinessWeek About Cablevision Optimum WiFi


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I was interviewed recently for an informative article in BusinessWeek regarding Cablevision’s Optimum WiFi Service. By now I am sure you know I am a Cablevision Optimum WiFi fan and further feel WiFi is a powerful component of a service provider offering and can reduce churn.

Olga Kharif wrote the piece and did a great job integrating my comments with numerous salient points, facts and figures about the wireless and cable markets. Do all cable companies need to build out WiFi services across their areas of coverage? Probably. This makes great sense to me and if they can make the numbers work, it is a great way to keep customers loyal and in addition, makes users think hard before leaving a cable provider.

The downside is the technology is not perfect and my experience with Optimum WiFi has been mostly good and at times cuts in and out. Still, as a free add-on to my triple-play service I can’t really complain and I am thankful that I have a third broadband connection when my AT&T and Verizon Wireless phones aren’t in range of towers.

In the past I have equated WiFi to wireless Ethernet and Ethernet has been a technology the world has tried to kill for years. I suspect WiFi too will continue to evolve to the point where it continues to surprise us with its resilience. The need for wireless broadband is not slowing down and one imagines the more wireless pipes we have available to us, the more we will use them. I would further expect bonding technology to be applied more often to simultaneously take advantage of the mesh of disparate wireless networks permeating our world.

One last point… 802.11 is really evolving rapidly. Standards bodies are on double letters — 802.11aa, ac, ad, etc. With the tremendous momentum WiFi has and its ubiquitous installation in devices from smartphones to picture frames, it will be tough to find a wireless standard with a larger potential market of devices.

Here is an excerpt of the story:

Rich Tehrani buys wireless calling from AT&T, but lately he’s been surfing the mobile Web thanks to another provider–his cable company. In parts of Connecticut, where he lives, Tehrani logs onto the Internet by way of Wi-Fi hotspots managed by Cablevision Systems (CVC). “I was at a diner one weekend and it popped up,” says Tehrani, who runs Technology Marketing, a publishing and trade show company. “I am pretty much hooked on it.”

The same may be said for a growing number of customers of Cablevision, the largest cable provider in the New York metropolitan area. Usage of Optimum Wi-Fi–offered free to Cablevision’s 2.4 million in-home Internet-access subscribers–has risen 50% a month since autumn 2008. In early April, Cablevision reported that consumers have used its Wi-Fi hotspots 1 million times in the past year.

Wi-Fi provides high-speed Internet access over a finite area, such as a home or hotel lobby. A group of strategically located hotspots can provide ubiquitous access over a larger region. Cablevision is using the technology in such commercial areas as malls and train stations so it can include mobile-Web surfing in a lineup that already includes TV, calling, and high-speed Internet access. It’s a way to combat the encroachment of telecom carriers that in recent years have begun offering TV alongside their other services. Wi-Fi is by no means a substitute for the costly, coast-to-coast wireless networks maintained by AT&T (T) and such other wireless carriers as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel (S). And the viability of Wi-Fi over large areas has been called into question of late, as cities across the country have shelved or abandoned plans to use the technology to blanket neighborhoods with free or cheap Internet access.

  • Christopher Thompson
    April 20, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    While I admitted have a vested interest in this, I really believe that Wi-FI is a natural complement to the wired and cellular networks. I think it is really about ensuring access to experiences (whether talking to someone, using an application, or sending a message). If carriers really view themselves to be in the experience delivery business (the cable companies have believed this for awhile, the cellular and telco’s are recent converts) then customers’ needs are best met when access to the experience is ubiquitous, and the quality of the experience is optimized for the device, operating system, network connection, and application in question. And I have to believe that at some point the experience becomes so visceral and so critical, that the customer won’t churn out of the fear of ending up with less.

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