Cablevision to offer wifi only mobile service

New York-based cable service provider Cablevision Systems will start offering a wifi only mobile service starting next month, according to an interview by the Wall Street Journal. The report said the offering, dubbed Freewheel, will utilise the 1.1 million wifi hotspots it has deployed across the state.

The wifi voice, data and text package will be made available to Cablevision’s broadband customers for $9.95 a month, and $29.95 per month for non-Cablevision customers.

The report also said Freewheel will initially only work on one device, the Motorola Moto G, which costs $99.95. At first, it will also only be available in the New York area, but will be rolled out elsewhere, and it could later work on other phones too via an app.

The report said Cablevision believes Freewheel will help it better retain customers, and eventually steal some from operators. But the service is mostly targeted at lower-income consumers who may be willing to accept the inevitable limitations of wifi only connectivity, and those who are primarily based in wifi rich areas.

Kristin Dolan, Cablevision’s CTO, admitted the service will not be suitable for all as the connection will not be as ubiquitous as regular mobile network. The firm nevertheless believes Freewheel will be an attractive proposition to its target market, including travellers wishing to avoid usually high roaming charges.

Cablevision, which currently has around three million customers, has been building its wifi hotspot network for several years. It seems launching Freewheel type of service has been on the agenda for some time as the Long Island- based company has been seeing dwindling TV customers- in the same way most of the cable industry has in the recent past.

According to the article, Cablevision said the time to bring such a service to market is now ripe as wifi technology has improved. There have been attempts by cable companies to enter the mobile business in the past, but so far with not much success.

Wifi hotspots have been fast increasing, and it looks inevitable some service providers will begin to offer wifi-only mobile packages. In the US context, this news follows shortly after the rumours from last week Google is planning to enter the wireless market as an MVNO. The country’s telecoms sector could be on the brink of some tough, new competition. However, it remains to be seen if Cablevision can successfully get Freewheel going.

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