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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 01, 2012

Cable Networks Join Together to Offer Outdoor Wi-Fi

By Monica Gleberman, Contributing Writer

Cable operators are seeking to expand their subscriber base by targeting consumers with outdoor Wi-Fi services. The demand for mobile data services keeps building with more people addicted to using their smartphone devices for everything from giving directions, streaming movies, to playing the radio. As the demand keeps increasing, cable companies are offering mobile users another way to the Internet through outdoor Wi-Fi.

Michael Linder has been unhappy with the current Wi-Fi service available for his smartphone. Linder is a Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable subscriber who is supposed to be able to connect to its Wi-Fi whenever he is out of the home for free. However, he said the connection has been spotty and even non-existent at times. “It doesn’t seem to be configured for ease of use with smartphones,” said Linder.

Mike Roudi, senior vice president of Time Warner Cable Wireless, said subscribers have used more than 10 terabytes of data through Wi-Fi, but acknowledges that the company is still in the beginning stages of outdoor Wi-Fi development. “This is still pretty new, so we’re working through the bumps and trying to hone the process,” said Roudi.

Time Warner and Comcast (News - Alert) are starting to see a future where providing outdoor wireless Internet might be the key to keeping customers satisfied not only in the home, but on their portable devices. Some cable operators have made some big promises to their customers – including Cablevision Systems (News - Alert) a company based on Long Island.

Cablevision allows users to log on to their cable subscribers’ website and register their portable devices. Once registered, the user can then take his/her device around town and when a hotspot is available, the device will connect automatically, without requiring the user to enter in a user name and password. Cablevision began working with both Time Warner and Comcast allowing subscribers of all the cable networks to roam onto each other’s Wi-Fi networks, if available.

However, Roudi said the networks are in such early stages that connecting is still an issue for many users.

“The original expectations for what you could do with Wi-Fi were much less grandiose, and they’re only now coming to the realization that this could turn out to be much more significant strategically than they had ever imagined,” said Craig Moffett, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Comcast Cable President Neil Smit (News - Alert) said he hopes the agreement between Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner will keep all the cable companies a head of the game. “These agreements, together with our Wi-Fi plans, [will contribute] to a long-term wireless strategy,” Smit said.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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