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Cable Technology Feature Article

July 07, 2009

My cable, my wireless, my one-stop shop

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Last week, Comcast became the first cable company to offer a mobile high-speed wireless broadband solution based on its investment into WiMAX. It won’t be the last, as Cox and other MSOs move to add mobile broadband and voice offerings to round out their portfolios against AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon.

Portland is the market to get Comcast High-Speed 2go service, with Atlanta, Chicago, and Portland expected to join the fold by the end of this year. The 4G WiMAX service is being bundled with one or more of Comcast’s Internet, phone, and TV products and will come in two flavors. Comcast High-Speed 2go Metro is built around a WiMAX-only data card with the expectation that the user will remain within a 4G service footprint. For frequent travelers, Comcast High-Speed 2go Nationwide adds Sprint’s (News - Alert) 3G EVDO service to ensure connectivity above and beyond WiMAX, with the provided USB modem automatically switching between 3G and 4G networks as available.

While business pricing wasn’t discussed in the announcement last week, individuals can get a $49.99 per month “Fast Pack Metro” service that includes 12 Mbps of home Internet service, a free WiFi router, and 4G service with up to 4 Mbps download speed on mobile broadband. For an additional $20 per month, consumers can add nationwide 3G mobile service through the Fast Pack Nationwide plan.  

Purists might argue that Cablevision’s (Optimum (News - Alert) Lightwave, if you want to be technical) proliferation of WiFi coverage across portions of its cable footprint was the first move, but Cablevision views Wi-Fi as a means for retaining broadband customers – not a mobility play per say.

Comcast comes to offer 4G service through its November 2008 multibillion dollar investment in Clearwire. Since Sprint is the prime mover behind a U.S. WiMAX network and a good friend of cable companies in the VoIP arena, an expanded relationship between Sprint and Comcast is a no brainer.

Needless to say, Comcast would really like to increase its ARPU – average revenue per unit – so if you are already have a business broadband connection with the company and are currently shopping for mobile broadband, now is the time to call your sales representative and see if 4G is coming to your neighborhood. 

Customers of Time Warner and Cox (News - Alert) may also wish to call up their sales reps and see what sort of broadband and mobile broadband deals that might be in the pipeline, abet for different reasons. Time Warner (News - Alert) is also on the Clearwire 4G WiMAX train as an investor, so it will likely offer something similar to Comcast in bundling, if not pricing.

Cox is walking a more independent path to mobile broadband that doesn’t include Clearwire, but one that might prove to be ultimately more powerful. The company has secured the rights to 700 Mhz "prime real estate" spectrum and is in the process of turning up its own cellular network in the territories it services. Like its cable brothers, roaming outside of Cox territory will be handled by Sprint. Initially, Cox will use EVDO as its data technology, but the company is deploying "LTE ready" equipment. The combination of 700 MHz spectrum and LTE may prove to be a formidable competitor to incumbent wireless vendors – and a great asset for IT managers.

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi