What if WiFi could square off or even beat WiMax or other approaches to broadband access to the Internet, over the air?
If you listen to comments from Tom Rutledge, the chief operating officer of Cablevision Systems Corp., at the Merrill Lynch Media Fall Preview, you get the clear impression he thinks he’s sitting pretty on his plan to rollout WiFi throughout his New York, New Jersey and Connecticut footprint. And that he plans to let his 3 million cable customers get not just Internet access, but phone service and video service without a wire at all. Maybe as soon as 2010.
You may have read that the company plans to spend $300 million on the rollout by mid-2010 of WiFi service to its entire footprint.
But that $300 million does not just upgrade its cable network to include WiFi access to the Internet. It also includes the costs of upgrading its network to be able to transmit data at more than 100 million bits a second. This is something made possible by the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0, which is more easily talked about as providing “wideband,’’ instead of “broadband,” access to the Internet.
Here’s what Rutledge said about the spending on the WiFi rollout:
“We announced that we thought we would spend about $100 a customer. We would do that over three budget cycles. Or over two years, from the middle of ’08 to the middle of ’10. So that’s a little over $300 million. In that is also our DOCSIS wideband product that will allow us to take our speeds to well over 100 megabits over our data network.’’
Now that’s the kind of speed you expect to find on a wired implementation of DOCSIS 3.0. Comcast is planning to begin delivering the capability in about 20 percent of its markets by the end of this year, through a cable. It’s been up in Minneapolis-St. Paul, for a while.
Cablevision did not join with Comcast and Time Warner Cable in the Clearwire-Sprint WiMax joint venture, which is designed to bring broadband-like speed to their customers, over the air. Rutledge said Cablevision never got asked if it was interested. But, given that spectrum for WiMax services can cost billions of dollars, you have to think he would have said “no,” if the question was put to him.
Here is more of what he said:
"Our WiFi strategy is a here-and-now strategy to provide very high-speed data to our customers…
In the New York metropolitan region, we've got very high market share and we have a very fast network and we think that there's a proliferation of WiFi devices. Half of our customers already have WiFi routers in their homes. Almost every device being built today, whether it be iPods or iTouches or cameras or PCs have WiFi radios in them.
So it's a ubiquitous common standard and we don't have to buy the consumer electronics devices that go on the other end of it like you do when you have a cell phone company and you don't have to pay for the spectrum in a WiFi spectrum, because it's unlicensed.
And here’s the kicker. He says “ultimately, the network is capable of voice and video” and “it’s got all the functionality of our DOCSIS high-speed network.”
“So, we get to extend our product at a very low cost and extend our customer relationships, so this WiFi will be free to (the) 80 percent of the people who have high-speed data in the New York metropolitan area in our footprint. We think it's a real value add. Ultimately the network is capable of voice and video, it's got all the functionality of our DOCSIS high-speed network. We think it’s inexpensive on a per-sub basis and adds tremendous value to the overall consumer proposition."
So, maybe it won’t be 100 Mbps. But it will not be your father’s WiFi either. It’ll deliver a wireless triple play of voice, video and Internet services with “all the functionality” of a DOCSIS high-speed network.
And, oh, yeah, the $300 million being spent on the WiFi rollout also includes the rollout of DOCSIS wideband functionality.
IMAGE SOURCE: hadithuna.com