Broadband In The Air

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Time Warner Cable has wireless
on the brain. The cable
operator is an investor in and
partner with broadbandwireless
provider Clearwire
— along with Sprint Nextel,
Comcast, Bright House Networks,
Intel and Google. TWC
in late 2009 launched its first
Road Runner Mobile markets,
in Dallas, North Carolina and
Hawaii. In 2010, the MSO is
focused on bringing the Clearwire-
provided service to five
other major markets: New York
City, Los Angeles, Kansas City,
Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Mike Roudi, group vice president
for Time Warner Cable’s
mobile services group, said
the operator learned from the
short-lived Pivot venture with
Sprint that a me-too product
just doesn’t work.

“When we pivoted to Clearwire,
we were able to deliver
a truly diff erentiated product … that we can
wrap completely into a bundled product,” he
said. (Pun intended.)

In another project, TWC last month launched
free Wi-Fi wireless Internet service in select
New York City parks and commuter stations,
provided to its 1 million broadband residential
customers in the region for no additional cost,
and will let subs access Cablevision Systems’
Wi-Fi access points as well.

Roudi spoke last week with Multichannel
News technology editor Todd Spangler.

MCN: What other markets are you looking at for
Wi-Fi?

Mike Roudi:
I think to the extent that an opportunity
presents itself, we will certainly look at it.
But we are not pursuing a Cablevision-like strategy,
where we’re going to deploy Wi-Fi across our
footprint.

MCN: Why did you launch it in New York?

MR:
No. 1, we wanted to get some learnings about
how people use broadband outside the home. No.
2, we did it in conjunction with Cablevision, and so
there seemed to be opportunities to put hot spots
out there to have continuity among our Road Runner
customers [in the New York area]. We view that
as a value-added service.

MCN: How does the Wi-Fi initiative fit in with the
WiMax offering? Do you risk confusing customers,
after offering the Wi-Fi as a free add-on?

MR:
We think they’re complementary. It’s not an
“or” statement — it’s not Road Runner Mobile or
Wi-Fi.
I think consumers in general understand these
sporadic Wi-Fi hot spots are convenient but they
don’t guarantee you access to mobile broadband.
Our Road Runner Mobile product is a subscription
service, and it does have guaranteed access.
Wi-Fi to me is like the world’s greatest lead generator
for our Road Runner Mobile service. People
find out, “Darn, I’m at a Starbucks and they want to
charge me for a 10-minute session.”

MCN: To what extent is the
WiMax service a retention tool,
versus a revenue opportunity?
Or is it both?

MR:
I think it’s both. I can’t give
you a statistic on retention, because
it’s so new in the market,
but we absolutely believe that
the more services we bundle
and the more utility we provide,
the better it is.
It also has offensive value,
if you will, where it will bring
new customers to our bundles.
Our prel iminary numbers
are suggesting that 20% of
the time, when they call to order
Road Runner Mobile, they’re
also adding another RGU [revenue-
generating unit] — a digital
video upgrade, digital phone
or upgrading to a higher-speed
data product.

MCN: Don’t you need to provide
a wireless voice service to truly
be competitive with the likes of AT&T and Verizon
Wireless?

MR:
I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. Our
focus has simply been on the launch of our mobile
broadband product — don’t read into that that
we’re not thinking about voice.
One of the great things about the Clearwire
WiMax network is, just like we do voice over our
[wireline] broadband, over time we will be able to
do voice basically as a VoIP [voice over Internet Protocol]
application. That is something we have our
eyes on. We just have chosen not to lead with voice,
because mobile broadband is a more immediate
opportunity for us because it is such a natural extension
of the wireline Road Runner product.

MCN: Sprint just announced a dual-function
WiMax/3G phone device.

MR:
Yes, Sprint just announced one. We are not,
on our side, testing any handset devices.

MCN: How does mobile intersect with TV Everywhere?

MR:
The whole idea of having high-speed broadband
access outside the home lends itself to the
very nature of TV Everywhere. Our customers
are seeing 3 to 6 Megabits with Clearwire. Th at’s
enough speed that you can get good access to
video content. As we integrate that with our strategies,
whether that’s TV Everywhere or something
else, they go hand in hand.

MCN: Clearwire retails its own product for inhome
broadband. The service obviously will get
some cable broadband customers to switch. How
big a concern is that?

MR:
Look, I don’t think it’s a concern. They absolutely
sell a home broadband product. In its
most literal sense it’s competitive. But honestly
... the world is becoming more complicated. The
people you compete with in one area are partners
in another part of the business. Our competitors
for Time Warner Cable are who they are.
And we believe we offer a truly differentiated
service.

Related