On the heels of another stellar quarter, Cablevision Systems revealed that it will build out a Wi-Fi high-speed data wireless network free of charge to its existing Optimum Online customers.
On a conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter results, Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said the Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable operator has already begun building out the network, which is scheduled to be completed in about two years. He estimated that the cost of building the network would be about $70 per home passed or $100 per subscriber. Cablevision has about 3.3 million customers and passes about 4.7 million homes.
Cablevision’s announcement comes just one day after Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House networks announced they have joined a joint venture with Sprint Nextel, Clearwire, Intel and Google to build out a nationwide Wi-Max broadband network.
Cablevision has offered a Wi-Fi service in about 15 communities in the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester County in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for several years. On the conference call, Rutledge said that with broadband penetration above 50%, Cablevision now had the critical mass to build out the Wi-Fi network.
“We found that half of our customers today have Wi-Fi routers in their homes,” Rutledge said. “With the proliferation of devices like the iPhone and iPod devices that have Wi-Fi capability, Blackberries with Wi-Fi and the projections for those kind of products going forward are significant, having a standard-based widely distributed base of CPE equipment – that we will not have to buy as part of our network by the way – means that we can extend our network to our customers throughout their home and throughout their neighborhoods and where they work and play fairly easily and inexpensively and create a lot of value for people.”
Rutledge said that the service will be free to existing Cablevision high-speed Internet customers. For non-current customers, there will be a charge for the service, but Rutledge said that hasn’t been determined yet.
In a municipal Wi-Fi mesh network, outdoor access points use a routing algorithm to communicate in a peer-to-peer fashion to backhaul traffic to the wired network. The nodes typically use multiple radios to provide coverage in all directions using antennas in a circular array and enhance the reach of ordinary Wi-Fi signals.
According to Cisco, a Wi-Fi mesh network could allow a cable operator to offer subscribers ubiquitous connectivity in a metro area for any service. For example, someone watching TV could choose to transfer the video signal to a cellular phone and walk outside if Cisco’s Cable ServiceMesh is deployed in the subscriber’s neighborhood.
Todd Spangler contributed to this report.