Cablevision Gets Rolling With ‘Freewheel’

MSO Opens Up Sales For New WiFi-Only Phone Service
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Cablevision Systems has opened up the sales spigot for Freewheel, a WiFi-only voice, data and text service that is initially offered on the Android-powered Moto G smartphone.

As Cablevision announced on January 26, the service runs $9.95 per month for consumers who take the MSO’s high-speed Internet service, and $29.95 per month for everyone else. Cablevision is offering the Moto G for the discounted price of $99.95.

Cablevision touted Freewheel at a launch party Wednesday night  at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City.

The service, touted as a cap-free, low-cost alternative to cellular offerings, runs on any WiFi connection, including the 1.1 million hotspots deployed by Cablevision in business and outdoor venues and in customer WiFi routers. Cablevision noted that more than 7 billion megabytes (7,000 terabytes) of data pass through its WiFi network each month, and that Optimum WiFi customers have used the network nearly 1 billion times in the fourth quarter of 2014.

“Cellular was built for voice and WiFi was built for data, which is why WiFi is the preferred choice for data usage today,” said Kristin Dolan, chief operating officer of Cablevision, said in a statement. “Freewheel integrates a high quality device backed by the strength of our professionally maintained carrier-grade WiFi network. As the thirst for data continues to grow.  Freewheel provides consumers with a better, faster data experience, all at a fraction of the cost of cellular.”

Cablevision said Freewheel will introduce more features in the coming weeks. An addition to providing competition to traditional mobile carriers, Freewheel will also tangle with providers such as Republic Wireless, which offers a mix of WiFi and WiFi+cellular services, including a WiFi-only offering that fetches $5 per month. 

Cablevision’s service enters play as cable operators continue to expand their WiFi networks and seek out new ways to drive value from them. According to Cisco Systems, Voice-over-WiFi traffic is poised to exceed Voice-over-LTE traffic by 2017.