Cable Companies Team Up For Joint Wi-Fi Roaming
May 21, 2012

Cable Companies Team Up For Joint Wi-Fi Roaming

Michael Harper for

In a touching moment of corporate harmony, 5 large cable operators have announced plans to join forces in order to provide Wi-Fi access to each other´s hot spots. Such a deal would be the largest Wi-Fi roaming agreement yet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the “fab cable five” consists of Bright House Networks LLC, Cablevision Systems, Comcast Corp, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable Inc.

The new Wi-Fi network will be called “CableWi-Fi,” and while customers of any of these 5 cable providers (easily the majority of all cable subscribers) will be able to use one another´s 50,000 hot spots, the service will only be rolled out to the Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia and Tampa markets. Those who do not subscribe to one of these providers will be able to pay as they go, via a plan offered by Time Warner Cable.

As customers are watching more videos and using more data on cellular networks it is possible these 5 cable networks have decided to try once more to reach a roaming agreement to keep up with the competition and sustain their business model.

"We believe that Wi-Fi is a superior approach to mobile data, and that cable providers are best positioned to build the highest-capacity national network offering customers fast and reliable Internet connections when away from their home or business broadband service," said Kristin Dolan, Cablevision's executive vice president of product management and marketing, according to PC Mag.

Such attempts to build out similar Wi-Fi networks and agreements haven´t worked out for the best, often hampered by complicated business matters and politics.

For instance, in 2010 an agreement between Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable was announced, but had limited impact.

Customers wanting to access the hot spots were presented with different brands from each company. Furthermore, the service wasn´t fully built out and some customers reported having trouble signing on or achieving the advertised speeds.

Cablevision has been offering their customers access to hotspots since 2008, but according to the Wall Street Journal, only 30% of their customers have used the service.

"Mobility is an increasingly important part of Comcast's product road map,” said Dave Watson, chief operating officer of Comcast, in the joint statement released by the cable operators Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Creating a massive Wi-Fi network isn´t the only way these companies have tried to compete with mobile providers.

In 2006, these companies also formed a joint venture to bid on some wireless spectrum from the FCC´s Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) auction. These companies–known at the time as Spectrum Co.– was able to buy more than 20 MHz of spectrum, though Cox Communications was the only entity in the agreement to do anything with it.

Cox has since pulled out of the mobile race and is now trying to sell this spectrum to Verizon Wireless.

Now, it seems these Cable Companies will abandon their plans to roll out a wireless network and focus instead on using Verizon´s spectrum to roll out their shared Wi-Fi hotspots.