Cablevision is set to launch a cut-price mobile phone service in the US delivered only via Wi-Fi hotspots — an initiative with the potential to add a new dimension to the country’s existing triple and quadplay rivalry.
Existing subscribers will pay $9.95 per month for unlimited voice, data and text usage from February. The service is called Freewheel.
Non-subscribers will pay a higher fee of $29.95 per month to join the service.
The move is an attempt by the cable operator to hit back in its multi-play battle with rivals including Verizon.
Cablevision claimed the service was the first of its kind launched by a cable operator, while GigaOm pointed out that MVNO FreedomPop launched a Wi-Fi-only mobile service in the US last year.
The cable operator has been investing in its Wi-Fi network, which is called Optimum, since 2007 across the so-called New York tri-state area covering parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It has 1.1 million hotspots in this area.
In addition, the company has been running Fon-like Wi-Fi sharing since last year, which means its own subscribers share hotspots with one another.
And Freewheel subscribers will access about 300,000 further Wi-Fi hotspots across the US, thanks to a cable Wi-Fi alliance with a number of its peers.
Cablevision will market the service first in the New York area.
However, the service has several drawbacks, not least that it appears to have no provision for a cellular fallback in the coverage blanks between Wi-Fi hotspots.
In addition, the service will offer only one handset at launch — Motorola’s Moto G, which is available without contract for a price of $99.95.