Cable Giants Team for Regional Wi-Fi

Cable TV companies Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner are looking to challenge 3G wireless providers for dominance of the airwaves, and perhaps launch voice services using Wi-Fi.

The three cable company giants have teamed up to allow their collective customers to access each other’s Wi-Fi networks. Although this deal only affects subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, it is surely a sign of things to come, where regional cable TV providers will partner to do battle with their dreaded phone company enemies. According to reports that surfaced last week, the deal is effective immediately. Subscribers to any one of these companies will have access to the hotspots provided by the other two carriers.

“It’s a brilliant move,” said Raj Mehta, CEO of Infosys International, a Long Island-based solution provider. “With the saturation of Wi-Fi in this area, especially New York City, this deal will be sure to put a dent in Verizon’s, Sprint’s and AT&T’s 3G business.”

Looking at the announcement as the first move in what will become a trend, Mehta said, “Will this lead to cable companies partnering with other hotspot providers, creating a blanket of Wi-Fi surrounding most any business area?”

For the channel, deals like this might prove to be good news. Ideally, with enough Wi-Fi coverage, solution providers could offer PC-based alternatives to traditional 3G devices, such as Netbooks running Skype or a unified communication client running on a Windows Tablet PC.

“This agreement – the first of its kind and, we believe, the first of many – combines the reach and the value of our respective Wi-Fi deployments and delivers fast and free wireless Internet access that stretches across the market, at a time when consumer demand for mobile data is exploding,” said Cablevision president of cable and communications, John Bickham.

Cablevision claims to have 2.5 million subscribers in the area, while Time Warner Cable boasts some 1 million customers. Those numbers add up to a significant portion of the wireless market in the area and 3G providers should take note. Perhaps this situation will lead to more competition, more hotspots and ultimately, lower prices — all of which can empower the channel to sell new wireless solutions.

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