LTE devices, including iPads, offer users two major advantages: speeds typically faster than many wired providers (in my neck of the woods, Verizon LTE is just over twice as fast as Time Warner’s Roadrunner Turbo) and ubiquitous access for LTE devices (and any devices tethered to them) that is a lot more convenient than relying on public network or hotspots like those found in your neighborhood Starbucks. A downside is that LTE’s speeds make it easy to rack up a large bill.
If you’re looking for another high-speed wireless option that offers better bang for your buck, there’s one joining the field to consider – and it’s coming from an unlikely source with an unlikely price. Five major cable companies are joining forces to deliver ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage for any of their subscribers… for free.
The service, announced today, is a joint offering by Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable. The companies will be turning on 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots with roaming between those hotspots regardless of which company is providing the hotspot – if you’re a customer of one of the five companies, you’ll be able to roam freely across all of their access points.
The new service, dubbed simply CableWiFi, will be rolled out to major markets in the coming months. The rollout will be favoring those markets where two or more cable companies have overlapping service. That means that most service, at least initially, will be focused in the New York metro area, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, and Philadelphia. Users can access the service by joining the CableWiFi network using the same credentials they use to access company-specific Wi-Fi and other services.
The new service seems like a win for everyone involved – cable companies retain and attract customers with the perk, users get broad and unlimited Wi-Fi access and avoid LTE bill shocks, and even the carriers get the benefit of customers using Wi-Fi instead of LTE, which should lower network congestion.
That reduction in congestion may be critical for carriers going forward and could even lead to cable/carrier partnerships. Today’s announcement also comes after carriers discussed strategies to begin using small cell installations. Small cells are access points that rely on a mix of wireless broadband technologies (including LTE, WiMax, HSPA, and Wi-Fi) to reduce traffic load on larger tower-mounted systems. Small cells have very limited range but if they’re widely deployed, they can have a big impact and carriers see them as essential to support the growth of mobile broadband in coming years.
If you’re a customer of any of the cable companies part of the new initiative, you can visit CableWiFi.com to locate coverage in your area.