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Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable today announced that they will enable each other’s customers to access their metro WiFi networks, totaling over 50,000 hotspots.

The first implementation is already complete as Bright House Networks and Cablevision launched “CableWiFi” alongside their branded WiFi networks in the New York City area and central Florida earlier this month. A new network name, “CableWiFi”, has been created for subscribers to use when accessing the WiFi hotspots outside their home market.

Over the next few months, the “CableWiFi” network name will be added by each of the cable companies. CableWiFi will be free for “subscribers-only”. It’s similar to the April 2010 deal between Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, allowing mutual access to WiFi hotspots.

The cable companies, collectively known as Spectrum Co., banned together in the 2008 to buy AWS spectrum at the FCC auction.

Bidders Net total of high bids
1. T-Mobile $4.2 billion
2. Verizon Wireless $2.8 billion
3. SpectrumCo $2.4 billion
4. MetroPCS $1.4 billion
5. Cingular $1.3 billion
6. Cricket $710 million
7. Denali Spectrum $365 million
8. Barat Wireless $127 million
9. AWS Wireless $116 million
10. Atlantic Wireless $81 million
Click here to find out who is backing these bidders.

In the FCC’s 2006 AWS auction, SpectrumCo, the Cable group, paid $2.4 billion for 137 licenses in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Detroit and Atlanta. Under their proposed deal with Verizon, cable operators would transfer that spectrum to Verizon Wireless for $3.6 billion. In addition, cable operators would resell Verizon’s mobile service. The FCC is taking a close look at the deal.

The $3.6 billion Verizon/Cable deal values the spectrum purchased at $0.69 per MHz-POP (the number of people covered by each megahertz). That’s a big jump from the $0.45 per MHz-POP that cable operators paid in 2006.

After the 2008 AWS spectrum purchase, some of the cable MSOs partnered with Clearwire to utilize WiMax. That plan seems to have fizzled. Google will sell its $500 million stake in Clearwire for $47 million, reports The Verge. Google filed documents with the SEC in preparation for the sale of its entire Clearwire stake.

Google had a 3.4% ownership share with a $500m investment. Cable operators were Clearwire’s largest strategic investors. Comcast invested $1,050m (7.2%), Time Warner Cable invested $550 (3.8%) and Brighthouse Cable, $100m (0.7%), for a total of approximately $1.7 billion investment at a 11% ownership share of the company.

Those same cable operators are now in bed with Verizon.

Trials of this Next-Generation Hotspot technology, called Hotspot 2.0, have involved AT&T, BT, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Orange and other large operators around the world. Aruba, Cisco, and Ruckus use 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0, approved by the WBA, while carriers like Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, and others have announced multi-radio strategies, incorporating previously free WiFi into their cellular architecture. BelAir Networks was acquired by Ericsson last month.

According to the Wireless Broadband Alliance, figures for 2011 put the total number of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide at 1.3 million. That number is forecasted to take a huge leap forward and grow 350% to 5.8 million by 2015.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Time Warner Cable Beams Muni WiFi, AT&T: Free WiFi (with Video Ads) and Carrier WiFi Moves Ahead

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