Cablevision Systems Corp. has launched a service it pondered launching a quarter century ago, illustrating the fact that ideas sometimes must wait for Moore’s Law to do its work.
The Freewheel Wi-Fi-only phone service is not intended to be a full substitute for mobile phone service.
“We’re not chasing the cellular markets to be a mobile phone provider,” said Dolan. “That’s just not what the strategy for this product is about.”
While not denying that, at some point, mobile fallback might be an added feature, Cablevision presently intends for the product to be a new type of untethered service.
And though it remains to be seen whether the current vision is the ultimate vision, Cablevision does not currently seen its Freewheel Wi-Fi- based phone service as a competitor to mobile service.
In other words, it is intended as a communications service that supports voice, messaging and Internet access anywhere a public or privately accessible Wi-Fi hotspot is available.
That includes the Cablevision fixed network service area, the United States or anywhere in the world, where the device will work, with its “home” phone number, where Wi-Fi access is available.
Access would largely be untethered–not “mobile”–at least at first, as the ability to sustain sessions, and handoff between adjacent Wi-Fi cells, will be difficult to impossible.
But Cablevision believes that will provide enduring demand, and a service that is differentiated from mobile service, perhaps in large part by making Freewheel a content consumption service.
Optimum Wi-Fi customers pass an average of more than 6 gigabytes of data per month, about three times more data than the most commonly purchased data plans from mobile providers, Cablevision executives say.
In that sense, Cablevision believe Freewheel will be the beginning of a disruptive offer.
And we should assume other products based on Wi-Fi access–inside and outside the home–are coming.
“There are products and services that will go along with that strategic position,” said Dolan. “The first of which you’ve just seen, which is Freewheel, but there will be others.”
“Wi-Fi is a critical part of our product strategy and one of our most important strategic assets,” said Dolan.