Our sister publication FierceCable tracked down a patent filed by Cablevision Systems that suggests the New York cable TV and broadband firm may pursue a Wi-Fi-based mobile phone service. If it happens, it could be a fairly groundbreaking move, proof that a major telecom service provider doesn't actually need mobile spectrum or mobile resale as primary methods of offering mobile services.
Despite the intrigue, however, such a move shouldn't be all that surprising. Cable TV companies in general have been very aggressive with Wi-Fi in the last couple of years, arguably led by Cablevision Systems, which was able to slow competitive losses to Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) in recent years by offering free Wi-Fi to its New York subscribers.
Also, last summer, there were reports that Cablevision was thinking about offering a hybrid Wi-Fi/mobile service with the help of T-Mobile USA. What the patent appears to portray is a mobile service that would use Wi-Fi as a primary network, with a roaming hand-off to third party mobile network where Wi-Fi coverage isn't available--an ironic twist on how mobile networks and devices are evolving to take advantage of Wi-Fi where mobile broadband can't cut the mustard or when users are pushing the limits of data caps.
If Cablevision pursues and is successful with such a service, it may dull the urgency of the growing cries about spectrum shortages, and create an unexpected new mobile model for cable TV companies that have been flailing around when it comes to mobile (assuming they don't want to work with Verizon as badly as Cablevision probably doesn't want to).
- read this FierceCable report
Cablevision used Wi-Fi to stem losses to Verizon
Cablevision talked Wi-Fi/mobile with T-Mobile